Natural Selection of Information – Can Google Help?

A friend of mine brought to my attention an article with the Top 5 Threats to science-based medicine. It mentions the usual state sponsored quacks, but the most interesting one is #5: New Media.

Of course, “user generated content” and unvetted health advice and claims are easily made by anyone anytime. And thanks to the magic of Google, a health claim need only be popular to be promoted.

So far, so familiar: it’s very hard to separate truth from nonsense when it comes to health information online.   Not that this is easy offline. It doesn’t help that even supposed authorities contradict each other and have conflicts of interest.

But what got me thinking is this bit:

Truth, accuracy, and scientific rigor aren’t always rewarded in this brave new world of digital influence. Being right has been uncoupled from being influential. The “wisdom of crowds” now decides what people see first when they attempt to educate themselves about health matters.

Because I just watched an episode of Beagle, my mind is primed at evolution theory, natural selection and in particular some of the painful consequences that can have to ordinary life. This leads me to the following question: in this evolutionary battle, can disinformation win from information?

This article and my intuition seems to suggest that it can, at least in the medium term (a couple of decades) . Not just for health: the problem exists in creationism, the housing bubble, politicians deciding on economic stimulus packages, the way we don’t properly deal with climate change, etc. There are always a few people who know the truth about these things, but these voices are not heard through the noise. As long as popularity and not truth is the strongest selection criterion for the stuff is in our collective minds, we are screwed.

Politie 2.0

Van frisdrankautomaat naar platform – Politie 2.0

Dit is een eerste opzetje van mijn gedachten rond dit onderwerp. Het is niet een officieel standpunt van welke organisatie dan ook, maar wie weet wordt het dat ooit.

Frisdrankautomaat of platform?

Tim O’Reilly – uitgever en bedenker van de term “Web 2.0” – zette begin 2009 een visie neer over Overheid 2.0. De overheid gedraagt zich in optiek nog teveel als frisdrankautomaat: je gooit er belasting in en er komen diensten uit zoals wegen, ziekenhuizen en politie. Betrokkenheid van burgers en bedrijfsleven is daarmee beperkt tot het schudden van de automaat. Wat de overheid volgens hem zou moeten bieden is een raamwerk van regelgeving en techniek waarmee eenieder dezelfde diensten kan aanbieden: een platform.