Crossing the Information Chasm

Facebook, Twitter, and other emergent platforms have resulted in the Balkanization of the world of information.  There are large subpopulations that believe the moon landing was faked, climate change and the pandemic are hoaxes, and the presidential election was fraudulently stolen from Donald Trump. They only pay attention to information sources that support these views.  Everything else is seen as fake news.

Does this matter and, if so, what can be done to remedy the situation?   Does the prevalence of believers of disinformation have any impacts?  Certainly, persisting in the use of fossil fuels and not wearing masks affects others, as well as themselves.  A Darwinian perspective would suggest that they will suffer the consequences of their behaviors and, over time, this subpopulation will steadily decrease in size.

This assumes, however, that they just passively accept these consequences.  Another possibility is that they aggressively conflict with other subpopulations that do not support their views.  They might organize, and possibly weaponize, to counter their “deep state” adversaries.  The result would likely be armed conflicts that were associated with originally coining the term Balkanization.

Another possibility is a broad, national initiative to open a dialog premised on the assumption that each subpopulation has compelling and valid reasons for holding their mutually conflicting beliefs.  From this perspective, everyone is right in the context of his or her lived experiences.  The next step, then, involves understanding and appreciating these experiences.

How have rural, black, LGBT, and other groups experienced life in terms of economic rewards, social acceptance, and interactions with government agencies?  How have these experiences influenced perceptions?  How have others attempted to affect these perceptions?  How might society invest to improve people’s personal situations?

This may all sound unrealistic.  However, we cannot continue to accept rampant polarization.  We need to proactively and humanely address the sources of these huge disconnects and invest in finding common ground.  Perpetual conflict will not result in the growth and satisfaction that we all seek.  We need to thoughtfully look out for each other.

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