Storytellers Run the World: Welcome to the "Post-truth" Era
The "deep stories" that run your world are changing. The stories democracy and economics rely on aren't working so well...
Jag Bhalla is an entrepreneur, inventor and writer. His current project is Errors We Live By, a series of short exoteric essays exposing errors in the big ideas running our lives, details at www.errorsweliveby.com. His last book was I'm Not Hanging Noodles On Your Ears, a surreptitious science gift book from National Geographic Books, details at www.hangingnoodles.com. That explains his twitter handle @hangingnoodles.
1. “Those who tell the stories run the world,” writes George Monbiot. What are these world-running stories?
4. “Deep stories” also rule us indirectly by framing the worldviews of our rulers. For decades, a story by someone unknown to most voters has framed the worldviews of many key leaders.
5. Hayek’s “heroic narrative” of unrestricted entrepreneurs creating “trickle-down” prosperity captivated Reagan, Thatcher, Bill Clinton, and Blair. It claimed government regulation and taxes burdened “the market,” and hobbled heroic business titans—whose ruthless competition for rational optimizing customers would ensure efficiency. Government itself should run like a business.
7. There is truth in Hayek’s stories, but also in their counterstories: Competition can breed inefficiency. Businesses can contain “spectacular inefficiencies.” Sustainable competition can require regulation. Taxes can strengthen market infrastructure. Selfishness can hinder voluntary-market solutions. It’s an economic cartoon story that customers aren’t rational maximizers.
8. Plus crucially, “government will never run the way Silicon Valley runs,” Obama once told tech entrepreneurs.
9. CEOs opine to Obama about “how we do things,” but businesses (and their “disruptors”) often profit by cherry-picking the easy segments.Government must handle the messy and expensive cases that businesses can just exclude (like pre-existing conditions pre-Obamacare).
11. Zuckerberg called “crazy” claims that fake news on Facebook had influenced the election. But the top “fake news outperformed real news.” Techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci concludes Facebook is damaging democracy.
12. Zuckerberg’s shrug shows why we can’t trust tech titans (and their self-serving stories). News isn’t just a business, it’s democracy’s oxygen. Diminished real journalism has disrupted democracy’s connection with truth.
13. Trump brilliantly used social media to “hack” traditional media to amplify his stories (many trust information from friends and families more than from institutions—>Facebook’s “neutral” platform enabled Trumps win).
14. Tech titans typically dislike whatever can’t be done by algorithm. And ethics still needs humans (—>doesn’t scale—>lowers profitability). What happens to the ethics of what they’re disrupting?
15. Obama observes that today’s story ecosystem “means everything is true and nothing is true.” Calls for new information sources to provide “reason and facts… neither of which is partisan,” seem naive.
16. Modifying Monbiot, those who control those who make and distribute and tell the effective stories, run the world.
17. Want truer stories? Sarah Smarsh suggests putting your country ahead of your coffee—>pay for real journalism. “Without liberty, there is no true journalism.” Without true journalism there is no liberty.
Illustration by Julia Suits, author of The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions, and The New Yorker cartoonist.
A study on flies may hold the key to future addiction treatments.
- A new study suggests that drinking alcohol can affect how memories are stored away as good or bad.
- This may have drastic implications for how addiction is caused and how people recall intoxication.
- The findings may one day lead to a new form of treatment for those suffering from addiction.
Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.
- America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
- Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
- Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
As the world gets hotter, men may have fewer and fewer viable sperm
- New research on beetles shows that successive exposure to heatwaves reduces male fertility, sometimes to the point of sterility.
- The research has implications both for how the insect population will sustain itself as well as how human fertility may work on an increasingly hotter Earth.
- With this and other evidence, it is becoming clear that more common and more extreme heatwaves may be the most dangerous aspect of climate change.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.