Every year, The Edge.org poses a thought-provoking question to 150+ engaging thinkers, and the answers never disappoint. This year, they throw out the question: How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? In this collection, you will find answers by George Dyson, Clay Shirky, Tim O’Reilly, Marissa Mayer, Richard Dawkins and many more. Below, I’ve included an excerpt from Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan), who has a less sanguine outlook on how the internet is changing our world. He writes:
I used to think that the problem of information is that it turns homo sapiensinto fools — we gain disproportionately in confidence, particularly in domains where information is wrapped in a high degree of noise (say, epidemiology, genetics, economics, etc.). So we end up thinking that we know more than we do, which, in economic life, causes foolish risk taking. When I started trading, I went on a news diet and I saw things with more clarity. I also saw how people built too many theories based on sterile news, the fooled by randomness effect. But things are a lot worse. Now I think that, in addition, the supply and spread of information turns the world into Extremistan (a world I describe as one in which random variables are dominated by extremes, with Black Swans playing a large role in them). The Internet, by spreading information, causes an increase in interdependence, the exacerbation of fads (bestsellers like Harry Potter and runs on the banks become planetary). Such world is more “complex”, more moody, much less predictable.
So consider the explosive situation: more information (particularly thanks to the Internet) causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge while degrading predictability.
You can find Taleb’s full answer here, and the entire collection of thoughts here. If you want to tell us how the internet has changed the world for you, please add your thoughts to the comments section below.