Have you ever seen a news story about something you yourself have gone through? Or read a magazine article about a subject you happen to be familiar with? If so, then you’ve likely experienced what most people have felt in that situation: anger and bemusement.
“How could that idiot reporter bungle the story so badly?! This isn’t accurate at all!”
As it turns out, journalists often get the most basic facts of the story wrong and freelancers on a deadline tend to falter when they have to summarize in a few paragraphs what others have spent decades researching.
This isn’t surprising. In fact, it’s to be expected. After all, overworked “reporters” and freelance writers usually aren’t experts in whatever arcane subject their editor has assigned them this week. They’re just being paid to churn out some copy on a given subject before moving on to the next piece.
Now, here’s what is surprising: directly after reading this inaccurate, error-riddled report that we know to be seriously flawed, we flip the page, proceed to the next story, forget that these reporters are idiots, and go on more or less taking what we’re reading at face value.
Did you know that this strange amnesia that we all experience—this act of forgetting that allows us to believe what we’re reading so long as it’s not in our wheelhouse—has a name? Well, it does!
And have you ever considered how this phenomenon has been weaponized by the powers-that-shouldn’t-be to get us to believe in nonsense and absurdity? Well, you should!
And have you ever pondered how we can escape this trap? Well, I have!
So, today let’s explore the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect!
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