AMA: What about the fear?

Stuart reader asks:

Cyber security, Artificial intelligence and hacking are all [trending] in the media recently.
Microsoft has prevented access to political groups sites, Banks are wanting to have a more streamlined user experience. And people are warning that AI will be more disruptive and could be the end for us all.
Should we all learn about the above to be part of the solution or should we not worry and carry on reading about the fear media outlets are feeding us?

I hope you’ll ask a question, too! And here’s the list of everything asked so far.

Let us begin with a snippet of song lyrics:

When you see turning off the light switch is their only power,
Then we stand like spotlights in a mighty tower.

When the world is night,
Shine my life like a light.

The media is, has always been, and will always be, mainly about fear. It’s what sells papes, to use a largely outdated newsboy phrase. The media knows that most people are not driven by facts, and do not have very many facts, and will not work too hard to acquire many facts. And in the absence of facts, you can instill belief, which will feel like fact. And they typically peddle fear as a belief, because it’s what keeps you coming back. Our brains are wired to fear loss more than to anticipate success, and so we’re basically hardwired to be receptive to fear-mongering. The fact that Snopes has to exist, and doesn’t get quoted more, tells you a lot about how our brains are built.
But in the long run, facts always win. Facts create progress. You don’t always read about it, because when facts win that’s not something you can get people afraid of all the time, and so it doesn’t get a lot of coverage.
You should learn to be part of the solution. After all, if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the precipitate (rimshot!).
Although to be fair, I believe the disabled sites Microsoft was involved in were in fact peddling fear and lies. I’m not sure how banks wanting a more streamlined user experience is a fear-based thing, though. AI is already disruptive, but it’s mostly disruptive in the good kind of way that Silicon Valley likes to talk about. Anything new has always been heralded as the coming of the end-times, so I mean that’s a pretty old trope. But it still sells papes.
So yes, learn about the above, and more. And beyond that, visibly offer counterpoint and correction when you see less-than-fact-based reporting and commentary. Raise your voice in defense of facts. When everyone else is trying to turn off the lights, make your life a light.

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