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Halcyon actively monitors change covering more than 150 key elements of life.

A Mundane Comedy is Dominic Kelleher's new book, which will be published later in 2023. The introduction is available here and further extracts will appear on this site in the coming months. Please get in touch with any questions or thoughts.

The 52:52:52 project, launching both on this site and on Twitter in early 2023 will help you address 52 issues with 52 responses over 52 weeks.

What's Changing? - Truth

Truth

 

Please see below selected recent truth-related change.

 

See also:

 

January 2023

  • The study of lying is at least a century old, noted Psyche, and thousands of scientific papers have been published. Researchers have mainly focused on two key questions, namely: how good is the average person at detecting lies; and what, if any, are the behavioural signs of lying? There is only one reliable procedure based on common sense, and that is to simply find out what the supposed liar says that does not fit with other stuff that one may know. This is a recommended strategy for police interviews and, after a century of research, the only one to reliably disclose lying in everyday contexts. 

 

December 2022

 

October 2022

 

July 2022

 

June 2022

 

May 2022

  • Previous research had already shown that repeating a claim increases that claim’s perceived truth value. For a long time, though, it was assumed that this so-called truth-by-repetition effect only applied to claims whose truth value was unambiguous. However, a more recent study confirmed what politicians and advertisers knew all along: that truth-by-repetition works on virtually any kind of claim, even highly implausible ones.
  • Self-deception is incredibly common, and may have evolved to bring some personal benefits. We lie to ourselves to protect our self-images, which allows us to act immorally while maintaining a clear conscience. According to research, self-deception may have even evolved to help us to persuade others; if we start believing our own lies, it’s much easier to get other people to believe them, too
  • Our ability to determine reliable information from misinformation is one of the more pressing challenges of our age.  A 2019 study from Yale found that we’re just as likely to believe information that derives from a single source as we are information that comes from multiple independent sources. The research underlined how misinformation can spread as we can all too easily believe a consensus exists when it doesn’t. This work was then built on by a subsequent study from the University of New South Wales, which showed how this illusion can be reduced if we give people more information about how the original sources arrived at their conclusions.

 

January 2022

  • Researchers at Tufts University in the US created a model that describes the dissemination of fake news. They said the model will allow the development of new media and content strategies that combat disinformation. Scientists who study the dissemination of information often take a page from epidemiologists, modelling the spread of false beliefs on how a disease spreads through a social network. Most such models treat the people in the networks as all equally taking in any new belief passed on to them by contacts. The Tufts researchers instead based their model on the notion that our pre-existing beliefs can strongly influence whether we accept new information. Many people reject factual information supported by evidence if it takes them too far from what they already believe.

 

August 2021

  • A study of 260 dogs found that, in some cases, dogs can tell when people are lying. The experiments involved giving dogs information about the location of food. The majority of the dogs did not follow false suggestions when they knew humans were lying, according to researchers at the University of Vienna.

 

July 2021

  • Richard V. Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argued that the problem is not discerning who is telling the truth or lying but actually trying to tell the truth. Reeves noted that "Faced with an urgent need for information, we just want the truth. In response to the question ‘Which way to the emergency room?’, all that really matters is the accuracy of the response. But much of the time, it’s more important that a person is speaking truthfully than that they’re speaking the truth, especially when the answers are not yet clear. Most of us feel very differently towards the friend who makes an honest mistake, perhaps based on inadequate information, and the one who tells a deliberate lie."

 

May 2021

 

December 2020

  • Most modern societies place a high value on truth and honesty - but people can’t seem to resist falsehoods, from little white lies to vast conspiracy theories. In a podcast, Bill Gates and Rashida Jones attempted to answer a question that felt for many like it had taken on extra relevance during the pandemic year of 2020: why do people believe lies?
  • Politicians are increasingly hiring private companies to spread disinformation online, according to researchers who found campaigns run by third-party contractors targeting 48 different countries, The Oxford Internet Institute said the “disinformation-for-hire” market is booming, with advertising, marketing and public relations companies offering to manipulate online opinion for political parties and governments. The OII said private contractors help to identify which groups to target with messages, and then “prompt the trending of certain political messages” either through fake accounts or with armies of bots, or automated accounts, noted the Financial Times.

 

September 2020

  • The World Economic Forum warned that the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to many new conspiracy theories - and UNESCO wants to educate people to identify and debunk them. Certain groups are more prone to being targeted, including particular religions and people with different sexual orientation. Counter-actions include calling out false information, contacting the author, and taking care not to spread it further.
  • For New World, Same Humans, the way to beat QAnon and similar conspiracy theories, and the only future for progressive politics, is via difficult truths: about work, automation, nation states, and the future of our planet. We need a new story that confronts these realities, explains their meaning, and points towards a brighter tomorrow. The challenge is as simple as it is difficult. We need to find new ways to tell the truth.
  • Why do we lie? In one key respect, the psychoanalytic response to this question is broadly in line with other psychologies: we lie to evade the many and various unpleasant consequences of telling the truth. Lying to others can preserve us from the embarrassment of having values, tastes or desires that offend societal norms; lying to ourselves helps protect our favourable self-image. Beyond these defensive functions, lying can confer advantages over public and personal rivals and adversaries, in sex or business, art or politics. Lying also shields us from our vulnerability to our own unconscious desires, but also corrodes a shared reality. The liar wields the power to create their own reality free of uncertainty, according to Josh Cohen, a psychoanalyst in private practice, and Professor of Modern Literary Theory at Goldsmiths University. 

 

August 2020

 

May 2020

  • Prospect Magazine warned that misinformation is nothing new. Foreigners and minorities have been slandered through history—often in the context of disease, and sometimes with murderous consequences. But “the difference now,” Sylvie Briand, director of Infectious Hazards Management at WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, told The Lancet, is that “with social media… this phenomenon is amplified, it goes faster and further.” The “huge change in the infrastructure of information,” says Amil Khan, a former government specialist who has studied misinformation in conflict zones, affects “not just the mechanics but the fundamental principles.” While, “for most of the modern era, information was filtered,” he says, today the filters are seriously eroded.

 

April 2020

  • When CB Insights published its report on disinformation, they titled it Memes That Kill: The Future Of Information Warfare. In it, they covered everything from deepfakes to bot armies. However the company warns that as dystopian as it might sound, that “future” is now. Nearly half of the people talking about Covid-19 on Twitter may have been bots, according to Carnegie Mellon research. Conspiracy theories regarding cures wererife in Facebook groups. These forms of online discourse fuelled real-life action, often with destructive consequences, ranging from vandalism of 5G towers to hate crimes against Asians to deaths from self-medication. 

 

March 2020

  • Falsehoods can spread and mutate as quickly as a virus, creating a pandemic of misinformation that ranges from fake satellite images showing mass cremations of COVID-19 victims to claims that cocaine can kill the virus

 

September 2019

 

July 2019

 

May 2019

  • Research released by Institute for the Future revealed how social and issue-focused groups are particularly susceptible to disinformation campaigns and can be targeted with computational propaganda, e.g. as they were during the US 2018 mid-term elections.
  • Chatham House asked whether we ready for deepfakes. These are fake videos in which a politician or a celebrity can be made to say whatever the hacker wants to put in their mouth. They are like fake news, but far more convincing. As we discuss in the next edition, deepfakes could cause civil strife or even war, but almost certainly they will reinforce distrust of online content, allowing everyone to deny the evidence of their eyes and pick their own truth.
  • The School of Life believes it would be a great deal more honest and a lot more liberating to accept that we do of course spend a lot of our lives lying in one way or another - and to grow generously sympathetic to, and curious about, the reasons why we do so. We have allowed ourselves to focus on the delinquent or semi-criminal aspects of lying, as though deceitfulness was always something that might happen in relation to a school teacher, an angry father, a gang or the police – and so we miss out on lying's more subtle everyday psychological varieties, such as denying hurt, guilt, tenderness, anxiety or sexuality.

 

December 2018

 

October 2018

 

September 2018

 

August 2018

  • The rise of a "post-truth" world, where tribal politics and emotion rule, has left many troubled. For we usually assume reason is a better guide to action than feeling. Critics though argue reason is a veneer to hide motive and emotional politics is a vital challenge to the powerful. Should we celebrate a return to honest emotion or must we silence the irrational to save us from chaos? An Institute of Ideas debate analysed this emerging post-truth world. 
  • Asserting belief in the face of contradicting facts rejects the pursuit of truth, claimed Aeon, arguing that belief is not knowledge. Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true.
  • In a world where Donald Trump declares an audio recording of his statements “fake news” and insists to supporters that “what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” it’s easy to despair for the truth, cautioned Quartz. “We have entered an age of post-truth politics,” lamented the New York Times.
  • However, Simon Blackburn, philosophy professor at Cambridge University, isn’t worried. Blackburn, who received acclaim for his 2005 book Truth and has recently written another book on the subject, On Truthsays the truth has always been twisted by politicians. 
  • As a species, humans prefer power to truth. We spend far more time and effort on trying to control the world than on trying to understand it,” writes historian Yuval Noah Harari, arguing that post-truth world is modus operandi for Homo sapiens.
  • Humans are a post-truth species, claimed Quartz, arguing that Homo sapiens have thrived by creating and sharing fake news to unite the collective.
  • A recent book examined how truth and reason have become endangered species and their rarity threatens the future of our public discourse, politics and governance. Nor is this an new pheniomenon: in the same vein, Hannah Arendt’s 1967 work Truth and Politics distinguished between the non-political sphere, where a singular truth reigns, and the political sphere where truth is plural and factual.
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