Nomad 1 2020: The wrap report. Life in a post-truth era.

‘I’m Marek and I love deep fakes’ was the opening line of a truly deep discussion around humanity’s relationship with the truth in an era of misinformation, deep fakes, information disorder, fake news and platform manipulation. This was (of course) followed by a story on how duct tape can be used to adversarially hack a Tesla. #crackingstart.

The Night Nomads were created to give Brisbane’s digital and innovation ecosystems the chance to participate in conversations around the darker undercurrents that are impacting our digital lives (as you would over the dinner table). For 2020 the series is focusing on ‘the internet and its humanity’ particularly as we struggle to balance the beauty of the World Wide Web and its challenges.

Truth seemed like a great place to start. After all, we are living in a post truth era, mainly thanks to the current US President and his alternative facts (amongst others). The question beckoned – ‘What is truth?’

Thankfully the fantastic panel (with @brisbanetimes Editor @DanielleCronin, @GU_SocialCultur Director @FordeSusan, @VMLYR Head of Experience Kirsty Robinson, @HopgoodGanim Partner Hayden Delaney and moderated by @QUTCDE Founding Director @marekkowal) knew exactly how to answer…

Truth links into trust. If you tell me the truth, I will trust you and that forms the basis of our relationship whether it is in person or online. In fact, click bait and internet news requires you to emotionally connect with a piece to keep clicking through over and over again.

Truth is also underpinned by facts. You see facts through the prism of your own experience. Though even facts can be labelled as fakes news so the relationship is not linear.

Truth is objective. Science constantly evolves so what we thought was true today might not be tomorrow. In fact, the law is there to stop things that are misleading or disruptive. Whether you can prove whether something is true or not is another issue.

‘Post-truth’ was the word of the year in 2016 – so why now? After all history is fuelled by lies and propaganda across nations, religions and societies.

The answer is technology. Through social media & the internet we have a trifecta of speed, impact and volume. The exponential reach is incredible and very hard to regulate or contain.

So much so that we have the mediatisation of politics. Where policies are designed for a media agenda, who can in turn sell it to the public to get re-elected. Gone are the days where politicians have staffers who research a particular topic and take informed decisions. All we have are standardised, rehearsed and inauthentic talking points.

There is a general awakening to how susceptible we are to disinformation any how it can change the nature of politics. There is something more subversive happening with our data.

In reality, there is no one minding the store. Journalists are struggling to keep up with the fake news or battling bots. It takes more effort to expose the truth.

Platforms like Facebook now have algorithms policing content but they are struggling to keep up with the scale of the challenge (across 100 different languages and 2.3billion users). Though platforms are still not legally responsible for the conte that a user posts, unlike traditional media.

Government is unable to enforce responsibility beyond borders and even so, it is really only the US and EU that are large enough to make an impact. Which leaves us to social responsibility.

And each and every one of us, to become truth warriors. To be honest, educated, research sources, be mindful about what we share and to not believe everything that is put in front of us. Perhaps a degree of scepticism is valid especially when we know that we are living in an echo chamber where the views of people who think like us are amplified through algorithms. Be respectful.

Or maybe it’s just – be a good human. The truth is still out there!

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