TED Talks: What FACEBOOK And GOOGLE Are Hiding From The World – YouTube

TED Talks: What FACEBOOK And GOOGLE Are Hiding From The World – YouTube.

This is worth being aware of.  People have a tendency to pay more attention to the things or ideas that confirm beliefs that they already hold (Confirmation Bias), so if you imagine your search results, or news feed, or similar being biased to show you stuff you already ‘know’, you may be happy with the results, but you may never be challenged to see other beliefs, or, in some circumstances… facts.

In fact, publication bias probably contributes significantly to a misrepresentation of what we believe.  A search on Google today for ‘UFO Bunk’ returned ‘About 8,800,000 results’ whereas a search for ‘UFO Story’ returned ‘About 95,900,000 results’.  Are we to infer that UFO’s are 11 times more likely to exist than not, based on the number of search hits? No. There are problems with my search terms undoubtedly (bunk is not a very terribly English word and that might be part of the problem), but publication bias suggests more positive UFO stories will exist… because it is simply not terribly interesting to write a story such as ‘I saw some lights in the sky… it turned out they were pigeons being captured dramatically in the light’ (Refer to Phil Plait’s article on Why astronomer’s don’t report UFOs, and from there Part 1 and Part 2 of an example).

The video, linked above, starts with a Mark Zuckerberg (from Facebook) saying:

“A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa”

and in summary Eli Pariser suggests filtering capabilities should feature “a sense of civic responsibility”.

Similarly, we should also be aware that our search results do not reflect ‘reality’ or ‘fact’; and now more than ever minority views can appear to be majority views. What if the internet could limit results to ‘original research’ or ‘balance of scientific thought’? Would our thoughts on global warming change, or evolution? Would there ever have been an MMR health-scare? Or is the strength of the internet the fact that minority views are available for all to see? (in which case we should always be very careful of the veracity of the things we see an read).

I’m not sure of the answers to the above questions, but being aware that the internet I see may be different to the one you see is something that is useful to be aware of.