Types of cognitive bias

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The race to the bottom begins when what you think you know, you know. I am once again reminded of this Seth Godin quotes from All Marketers Are Liars:

The best stories don’t teach people anything new. Instead, the best stories agree with what the audience already believes and makes the members of the audience feel smart and secure when reminded how right they were in the first place.

The stuff we want to hear sticks.

Confirmation bias and stereotyping are just the appetizers. Beware a blind spot, or better yet, the ostrich effect.

Biases are shortcuts. The truth never expires.

ORIGIN: The notion of cognitive biases was first introducted by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s. Their research paper, ‘Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases‘ in the Science journal has provided the basis of almost all current theories of decision-making and heuristics. Professor Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002 after further developing the ideas and applying them to economics.

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Blame the humans, not the bots, for retweeting false news

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gif via Ryan Seslow

According to research done by data scientists at MIT, it is humans, not bots, which disseminate false news.

The study began with the 2013 Boston bombings when Twitter spread inaccurate rumors about the aftermath of the events.

The three authors of the study then took it upon themselves to dig deeper into the fake news phenomenon by examining tweets of 3 million users from the years 2006 to 2017.

Blame the humans, not the machines

The overarching result is that false news spreads faster than real news because people on Twitter are more likely to retweet novelty. Said MIT professor and researcher Sinan Aral, “We found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, bots accelerate the spread of true and false stories at the same rate. False news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”

Sensationalism stokes retweets. In fact, “false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.”

MIT scientists believe misinformation also runs rampant on Facebook but is harder to detect because it lives in the echo chambers of a walled garden: FB groups, private posts, and direct messages (re: dark social). Because of Russia’s election meddling in 2016, both Facebook and Twitter are finally taking efforts to improve their platforms for better veracity detection. Fact-checking is more vital than ever.

Humans are suckers for captivating but erroneous news. Some people even refuse to let go. As Mark Twain so wisely noted, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” The good news is that the truth never expires, even if it takes longer to percolate.

Working against attention residue

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gif via The Daily Dot

Going to work to answer emails won’t make you a better emailer, just as another five minutes on Twitter won’t improve your social networking game. Email, Twitter, and incoming messages drain our cognitive fitness.

Continuous partial attention fragments our mind and impedes deep thought, which is at the core of doing meaningful work.

How are we alive if all we do is process tasks?

Digital knowledge work seems to be typing into little boxes all day. We confuse distraction with busyness.

If we are the CEO of us, perhaps we need better focus engines to keep our eyes on the donut and not the donut hole.

Listen to You 2.0: The Value Of ‘Deep Work’ In An Age Of Distraction

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I stopped thinking in tweets

  • because it wasn’t the game I wanted to play
  • because I wanted to synthesize my thoughts on my blogs and share my discoveries in a comprehensive newsletter
  • because I didn’t want to think in 140 characters
  • because I wanted to read more books
  • because I decided to do something more durable, i.e. write another book
  • because I strived to go deeper
  • because I felt nostalgic for the insights that emerged in those moments of boredom

And although my mind still thinks in sentence fragments, it no longer feels the need to throw darts.

Twitter me this, Twitter me that

Twitter is a strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

It drives both optimism and pessimism at the same time. It foretells the future, flashing signs of progress along with inevitable doomsday. One tweet can drive markets and shift national conversations.

Most Twitter users are consumers that use it to discover great content and breaking news. Others abuse the platform to stoke an agenda.

Checking Twitter is the fastest way to monitor the pulse on society. At the same, avoiding it will make your happier and healthier — you may even get your mind back!

Twitter changes how the brain works. It hijacks your attention with the facade of novelty, consumed and quickly forgotten. But your trash may be someone else’s treasure. There are gems to be found even in a dump.

What’s next?

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What’s next? Are we over the smartphone boom and the newest social networking app already?

We live in a ‘next’ society. We need something new every couple months. As the chips get faster, so too do our consumption habits. 

We long to get over what’s staring us in the face so we can move on to the next dopamine hitNo one wants to wait. No one wants to cope with their boredom. Phoneless, people would rather zap themseves instead.  

Facebook is in a hurry to beat out Snapchat and recreate the Prisma app. Twitter dropped Vine. We’re all treating things like we get treated at the DMV; like cogs in a queue we can’t skip, made to feel suppressed and unimportant. Next in line!

Just because we’re in the industrial revolution of computers doesn’t mean we need to speed up all behaviors. Myopia is killing long-term thinking and shortening our appreciation for what already exists. What happened to celebrating small victories and supporting the Internet of niches–or did the Internet mainstream everything (re: MIA)?

The Zeigarnik effect wants us to replace anticipation with actions we can’t even remember afterward. You accomplished XYZ, but what does it all mean?

When we slow down, do our thing, and let other do their’s, life meets us halfway. We can’t all do each other’s work, out copy each other and live each other’s lives. What’s next is sticking to the real you.

Twitter’s soul decay

Rumor has it that no one–neither Microsoft, Disney, Salesforce, nor Google–wants to acquire Twitter. The common fear though is that the ‘media company’ as we know it today is going to change regardless of its new owner.

While it’s not clear how Twitter would disappear, or how your profile would renew, some of Twitter’s longest and most passionate users like Navneet Alang, find it hard to imagine a life without looking through the lens of the blue bird. Below are some of the highlights from his think-piece on the cultural and neurocognitive impact of Twitter.

On tweeting daily into the empty box:

Twitter has colonized my mind. Almost every day for just under a decade, I have checked the site, have tweeted, retweeted, been subtweeted. My mental map is the frontier surrendered, and Twitter is the empire. To become occupied by a social network is to internalize its gaze.

On tweeting out loud and developing an audience:

But a decade on, I still find myself thinking in the terms of Twitter: how each absurd, mundane happening in my life might be framed so as to be alluring to my audience, a potential employer, a date, or new friend. I still always carry my followers with me. In fact, I can’t get rid of them. They are like a ghostly companion, ever at my side. It isn’t just my tweets that have changed, but the way in which I relate to reality.

On the external impact of Twitter and other social networks:

We are always being reconfigured from the outside in. Just as the book shaped thought in a particular way, so too do the many facets of digital, each in their own way.

We might be nearing the death of Twitter but not the extinction of our inherent publicness–people still want to be influencers, celebrities, curators, and content DJs including myself. Twitter fulfills the natural urge to share and be reshared. It’s too culturally important to lose, despite all the nastiness, bullying, and offensive material, especially during this election.

Why doesn’t Facebook acquire Twitter and replace its tardy trends with live, real-time Twitter-fueled relevancy? It appears that everything good ends up in the walls of Facebook. Twitter’s plateau could spell the end of its elasticity as an open social network, proving that what matters isn’t always popular.

Your digital eulogy 


One of the benefits of Snapchat is that your content disappears so that nothing can be used in your digital eulogy. On the other hand, your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts are going to be around forever. And that’s how most people will remember you. 

Artist Gabriel Barcia-Colombo is giving people a chance to visit their own digital funeral at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to review the type of social media posts people would see after they pass away. 

According to BuzzFeed’s senior writer Doree Shafrir who experienced her own ceremony: 

“All of my tweets started scrolling on a screen in front of me as though to say, you know, here are some words of Doree’s to remember her by – tweeting about wearing a dress to a wedding with pockets or Justin Bieber. And I thought, oh, my God, if I did die – God forbid – right now this is what people would see.”

She also notes that Facebook is the only service right now where you assign someone to manage your page after you die. 

Your legacy is wrapped up in Tweets like your life’s bumper sticker. So be wary of what you say. Conversely, you can leave no trails behind and just use Snapchat or go off the grid altogether like Cal Newport.

This professor describes the future educated person

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Illustration by Clay Rodery

Dear digital denizens, please rest easy.

That so-called ‘Internet addiction‘ you have is an evolution of what humans have been doing along — curating, collecting, and sharing. We just do it with more often with the assistance of our screens.

According to professor Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania, “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Professor Goldsmith named his course “Wasting Time on the Internet”– an incentive that gets his students to sign up. However, it has the opposite effect. Instead of screen-staring, his students are more likely to create and collaborate.

“They became more creative with each other. They say we’re less social; I think people on the web are being social all the time. They say we’re not reading; I think we’re reading all the time, just online.”

The web is the world’s biggest copy-paste machine. On top of this, Google is our second brain. The fear is that humans will lose their ability to think. However, what happens instead is that we allow more ideas to have sex. Remixing ideas is what Maria Popova of Brainpickings often refers to as “combinatorial creativity.”

“When a D.J. brings a laptop full of music samples to a club he doesn’t play an instrument, but we don’t argue that he isn’t doing something creative in mixing those sounds to create his own effect. In the online world the only thing you’re the master of is your collection, your archive, and how you use it, how you remix it. We become digital archivists, collecting and cataloging things. I find it exciting.”

It turns out that wasting time on the Internet could be productive rather than harmful. To think the Internet also means the end of books and face to face communication is also an exaggeration. Of course, like any tool, it depends on what you are using the Internet for — playing games is not the same as sharing research and new ideas.

What’s your opinion on learning in the Internet age? Please share below in the comments.

Sunday Social Roundup

  1. Facebook is following in the footsteps of Snapchat and exploring expiring content. Finally, Facebook realizes that competing against Snapchat with Slingshot is a waste of time. People just want additional popular features in the existing Facebook, not entirely new apps.

  2. Apple introduced the iPhone 6, 6+, and it’s Smart watch this week. I went ahead and ordered the 6+ because I’m still running with the inferior camera of the iPhone 5. Bigger is better, I hope. Oh, and Apple also introduced Apple Pay, which plans to replace the physical credit card and turn your phone into a digital wallet. Finally. Is the TV next?

  3. Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter plan to take on YouTube in the bid to attract video stars. I finally realized why these YouTube video stars have more fans than brands on YouTube, because they act like they’re your friend.

  4. Will Ferrell is challenging gamers to raise money for charity. Donators will be able to win the opportunity to play with the actor which to be broadcasted on Twitch. What I love about this is using a recognizable face and a new platform (Twitch) to support a good cause.

  5. You’ll never win an argument on social media because it’s too democratic a platform (everyone has a microphone) and its too fast. The only good news is that the arguments are ephemeral as people quickly look for the next chance to opine.

Sunday Social Roundup

  1. Your iCloud is hackable. A bunch of celebrity nude selfies appeared this week on 4Chan. Anything in the cloud should require [two factor authentication](Dave pogue tweet), whatever that means.

  2. Now you easily convert any YouTube video into a GIF. Excuse me: I’ll be putting together a compilation of Michael Jordan dunks and posting them on Tumblr.

  3. Apple plans to announce both the iWatch and the new iPhone 6 this week. The watch is supposed to cost over $400 and per Johnny Ive, put a lot of watchmakers out of business. The iPhone 6 promises to become the true digital wallet. For real this time.

  4. I was on vacation when Facebook launched Slingshot, the apparent Snapchat competitor. Let’s just say the app updated this week and I’ve still yet to try it. Facebook has passed the point of innovation and Snapchat is not selling out, yet.

  5. Dunkin Donuts opened up in LA and customers celebrated with their coffee hauls. I may just need to love back to California now.

Sunday Social Roundup

  1.  Facebook plans to crack down on click bait, tweaking its algorithm to deemphasize crappy articles, most notably those from Buzzfeed.  This move is probably a reaction to the firestorm lit by Facebook itself earlier this year when its product director complained about the lack of quality content on Facebook.  Finally, Facebook is admitting fault.  

  2.  Instagram released a new app this week called Hyperlapse, which essentially speeds up your videos.  Here’s a quick example of one of mine in Grand Central.

    Instagram is trying to make it easier for its community to create videos. If so, it should consider building in cinematic cam too like the Steady App.

  3.  Twitter’s favorite button has multiple meanings.

    • To bookmark.
    • To end a conversation. 
    • To like something. 

    It can also be used strategically to grab someone’s attention, aka provoke.

    But now Twitter may be taking its favorite data to show you what other people are favoriting. Sounds similar to Facebook’s algorithm if you ask me.

  4. Here are the top 25 most popular apps in the US right now. It’s clearly the Facebook and Google show. Tumblr is not even on there. Good to see Gmail on there though. No wonder newsletters are back.

  5. Starbucks is rolling out trucks to college campuses to feed the thirst of coffee crazed students. I don’t see anything in here about offering Wifi though too. That should be a gimme if you’re within a certain radius.

Cold Water Courage

The Ice Bucket challenge is yet another example of mimetic desire, the natural instinct for people to follow each other like lemmings in complete disregard of purpose.

People may be participating in the Ice Bucket because they genuinely care. It validates their altruism, assuming they also donated to defeat ALS. But people are also likely to be participating in the challenge because this is their moment to shine on Twitter and Facebook.

As JG Ballard predicted 27 years ago:

“Every home will be transformed into its own TV studio. We’ll all be simultaneously actor, director and screenwriter in our own soap opera. People will start screening themselves. They will become their own TV programmes.”

Social media is a tidal wave that can generate positive change. Just be weary of other people’s intentions.

The courage to tweet

  • something provocative without the need to offend
  • something digestible that others can relate to
  • something that everyone else is thinking about but not bold or articulate enough to say

You don’t need permission to tweet. You just need the courage to say what’s on your mind in the most succinct way possible. The simple truths and observations are the most likely to be retweeted. So tweet something you too would endorse.

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