How do we make better use of this piecemeal information? Computers are great at spotting patterns—but that’s just correlation. In the last few years, computer scientists have invented a handful of algorithms that can identify causal relations within single data sets. But focusing on single data sets is like looking through keyholes. What’s needed is a way to take in the whole view.
ADL International Leadership Award Presented to Sacha Baron Cohen at Never Is Now 2019
Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason – the era of evidential argument – is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.
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The post-truth prophets
Postmodernism predicted our post-truth hellscape. Everyone still hates it.
Technology and globalization were making the world infinitely more complicated and that meant more information to process, more dots to connect. And one way to manage this chaos is to lean more and more on narratives that strip the world of its complexity — and often reinforce our biases at the same time.
But now, the pseudoscience isn’t as much of a taboo as it used to be. It’s been embraced by young people, who jokingly ascribe the inconveniences of life — a delayed train, a broken laptop — to Mercury’s retrograde. They know that Pisces are sensitive and Leos are self-involved and Geminis are kind of the worst. They follow astrology podcasts such as “Stars Like Us,” buy zodiac-themed candles and fragrances and crystals, and share astrology memes from Instagram accounts such as Drunk Astrology and Not All Geminis.
“There’s a tendency that if there’s an app for it, it somehow gives it more credibility,” Alcock said.
But the app horoscopes are just like the wrappers: momentarily poignant, but disposable. When you look at your natal chart, you’re the center of the universe. But everyone else is the center of theirs.