information malnutrition

How to resist the evil of the century: information malnutrition?

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Essential to the proper functioning of our societies and to their understanding, information is also a consumer product. As part of a market of supply and demand, it sometimes strays from its primary purpose to divert the attention of consumers who are increasingly demanding sensational content. Getting well informed has become as complicated as eating well. In order to master the complexity of the world we live in, information sciences will have to be popularized and generalized to bring consumers and producers together towards healthier information.
In the meantime, read UP', you will be sure not to suffer from informational malnutrition!
 
« Por your mental health, take a step back: inform yourself in moderation. "Will we one day see this type of legal notice appear on our various channels? Continuous news channels, blogs, emails, social networks and messaging (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitch, Snapchat, WhatsApp, etc.) will it be their duty to make their public aware of the potential danger they may represent? It is indeed indisputable today that, propelled in high doses, multiform and associated with a whole series of alerts and other notifications, information plays with our brains and not always in the best of ways. Junk information, floods, etc. the question of volume is less new than that of its impact amplified since the arrival of smartphones. According to Dr. Kardaras, an American expert in addictionology, with their applications based on alerts and random rewards, smartphones have become a real dopamine pump. This neuro-mediator of pleasure, when released by our neurons, provides a feeling of well-being and addiction to the image of sugar consumed, for pleasure, in large quantities in our diet despite its catastrophic effects on health. The direct biological consequence is that the prefrontal cortex is put to sleep, thought out and reasoned to stimulate, here again, dopamine. If we add to this the lack of time, we find ourselves with a large part of the volume of immediate information consumed as in a fast-food restaurant. Behind it is the creation of a real addiction. We now talk about "News Addict".
 

Resisting the informational tsunami

However, in the face of the many major transformations that are taking place and will continue to grow in the coming years, information plays a predominant role more than ever. In a context where each individual undergoes a kind of horizontal information fragmentation in terms of the number of subjects to follow and vertical information fragmentation in terms of volume, each individual must nevertheless be able to assimilate the changes of a complex world in order to project himself:
 
What will my place be in tomorrow's society?
What are the skills to be acquired?
How do I rethink my business model?
 
Disorientated, destabilised by the fact that everything is being called into question (definition and meaning of work, family, beliefs, technological and climatic impacts) many feel swept away by a tsunami that would require a considerable amount of time to read and assimilate everything. In 2011, in his book entitled "Do we still need journalists? Manifesto for "increased journalism", Eric Scherer, Director of Prospective France Télévision, already wrote that "The power of journalists will be less in the production of information than in the indispensable mission of filtering the global information tsunami". When we know that humanity today produces as much information in two days as it has done in two million years, the risks of manipulation and, ultimately, of endangering our democracies are multiplied. It seems urgent to get our house in order in order to be able to navigate the complex waters of the coming decade. However, we have less and less time to inform ourselves and this available time is too often flooded by information with little added value.
 

Soliciting AI as an Information Auxiliary?

For humans, in general, there is a form of competition with artificial intelligence and this fear of being overwhelmed. Paradoxically, to be able to master the complexity of the world in which we live and the difficulty of being well informed, AI can become a true ally. Aware of the risk of gradually letting a machine think for us, some people, like Joël de Rosnay, author of "La symphonie du vivant", prefer to talk about AI in terms of Auxiliary Intelligence.
Citigroup, for example, is currently exploring the use of IBM's Watson to manage the mass of financial publications, such as the 9,000 pages of data produced daily by the Reuters agency. In this spirit, AI could even be considered to track Fake News. However, we will have to learn how to overcome our own cognitive biases by knowing their mental mechanics in order to get out of our bubbles of values and beliefs. This is a first step to counteract influence and manipulation techniques that seek to deceive our brain. For Etienne Klein, physicist and philosopher of science, "we prefer well-being to truth: rather than loving the truth because it is the truth, we declare true the ideas we love. We don't care whether they are true or false: we just want them to do us good. »
 

Adopt a mental hygiene in the face of information

We urgently need to ask ourselves how much time we have to inform ourselves and what we do with it. Do we allow ourselves to be carried along by this sudden flood of communication or do we know how to take advantage of it? Etienne Klein compares this flood, when it is experienced, to an epileptic seizure during which each neuron exchanges low value-added information with all the others, whereas in normal times, a neuron only communicates relevant information to a maximum of 10,000 other neurons. Collectively and individually, we must invite ourselves to lay a solid foundation for mastering the way we wish to inform ourselves. With what do we want to feed our brain and what steps to take to achieve our various objectives: professional evolution or reorientation, definition of a company's strategy, political choices, appropriation of new technologies, anticipation of transformations generating risks and opportunities, etc. To do this, there are techniques from the information sciences and tools to help us get up and running. But awareness and willingness remain the main keys. In order to use the tools properly, one must first take an interest in the fundamentals, develop the right reflexes, define one's objectives and democratize the information sciences to make humans more resilient. There is an urgent need to train and teach the right reflexes in schools, colleges, companies, etc. How can we become citizens of a society we do not understand? In this sense, at the educational level, information sciences must be invited into schools from the earliest age. As such, the association of Quebec origin, "Les petits débrouillards" is a good example of the kind. Also established and very active in France, this association raises awareness of science in schools during extracurricular activities thanks to a network of 2,000 volunteers. 700,000 children and young people benefit from these activities each year. Information sciences are approached in a playful way to learn how to thwart cognitive biases, fake news and other manipulative techniques.
 

Let's contribute to #NewsForGood!

So, in a context where the trend is towards eating well and promoting a healthier lifestyle, we could naturally imagine that strengthening and maintaining our critical and forward-looking mindset is also self-evident. Just as new technologies have recently had their "Tech For Good" summit to capitalize on their benefits, let's initiate a "News For Good" approach to encourage positive, value-added and qualified information. As we have seen with food hygiene, when consumers become aware and change their behaviour, then manufacturers adapt to meet the demand. The same goes for the media, let's first learn to like to be well informed and the quality of the information produced will only be better. By encouraging, for example, the need to take a step back from the good news, we could finally get out of the infernal loop of negative information with low added value, and regain optimism, stimulate the desire to act and seize the many opportunities available to each of us! Three years after the success of his documentary "Demain", Cyril Dion has just released the sequel "Après demain" showing the significant impact that News For Good can have. Individually and collectively, let's question the way we inform ourselves and be demanding! As Gandhi wisely said: "You must be the change you want to see in this world. »
 
Mickaël Réaultguest columnist, founding director of Sindup
 

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