Father: What is the day today?
Son: It is Independence Day today.
Father: What does independence mean?
Son: It means the Britishers left India.
Father: What does that mean?
Son: We made our own rules.
Father: What does making our own rules mean?
Son: We are free to do what we like.
This exchange happened on Aug 15, India’s Independence Day between me and my 8 year-old. And it left me wondering if I truly even understood the meaning of freedom. “Free to do what we like” – said well but are we truly free. If Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky are to be believed, we are bound by our biases. And these biases are hardwired into us through nature and nurture. So, there goes freedom of the ultimate sort. We would be bound by who we are – Homo sapiens. We are bound by the national laws that govern us, the social norms that bind us and the limitations of our understanding and education.
In all this, the true liberator is information and knowledge. Neuroscientists have long said that the brain gets irreversibly changed once it knows something. And a lot of parties in the world understand this concept and leverage it – hence the plethora of rumors, fake news and other devices that are proliferating around us in all forms of the media.
So, what can one do to really fight the fake news and false information epidemic that we seem to be engulfed in. Read more, think more and diversify your sources. And have a healthy skepticism of everything you get to know from any single source. It is almost impossible for any individual or agency to fake all the sources that you could consult to find out more about practically any topic you are keen to dissect. And once you know the facts, the ability to think will lead you to create a narrative independently. You need to go back and collect more data to back this narrative or change it as needed. Remember, you will fall into confirmation bias, which is why you need to write it downand review it after a period of time and with a third party preferably.
Therefore, the only way to inoculate ourselves from being manipulated by others is to be vigilant, skeptical and always on the lookout for more information from multiple sources. At Anavi, we take the development of a multidisciplinary reading habit very seriously, and therefore, publish AnaVision, our newsletter that encourages such reading.