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How Facebook Makes Us Dumber

How Facebook Makes Us Dumber
Why does misinformation spread so quickly on the social media? Why doesn’t it get corrected? When the truth is so easy to find, why do people accept falsehoods? A new study focusing on Facebook users provides strong evidence that the explanation is confirmation bias: people’s tendency to seek out information that confirms their beliefs, and to ignore contrary information. Confirmation bias turns out to play a pivotal role in the creation of online echo chambers. This finding bears on a wide range of issues, including the current presidential campaign, the acceptance of conspiracy theories and competing positions in international disputes. The new study, led by Michela Del Vicario of Italy’s Laboratory of Computational Social Science, explores the behavior of Facebook users from 2010 to 2014. In sum, the researchers find a lot of communities of like-minded people. The consequence is the “proliferation of biased narratives fomented by unsubstantiated rumors, mistrust, and paranoia.”

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Rewilding Our National Parks By Paula Mackay and John Davis Rocky Wilson and his wife had settled into camp for the evening when they caught sight of a bear emerging from the brush. It was late September 1968 and the Wilsons were hunting in Fisher Basin, one of their favorite places in Washington State's North Cascades mountains. Avid outdoors people, they were no doubt accustomed to seeing black bears in the surrounding alpine meadows, where huckleberries glowed like beacons signaling the winter to come. But this bear was much bigger than the average black bear—almost seven feet long from nose to tail. Photo credit: Max Goldberg / Flickr Rewilding the Future New research shows that the loss of large animals has had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and that reintroducing large animal faunas may restore biodiverse ecosystems. Rewilding is gaining a lot of interest as an alternative conservation and land management approach in recent years, but remains controversial. It is increasingly clear that Earth harbored rich faunas of large animals -- such as elephants, wild horses and big cats -- pretty much everywhere, but that these have starkly declined with the spread of humans across the world -- a decline that continues in many areas. A range of studies now show that these losses have had strong effects on ecosystem functions, and a prominent strain of rewilding, trophic rewilding, focuses on restoring large animal faunas and their top-down food-web effects to promote self-regulating biodiverse ecosystems.

Cognitive bias cheat sheet – Better Humans Great, how am I supposed to remember all of this? You don’t have to. But you can start by remembering these four giant problems our brains have evolved to deal with over the last few million years (and maybe bookmark this page if you want to occasionally reference it for the exact bias you’re looking for):

Humans Have Already Reached a Natural Lifespan Limit Human beings have a natural limit to their lifespan which means it is highly unlikely anyone will ever live for more than 125 years, according to new research. Scientists carried out a statistical analysis of the trends in the UK, US, France and Japan, the countries with the largest number of “super-centenarians” – those aged 110 or more. They found the average age at death for this group had not increased since 1968 and the chances of anyone exceeding 125 in any given year were less than one in 10,000, according to a paper in the journal Nature. “We feel that the observed trajectories are compelling and our results strongly suggest that human lifespan has a natural limit,” the researchers wrote.

The Latest Snowden Revelation Is Dangerous for Anonymous — And for All of Us The latest Snowden-related revelation is that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) proactively targeted the communications infrastructure used by the online activist collective known as Anonymous. Specifically, they implemented distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the internet relay chat (IRC) rooms used by Anonymous. They also implanted malware to out the personal identity details of specific participants. And while we only know for sure that the U.K.’s GCHQ and secret spy unit known as the “Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group” (JTRIG) launched these attacks in an operation called “Rolling Thunder,” the U.S.’ NSA was likely aware of what they were doing because the British intelligence agents presented their program interventions at the NSA conference SIGDEV in 2012. (Not to mention the two agencies sharing close ties in general.)

Humanity's Future Reflected in Uber & Driverless Car Debates Sometime during the 21st century you will stagger out of a club at 3am and hail a taxi. The vehicle, no longer allowed to loiter in busy areas, will pop out of a stack nearby, find its way to you and honk. You and your drunk companions will stammer out your destinations until they flash up correctly on a screen. And you will glide home, staring enviously at the few people still allowed to drive: emergency service people and maintenance engineers.

4 Big Ethical Questions for the Fourth Industrial Revolution We live in an age of transformative scientific powers, capable of changing the very nature of the human species and radically remaking the planet itself. Advances in information technologies and artificial intelligence are combining with advances in the biological sciences; including genetics, reproductive technologies, neuroscience, synthetic biology; as well as advances in the physical sciences to create breathtaking synergies — now recognized as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. These new powers hold great promise for curing and preventing disease, improving agricultural output, and enhancing quality of life in many ways.

The Philosopher Whose Fingerprints Are All Over the FTC's New Approach to Privacy - Alexis C. Madrigal The brilliant New York University philosopher Helen Nissenbaum has put her approach to privacy at the center of the national agenda. Nissenbaum's approach to privacy focuses on how information flows, not just the information itself. PALO ALTO -- A mile or two away from Facebook's headquarters in Silicon Valley, Helen Nissenbaum of New York University was standing in a basement on Stanford's campus explaining that the entire way that we've thought about privacy on the Internet is wrong. It was not a glorious setting.

The German Economist Calling Time on Capitalism Outside was panic. Barely a couple of hours after Donald Trump had been declared the next president of the United States and even the political columnists, those sleek interlocutors of power, were in shock. At the National Gallery in London, however, one of the few thinkers to have anticipated Trump’s rise was ready to see some paintings. Over from Germany for a few days of lectures, Wolfgang Streeck had an afternoon spare – and we both wanted to see the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition. Nothing in his work prepares you for meeting Streeck (pronounced Stray-k). Professionally, he is the political economist barking last orders for our way of life, and warning of the “dark ages” ahead. Canada: The World's First 'Postnational' Country? As 2017 begins, Canada may be the last immigrant nation left standing. Our government believes in the value of immigration, as does the majority of the population. We took in an estimated 300,000 newcomers in 2016, including 48,000 refugees, and we want them to become citizens; around 85% of permanent residents eventually do. Recently there have been concerns about bringing in single Arab men, but otherwise Canada welcomes people from all faiths and corners.

Why predictions are a lot like Pringles ‘Nobody thinks that there’s any great virtue in forecasts but we find them hard to resist’ In mid-December, Phil McNulty, the BBC’s chief football writer, offered us his predictions for the rest of the English Premier League season. My interest in football is limited but I found McNulty’s efforts fascinating. Even the most sceptical about football can learn a great deal from the episode. Next Generation Jobs Won’t Include Professions When Jean-Philippe Michel, a Toronto-based career coach, works with secondary school students, he doesn’t use the word profession. Neither does he focus on helping his young clients figure out what they want to be when they grow up—at least not directly. For him, there's really no such thing as deciding on a profession to grow up into. Rather than encouraging each person to choose a profession, say, architect or engineer, he works backwards from the skills that each student wants to acquire. So instead of saying, “I want to be a doctor”, he’ll aim to get students to talk about a goal, in this case “using empathy in a medical setting”. It might seem a bit esoteric, but the twist in language helps boil down real objectives.

The Atir-Rosenzweig-Dunning Effect: When Experts Claim To Know The Unknowable Remember the Dunning-Kruger Effect? The finding by David Dunning and Justin Kruger that incompetence leads to inflated beliefs of competence. If you need a refresher, the concept is succinctly explained below by John Cleese: Why we should all have a basic income Consider for a moment that from this day forward, on the first day of every month, around $1,000 is deposited into your bank account – because you are a citizen. This income is independent of every other source of income and guarantees you a monthly starting salary above the poverty line for the rest of your life. What do you do?