How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?

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.


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