If you were surprised by the result of the Brexit vote in the UK or by the Trump victory in the US, you might live in an echo chamber – a self-reinforcing world of people who share the same opinions as you. Echo chambers are a problem, and not just because it means some people…
First identified in the field of radiology, where the detection of abnormalities in X-rays can be a matter of life or death, SOS (Satisfaction of Search) - originally referred to situations where the doctor feels "satisfied" that he or she has found the problem and moves on to the next image. Of course, pneumonia doesn't preclude a patient from also having a tumor or some other issue, for example, so calling off the search too early can be a grave error, doctors have found.
It turns out that pigs make arbitrary decisions for some of the same reasons humans do. They get moody and peevish, and they allow those feelings to dictate judgement. By subjecting pigs to a series of experiments involving chocolate candies and uncomfortable beds, a group of UK researchers determined that pigs have some of the same psychological blind spots as humans.
Students of psychology, and in particular of cognitive biases, will generally find Trump’s success in this regard unsurprising. Trump benefited—intentionally or not—from a phenomenon that marketers have known about for years. Psychologists call it “affect heuristic,” or the tendency to make judgments based on mood or emotion. The net result of this built-in human mental trait is that rather than letting our beliefs about the world tell us how to feel, we tend to let our emotions tell us what to believe. Afraid of crime? Then you’ll tend to see the world as violent (even if violent crime is at its lowest point in a generation or more). Worried about your job? Then you’ll believe that unemployment is up (even if it’s at at a 10-year low). Trump capitalized on this by telling Americans things they felt were true. And feeling is much more compelling than listening to eggheads spout statistics on television.
Research shows that traits associated with political engagement are heritable. Take a 2012 study by Danish geneticists and political scientists. “Given the body of evidence showing that most pro-social traits are genetically influenced it seems reasonable that people’s sense of civic duty and political efficacy are also partially heritable,” they wrote. “Utilizing two new twin studies on political traits, one in Denmark and one in the United States, we show that the heritability of political participation and political efficacy is remarkably similar across cultures.” And in a 2015 study, researchers concluded, “We show that most of the correlation between civic engagement and both positive emotionality and verbal IQ can be attributed to genes that affect both traits.”
Gendering AI boils down to business. Customers interpret these AI personalities through the lens of their own biases. Whether its stereotypes about women in service roles, the desire for a female companion, or simply that feeling of trust that a woman’s voice instills, female AI personalities are easier for most consumers to adopt. And adoption is the ultimate goal for tech companies that want to make AI mainstream.
You may think you choose to read one story over another, or to watch a particular video rather than all the others clamouring for your attention.
But in truth, you are probably manipulated into doing so by publishers using clever machine learning algorithms.
The online battle for eyeballs has gone hi-tech.
Every day the web carries about 500,000 tweets, 300 hours of YouTube video uploads, and more than 80 million new Instagram photos every day. Just keeping up with our friends' Facebook and Twitter updates can seem like a full-time job.
So publishers desperately trying to get us to read and watch their stuff in the face of competition from viral videos and pictures of cats that look like Hitler are enlisting the help of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
But do these technologies actually work? A question of timing
Recent start-up Echobox has developed a system it says takes the human guesswork out of the mix. By analysing large amounts of data, it learns how specific audiences respond to different articles at different times of the day.
It then selects the best stories to post and the best times to post them.
The study, which surveyed 2299 adults across Canada, found that a quarter (26%) of Canadian adults believe an unbiased computer program would be more trustworthy and ethical than their workplace leaders and managers. Among younger adults (those aged 20-39) that number was significantly higher, with 31% agreeing that an unbiased computer program would be more trustworthy and ethical than their workplace leaders and managers
Our own research has suggested something different, that it arises because this is the period when we lay down memories and store information that will define who we are for the rest of our lives – the crystallisation of the self in memory, if you like. We set out to test whether this was correct.
Repetition makes a fact seem more true, regardless of whether it is or not. Understanding this effect can help you avoid falling for propaganda, says psychologist Tom Stafford. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. Among psychologists something like this…
We understood the problem, but at some deep level we couldn’t accept what was happening. Many big projects just carried on. We examined the sales projections for the following quarter, when our eyes should have been focused much further ahead. And:
The worst that can happen to a company is to run out of money and be forced into bankruptcy. Enormous success is perhaps the next worst.
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