Yes, you read that heading right. We admit to sharing misinformation over rbutr. We admit that things which we know are not true, are being shared with people who may have never encountered the erroneous claims and arguments.
We admit it, and we stand by the claim that it is absolutely necessary.
Necessary for what?
Necessary to destroy false beliefs.
OK, so that seems extremely counter-intuitive, but it does make sense…. In order to achieve our ultimate goal of destroying false beliefs, rbutr is going to actively share the stuff false beliefs are made from: misinformation.
And I’ll explain why…
Just in case you’re short on time here is the TL;DR: up front:
- In order for rbutr to destroy false beliefs, we need to reach a massive audience and be ever-present on the internet.
- People tend to resist/ignore/destroy things which contradict their beliefs. All people hold beliefs, and most of the beliefs out there are contradictory. Therefore rbutr cannot take any position without ostracising large portions of the population of the planet.
- By remaining completely neutral and sharing all information equally, we can engage with all people regardless of their beliefs and build a comprehensive map of the discourse taking place on the internet.
- Once the completely neutral map is in place, all people without prior beliefs will be free to engage with the internet with a comprehensive exposure to all arguments, rather than a biased exposure.
- This will destroy misinformation because unbiased minds will see it plainly for what it is, and thus it won’t take root as a false belief which then promotes that misinformation on to new minds.
So that is the TL;DR: version. Now for the full argument, please consider the case of Google:
Google actively shares misinformation.
Answer:it is said that god made all animals but many say that a special leaf was formed to transform into a small animal called a anofiyton , this animal became extinct many many years ago , and is now held as a famous piece of art in many museums.
It then goes on to provide a second answer, which is the biblical account with an extra “Evolution definitely didn’t happen” finishing point, so it is no less ridiculous than the first answer.
I could repeat this exercise a million times and every single time find misinformation parading as truth in the top ten results. Sitting there, being shared with everyone who is only trying to find the truth. If you can think of a question which has a simple factual answer to it, then it can be virtually guaranteed that Googling it will give you results which are patently false.
Does this fact invalidate the value of Google? Of course not. People have better access to information than ever before – and some of that information is even true.
Does this fact stop people from using Google? Definitely not. And I’ll argue that this fact is actually necessary for Google’s ongoing dominance.
Why doesn’t Google remove erroneous claims from their results?
This is pretty simple really; they can’t. It is absolutely impossible. But for the sake of our rbutr-Google analogy, let us imagine some super AI program was created which could differentiate between valid evidence backed claims, and fanciful nonsense.
So we let this AI loose inside Google’s database, and we hide all of the “Not true” results from their searches. Now Google will only return results which are deemed ‘True’ by this super intelligent and perfectly accurate AI.
Within the year just about everyone would stop using Google.
Virtually everyone has at least one belief which isn’t in line with scientific consensus. And when they go to their favourite search engine and find out that every webpage it brings up on their pet topic disagrees with their absolutely-rock-solid belief, they will wonder what is wrong with the internet. When they find out that Google has decided to censor information which disagrees with “the one real truth”, they will declare Google corrupt, biased, dictatorial and they will simply stop using it. They will declare Google untrustworthy!
And remember, we’re talking about what would happen if Google found a way to magically only present factually accurate information – the most trustworthy information source ever imagined, and everyone on the planet would stop using it because they would view it as untrustworthy. Perfectly ironic.
Basically, people don’t respond well to being told they are wrong. It causes Cognitive Dissonance which makes people feel uncomfortable. So when an application tells people repeatedly that they are wrong, they will stop using that app. It is as simple as that.
But Most People Are Pretty Reasonable, and Everyone Wants the Truth, Right?
Sure, most people seem pretty reasonable most of the time, but like I said above, virtually everyone believes at least one crazy thing. Most hold many beliefs which have no basis in reality. This is our nature thanks to being the owners of evolved brains which are no longer optimized for our environment.
Mental flaws like confirmation bias, backfire effect, pareidolia, gamblers fallacy, ingroup bias, and many others cause people to reach incorrect conclusions regularly, spread those conclusions readily, and cling to them aggressively. Giving us a world full of conflicting religious beliefs, conspiracy theories, and endless paranormal beliefs. Just look at the popularity of Dr Oz, someone who regularly promotes nonsense pseudo-science, but has an average of about 3.4 million viewers a day. Oh, and astrology still features in virtually every newspaper on earth…. Just to pick a couple of easy targets.
As Michael Shermer put it, we have a “Believing Brain”. But while we love believing stuff, we don’t have to believe in crap. There is absolutely no reason for us to not love believing in evidence backed things just as much as we love believing in nonsense! Just ask the creationist how much evolutionists love believing in evolution ‘like a religion’. So the trick is to get us all to believe in things with adequate reason to. We just need to train people to reach accurate conclusions before they form those beliefs.
But I am getting ahead of myself. What I am trying to say at this point is that if Google removed all of the non-evidence-based pages from their results, all of the conspiracy theorists would be pretty certain that they were right, and some global conspiracy is trying to cover up their truths. Just like every other non-science based activism group. Everyone would declare that the truth was being covered up, and everyone would stop using Google.
So there is no way that Google would do this, even if they could. No one willingly removes 50-90% of their customer base.
So no, people aren’t that reasonable, and they don’t care about the truth nearly as much as they care about their existing beliefs.
So Google ‘shares’ a lot more misinformation and incorrect information (by volume) than it does correct information. Why? Because people mostly believe a lot of crazy shit, so they go looking for arguments and evidence to back that crazy shit up. Google is just giving them what they want. The problem with this arrangement is that Google stops participating at that point.
“You want evidence that the earth is expanding? No problem, here it is! <End of my job>”
If only there was a way to get those people to then consider an alternative perspective… willingly. Especially if they are looking it up because they only just heard about it, and aren’t yet sure whether they believe it or not…
rbutr Must Share Misinformation
This is where rbutr comes in.
- Google gives you a list of : the most relevant webpages – to a given keyword phrase
- rbutr gives you a list of: the best rebutting webpages – to a given webpage
rbutr is in the same game as Google, except that we are the next step. We provide depth, context and further information beyond the webpage in question. If Google were so inclined, they could use our service to supplement their search results, providing access to that context on the results page.
And just as Google must remain neutral with regards to its results, so too must rbutr with its rebuttals. We must evaluate them as valid rebuttals, just as Google evaluates pages as relevant to keyword phrases , but beyond that we can’t risk ostracising people by picking and choosing which rebuttals are true or not. Therefore, we must necessarily share incorrect information just as we share good information so that our users who believe the incorrect information to be true don’t feel like they are being censored.
This is the only way rbutr can possibly reach mass acceptance. rbutr must be perpetually neutral and non-judging of conclusions.
Inoculation Against Viruses of the Mind
So the right question to ask at this point would be:
How exactly does rbutr destroy false beliefs and misinformation if it must share misinformation just as it shares correct information?
It does it by inhibiting the spread of the false information into new minds.
Plenty of research has been done over the years which shows that changing someones mind can be very tricky. People are not only resistant to changing their mind in general, they are also known to re-affirm their beliefs when presented with information which contradicts their beliefs! So expecting to rid the world of false beliefs by going around and arguing with people who disagree with you seems to be a largely ineffective strategy. It will work some of the time, but not nearly enough to make it worth the effort.
So instead of trying to change minds (hard), you focus on those who don’t yet have beliefs. If you can prevent those without beliefs from forming poorly informed beliefs, then you solve the problem at its source.
This is exactly what rbutr will do over the long run.
The (mis)Information Age
The internet has brought about the information age. An era in which anyone has access to more information than could possibly be consumed in a million lifetimes. The problem is that the information isn’t quality controlled. It is usually incorrect, often out of context, manipulated for specific agendas and so on.
Having access to a lot of information sounds great, but if all of the information is incorrect, than it isn’t good at all. It is very bad.
The objective of the information age shouldn’t be to continue to create increasingly more information, but to ensure that people receive good information. We need to ensure that people are always being directed to increasingly higher quality of information.
As previously discussed, we can’t do this by censoring information – that causes problems. So we need cleverer systems.
rbutr is that cleverer system.
If rbutr isn’t taking you from low quality information (incorrect, biased, out of context etc) to higher quality information, it is at least taking you to a critique of the original information, which should cause reflection before accepting it as true. So rbutr provides a system which causes users to doubt everything, while moving towards higher quality information, until such a point that the user decides they have seen enough to make a decision.
So the worst outcome for an internet completely infused with the rbutr system is one where people are often left in a state of doubt. This is good, because it is always better to be unsure, than to be sure but wrong.
Widespread adoption of rbutr will have immediate impacts, but those impacts will be nothing compared to the long term consequences. rbutr will create a world where everyone grows up without ever being vulnerable to having just one biased source informing them on an issue. Every time they encounter a new concept on the internet, it will always be presented with access to a critical reflection of that opening position.
“Question this” will be present at every turn.
And the act of being present at every turn is the key here. How else do you have any chance of catching people when they are forming a new belief?
With that ever present reminder that no claim is beyond reproach, and that every position involves some level of complexity and nuance which is open to discussion and debate, and that there is no such thing as an authority which is all knowing, then we will finally undermine the engine which drives continued growth of false beliefs: the passive receptivity to misinformation which allows false beliefs to be formed in the first place.
But this will only be possible if most people see rbutr as a reliable neutral source which can be trusted to provide the full story.
And this is why rbutr must share misinformation, in order to destroy false beliefs.