from the world's big
An international study finds the vast majority of 15-year-olds can't tell when they're being manipulated.
- International reading tests administered in 79 countries find most teens to be gullible when consuming information.
- As learning has moved online, absolutely reliable sources have become scarce.
- Most teens can't detect the validity of supposed "facts" from contextual clues.
About OECD and the PISA survey<p>OECD stands for "Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development." It's an international organization that's dedicated to the identification and implementation of policies for tackling the world's social, economic, and environmental challenges. Thirty-six countries are members, and the impact of the group's work is felt in more than 100 countries. The OECD collects data and develops reports, including recommendations, for its worldwide audience.</p><p>The Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, is one such report. Subtitled, "What Students Know and Can Do," it's the product of reading, mathematics, and science tests administered to 15-year-olds in 79 countries. The focus in the 2018 tests was reading. The tests were given on computer screens in recognition that this is where most of today's teens do most of their reading.</p><p>The very best readers — better than in any other country — come from four provinces in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Though these areas are exceptional within the country, China overall still sits at the top of the list of the world's most advanced readers.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzc0ODU5NX0.OW2EH4L-OrK96wcRTIUM8HpnWWgJA3YE5RxNK6O106w/img.jpg?width=980" id="22f94" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4c80d197734e9d50c2da7e4128e8b4f3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: boreala/Shutterstock/Big Think
Reading is one thing, understanding is another<p>The world, as the report notes, has changed. Reading used to be about the straightforward extraction and absorption of information from reliable sources. Not so for today's learners, says the report:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><em>"Today, they will find hundreds of thousands of answers to their questions online, and it is up to them to figure out what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong."</em></p><p>Alarmingly, the PISA research finds that less than 1 in 10 of students tested are "able to distinguish between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information."</p><p>Only in six nations did students do better than 1 in 7 at successfully identifying actual facts — China, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Singapore, and the United States.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0OTE4N30._1XooNgrARWHPePwl9WvV3u0CxVgn1Xg1CvipDiPS38/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e93b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="523051799ba2e56d5a284e22df75037b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: OECD
Proficiencies<p>The report summarizes reading proficiency by focusing on two of the six-levels in their reading skill assessment scale.</p><p>At Level 2, "students are able to identify the main idea in a text of moderate length, find information based on explicit, though sometimes complex, criteria, and reflect on the purpose and form of texts when explicitly directed to do so." About 77 percent of students on average achieved Level 2 proficiency.</p><p>The best readers, comprising just 8.7 percent of the tested teens, performed at Levels 5 or 6 where "students are able to comprehend lengthy texts, deal with concepts that are abstract or counterintuitive, and establish distinctions between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information."</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjE0NDU4Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMTM5OTA1Mn0.sBqjfHKaAiDgprtB8Shk4yE_d457Hh50yLvCkSkiOP4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=83%2C103%2C268%2C244&height=700" id="9a360" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eeda97c189d5085dc4bfc3cbd73ecbfe" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: fizkes/Shutterstock
Hope in AI<p>The authors of the PISA report see promise in the leveraging of A.I. for helping young people develop a stronger sense of context that would allow them to more accurately assess informational sources.</p><p>They suggest "we need to think harder about how to develop first-class humans, and how we can pair the A.I. of computers with the cognitive, social and emotional skills, and values of people." They do note with caution that A.I. itself is ethically neutral while the humans who program it are typically not. This is one of the concerns being studied for the OECD's upcoming Education 2030 project.</p><p>Overall, the PISA findings serve as clear notice that we need to be smarter about teaching. "That is why education in the future is not just about teaching people, but also about helping them develop a reliable compass to navigate an increasingly complex, ambiguous, and volatile world.</p>
Modern notions about the Illuminati are the result of a satirical cult-classic book.
- The historical Illuminati was a failed 18th century Bavarian secret society.
- Current Illuminati conspiracies stem from a satirical '70s counterculture book.
- Authors Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's intent was to sow chaotic disinformation just for the satire.
Origins of the real Illuminati<p>Sometimes real conspiracies exist. Warring factions vye for power and cut covert deals. Many times, organizations will arise in secret to overthrow supposed unjust governments or other ruling powers. Take conspiracy at face value and you see that every great country in this world was once just a little meandering conspiracy in a few men's minds. The original illuminati was one such failed enterprise.</p><p>In late 18th century Bavaria, scholar and university professor Adam Weishaupt formed a secret group that sought to follow in line with Enlightenment principles in lieu of the hard-line Jesuit order at the time. Ironically, the original Illuminati wanted to create a society led by science and reason as opposed to an unexamined religious mentality. </p><p>The group started in 1776, where they recruited a number of intelligent thinkers into the group. <a href="https://www.thelocal.de/20170509/how-the-secret-illuminati-society-really-did-start-in-germany" target="_blank">According to modern historian Reinhard Markner</a>: </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The Illuminati managed to recruit quite a large number of influential men — princes and their councillors, high-ranking bureaucrats, university professors and other educators, writers and intellectuals." </p><p>The original order ceased to exist in 1788 and never really caught on. Markner explains that the group was pretty unremarkable for its time as there was numerous secret organizations popping up during that era. </p><p>It wasn't until some two hundred years later that Robert Anton WIlson would resurrect this run-of-the-mill society and turn it into the conspiracy we know today. </p><p>The writer once remarked, </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Everybody who has ever worked for a corporation knows that corporations conspire all the time. Politicians conspire all the time, pot-dealers conspire not to get caught by the narcs, the world is full of conspiracies. Conspiracy is natural primate behavior." </p>
Invention of the modern Illuminati conspiracy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTMyMjcyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5NzM4OTY4MX0.qj2cVeRJTf8dZg6FqtxAzzmggRQsNgWByLheaxG5H7I/img.jpg?width=980" id="15088" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4bd9e6a588c51f3f3d75ddc5554e7e76" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Illuminatus book titles" />
Illuminatus trilogy. Image source: Robert Shea and Robert Anton WIlson<p>Wilson and Shea crafted the text with the intent to bring some good old-fashioned disinformation and chaos back into the culture — just for the fun of it. They decided this would be best done by telling stories about the Illuminati.</p><p>During this time, Wilson worked as a writer and editor for <em>Playboy</em>. Allegedly, Wilson, along with a couple of other writers, began writing fake letters to the magazine to start talking about the elite super-secretive organization called the Illuminati. Later, they'd send more letters in contradicting what they'd just written and stirring even more intrigue. </p><p>Eventually, this culminated in the <em>Illuminatus!</em> trilogy, for those in the know it was a fantastic cult classic of top tier satire. Weaving nonsense from the Kennedy assassination to the deeper and more insidious nature of the Illuminati. For others, who believe this tripe… not so much. Indeed, according to Wilson: </p><blockquote><em>You simply cannot invent any conspiracy theory so ridiculous and obviously satirical that some people somewhere don't already believe it.</em></blockquote>Now no amount of sermonizing or factual evidence will help the conspiratorial fanatic. Conspiracy leads to <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/4-damaging-anti-scientific-beliefs-and-their-consequences" target="_self">anti-scientific thinking</a> and a populace without any self-agency. All we can do is crack open a book (why not the <em>Illuminatus!</em> trilogy?) and have ourselves a good laugh on the absurd origins of the Illuminati conspiracy.
Notes from the Fog author Ben Marcus on Elon Musk, the weird existential joys of the reality TV show Castaways, and whether we will eat in the future.
- A grow lamp for humans?
- A mist that puts you in the right mood for mourning the victims of terrorism?
- How realism and postmodernism fell in love and had babies.
Novels open us to the nuances of being human.
- "Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth," wrote Albert Camus. It remains an important social and political tool.
- Reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy and understanding.
- In the Instagram age, novels are still a necessary form of communication.
Why read fiction? Because of the 'Jihadi Sandbox Principle'<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="8m8cJVfY" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="bbaceb3a5dc0b276e13bc8af42cbd553"> <div id="botr_8m8cJVfY_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/8m8cJVfY-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/8m8cJVfY-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/8m8cJVfY-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>Eric Weinstein explains that if your mind isn't running contradictory programs, you're not thinking deeply enough. Fiction can help you imagine some of those dangerous and alien ideas, and learn from them.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a>.</em></p>
Man Booker prize winners Olga Tokarczuk and her translator Jennifer Croft on maps that lead nowhere, plasticized anatomies, and humor across national borders.
- Our fragmented times demand a new kind of novel.
- Here, Olga talks humor across the world...
- ... and maps that lead us nowhere.
Author Olga Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft<p>Does it ever strike you as odd that we manage to inhabit two completely different realities at once? On one level, we have common sense and reason that orient us in the world. We make narrative sense of our own life and self and we go about our day with a provisional yet perfectly satisfactory sense of what the hell we're doing. And on another level, we know basically nothing. Forget about dark matter and multiple universes. Just glance into the eyes of that stranger on the train—there's a whole world in there that you know nothing whatsoever about.</p><p>I'm here today with <a href="https://culture.pl/en/artist/olga-tokarczuk" target="_blank">Olga Tokarczuk</a>, who won the Man Booker prize this year for her book <a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/565058/flights-by-olga-tokarczuk/9780525534198/" target="_blank">FLIGHTS</a>, and with the book's Man Booker prizewinning translator, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jennifer_Croft" target="_blank">Jennifer Croft</a>. Flights is a patterned assemblage of sketches, short stories, fragmentary essays about travel. Motion. And it kept striking me while reading it that her writing is about these two worlds we always waver between: Orientation and disorientation. Trying to map things out and then getting lost inside our own maps.</p><p><u><strong>Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: </strong></u> </p><p> <a href="https://bigthink.com/videos/alissa-quart-coparenting-a-lifestyle-innovation-from-our-broke-middle-class" target="_blank">Alissa Quart on coparenting as a growing necessity in America</a></p><p> <a href="https://bigthink.com/why-take-risks-in-life?rebelltitem=1#rebelltitem1" target="_blank">Astronaut Chris Hadfield on risk taking</a></p>