Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Information Confirmation Bias

Hi! Happy Tuesday!

Humans fail at objectivity. Every single one of us. One of the traits of this failure is something that is referred to as confirmation bias. We all look to seek out news and information that confirms our world view.

A good education will train you to be aware of this bias and methods for managing that bias.

In the information age of instant communication and information overload this confirmation bias can be exacerbated and even exploited quite easily. Let's call this information confirmation bias.

This is truly a problem of scale we need to address because information confirmation bias is an increasingly easier trap to fall into in the information age. One can just Google the kind of news one likes and stick with it. If you are conspiracy theory person then there are untold number of conspiracy news web sites and so it goes.

Below is just one example, find as many as you like visiting right-wing news sites. Information confirmation bias exists everywhere and with all humans. I'm picking on right-wing news for one reason and one reason alone: the agenda of the right-wing to destroy the very concept of objective journalism. Liberal media also wantonly uses anecdotes inappropriately but there does not exist the open agenda to dismiss objective reporting.
A Virginia cop is kidnapped and murdered by several black gang members. Sharpton, where are you?! Such hypocrisy and reverse-racism is breathtaking. The brutal truth is Sharpton, Holder and Obama will never address this officer’s death because he was white and because they protect the black gangs out there.
In rhetoric and in journalism you learn the fallacy of the above argument. This fallacy is called a false equivalence. The false equivalence is that the story is an anecdote signifying of no trend. It is a tragic crime, but not a trend.

Here are the trends that Ferguson represents:
  1. Every 28 hours a police officer kills a black man in this country. There are most definitely guilty criminals resisting arrest being killed. But, the question is, are they being treated differently than white guilty criminals resisting arrest and being killed more often due to racism?
  2. This trend of police killing blacks has been documented going on sixty years now and most assuredly this entire country's history.
  3. The police are not indicted let alone convicted.
Now as an anecdote how does the Virginia cop being killed hold up as a trend? It doesn't, at all. The story is a false equivalence. For most any of us who think rationally the horror of right wing news has nothing to do with conservative vs. liberal and everything to do with the horrific butchery of reason and the process of rationality.

Those of us who are educated are too dismissive too easily of such irrational nonsense. It is nonsense.  So we avoid engaging each other to this country's detriment. There is a dismissive term out there that captures the problem statement; fly-over states. This country is squaring off in its respective intelligence quarters with the over-educated on the coasts and the under-educated in the middle. By sheer volume of the number of states being flown over  the Senate will soon be a permanent Republican majority if nothing is done about information confirmation bias. California has already become a permanent Democratic majority at the State level. Soon there may be no Republican office holders at all in California.

Show me a right-wing news source and I will show you a butchery of reason and rationality because the right-wing has sadly made it an agenda to destroy not only liberalism, but journalism. Journalism teaches discipline and objectivity to help manage human weakness and frailty of confirmation bias. We need *common* good rhetoric. The New York Times is fading fast.

The solution to information confirmation bias already exists. Journalism, logic, rhetoric and reason all are well established fields.  We need a common national registry of news sources rated by objectivity standards; a news Yelp! if you will but with peer-reviewed reviews and not dubious reviews like Yelp! The objective disciplines would need to be applied as they already exist before we can solve the problem of journalism converging on a liberals only club, the reason conservatives decided to destroy journalism.  We as a country need to bring back agreeing upon standards of journalism, objectivity, reason and logic to be adhered in order to bring any meaning to bias. Bias has no meaning using samples of one. A sample of one is a game that cannot be won. In a world of seven-billion people, a country of 300 million then the pool of samples is guaranteed to be bottomless. We are simply chasing our own tales in news today and preaching to the choir. Progress cannot be made in that environment.

Well come! and Well met!

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