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December 10, 2022 December 10, 2022

The reality of confirmation bias/algorithmic learning

Posted on September 28, 2022 by Taber Times

As we progress further and further into the digital age, companies and producers alike experiment with different ways of peddling you information about their products. But, how do you see those products? Have you ever once searched for adopting a cat or dog toys and all of a sudden it seems like every ad either has something about a cat or a dog? That’s the algorithm at play, and it isn’t limited to products — users are sold ideas.

In theory, this seems amazing, right? We’ll never see an ad for something we don’t like, and we can just go about our day. However in practice, the reality becomes bleak, and whether we are aware of it or not, we participate in algorithms whenever we use the Internet.

The world is slowly and steadily becoming more and more radicalized, and the ‘middle ground’ between people that see themselves as left-leaning and those that see themselves as right-leaning is getting longer and longer whether that be socially or fiscally. We’re hating the ‘person across the street’ more and more and as we dip further into an introverted society that consumes social media, we’re becoming more antagonistic to different perspectives.

Algorithms place us into an echo chamber where we’ll rarely see the opposing views if we don’t want to, and that leads to confirmation bias where, just because people see what they believe, they think it’s factual. If we’re constantly told ‘the left/right is bad and evil’, then we’ll believe it, and once you hear someone is either Liberal or Conservative you’ll lump them in with what you’ve learned and what you believe to be true. As this middle ground grows, we’ll hate the other side more and more.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid subjecting yourself to an algorithm. Limited exposure to diverse ideologies can lead to extremist or narrow worldviews with radical behaviour. We’ve seen people jump on others with opposing views, insulting them and yelling at them without trying to actually debate or understand why that person across the street thinks differently from you — which we think is the most important aspect. Learning why people think what they do and why they choose to follow the particular political party they do is important to not only expanding your own view on the subject, but also for de-radicalizing.

We’re not asking you to like that person across the street, or even to interact with them on a daily basis or go out of your way to have a deeper introspective about them. We’re not saying there is any room for negotiation on issues pertaining to extremism, we’re just saying that next time you might get into an argument with a moderate member of the opposing side, it might be worth it to hear them out instead, who knows, maybe you’ll learn something new.

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