Friday, January 26, 2018

Can Artificial Intelligence Address Fake News?

To live in the age of information is a challenging experience. We now have more information available than at any time in history. Also, new information is being created at growing rates. This is well documented. The bulk of this information has become available through the internet.

Our naive selves might have assumed at one time that with all this information, the populace would be much better informed. Now we know that to be wrong. A significant amount of the information available on the internet is not based on facts. Rather it is mis-information or "fake news". Or just opinion based, with strong biases. We know that the dispersal of information in the age of the internet is seriously flawed.

The Pew Institute survey recently conducted a large-scale survey of technologists, scholars and others to see where they think the information environment is headed. The overall result was that 51% felt it would not improve over the next ten years and the rest felt it would. The report goes on to provide a wealth of information about those results, leaving the reader to draw individual conclusions. The main considerations leading to the survey result divided into technological issues and human nature. Many of the pessimists felt that the environment would not improve because of human nature.

People, faced with this vast array of information need to choose.They can't and don't want to read it all. There is a tendency of people to seek out the news that confirms their own views or biases. With the new vehicles for conveying information on the internet, notably social media, there is much opportunity to find information that confirms a variety of views and often has no factual basis whatsoever.

So, does the answer lie in technology or in human nature? It's hard to to think that human nature is going to change anytime soon. True, people may become more adept at filtering the information and one hopes we will. But better screening ability may not be enough to overcome the basic impulses to seek out validation of personal views.

Another possibility lies in the advances being made in artificial intelligence. The new AI technologies could be a big help in enabling people to cope - in seeking out more fact based and truthful sources.

While some may rebel at the notion that their information is being managed by computer programs, nevertheless the nature of the new AI technologies is such that they may be the best possible solution.

We need all the help we can get.

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