[Friday Flow #32] We're made of stories

Conspiracies, Crichton, choices


This week saw a Nigerian strain of COVID hit the news. That kind of thing bugs me a lot. The last thing I want to see in the news is yet more stuff that can add to the already widespread negative narrative about us. I want to see the positive things, like the brilliant Ngozi Okonji-Iweala becoming both the first African and female to head up the World Trade Organisation.

(Also her trademark gele inspired a Twitter trend: the #BeLikeNgoziChallenge—click the link to check it out if you somehow missed it.)

Here’s what I’ve got for you this week:

🔎 Essay: Conspiracy theories
🗞 Thought: Myths, news & amnesia
🆓 Proverb: Free will

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🔎 Essay: Conspiracy theories

This week, I wrote about

Here’s an excerpt:

There are a few theories (heh) about the allure of conspiracy theories, but we can sum it up in 3 main points about how we perceive information and knowledge:

  • Information is power

  • Information is belonging

  • Information is satisfying

We instinctively grasp that knowledge is power—and more so when it’s secret knowledge. 

The problem is, knowledge isn’t really power—only potentially. Until we act on it, and then that potential be unleashed in reality. But while all knowledge is in some way actionable, not everyone is in a position to act on it or to get to someone who can, and of those who are, many simply will be disinclined to.

You can read the rest of the essay here:

Essay on conspiracy theories

🗞 Thought: Myths, news & amnesia

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the two, and especially while writing this week’s essay. And so earlier in the week I tweeted this:

That in turn led me to the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect, coined in 2002 by novelist Michael Crichton (author of Jurassic Park novels that were later made into the film franchise). Here’s his description of it:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well.… You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

I myself am not a believer in the idea that we should discount “mainstream media”, mainly because whatever its flaws, it still has checks and balances that independent media doesn’t. I myself prefer a mixture of the two. But more importantly, and as I noted in the tweet, I really do think that it’s more important to pay attention to what we consume, because we really are what we eat, information-wise.

Breaking news, even at its most true, is by definition ever-changing. Stories that have stood the test of time are far more likely to carry lasting meaning.

What stories have shaped you? Which still do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Photo: Running from work

I’m trying to get back into running and slowly finding my way back. Decided to try running a 5K from work this week. That meant packing my running clothes and shoes to work and then changing into them after. I already have a running bag, so I could strap that on before I set out.

I saw this on my run and paused to take a photo: it felt too good to keep to myself.

🆓 Proverb: Free will

Speaking of information…

He who takes the advice he is given still acts of his free will. 

I love the point this proverb makes. I’ve known people who didn’t take advice because they didn’t want to be told what to do. But the fact is, it doesn’t matter how much advice you take—you still get to choose what you do with it (as long as it’s actually advice, that is, and not abuse).

It’s up to us to own our choices. Including about everything I say. :)

Looking to hear back from you!

Doc Ayomide

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