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Here’s 13 Ideas to Fight Fake News – and a Big Problem With All of Them

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Will humans or computer algorithms be the future arbiters of “truth”?

Today’s infographic from Futurism sums up the ideas that academics, technologists, and other experts are proposing that we implement to stop the spread of fake news.

Below the infographic, we raise our concerns about these methods.

Here's 13 Ideas to Fight Fake News - and a Big Problem With Them All

While fake news is certainly problematic, the solutions proposed to penalize articles deemed to be “untrue” are just as scary.

By centralizing fact checking, a system is created that is inherently fragile, biased, and prone for abuse. Furthermore, the idea of axing websites that are deemed to be “untrue” is an initiative that limits independent thought and discourse, while allowing legacy media to remain entrenched.

Centralizing “Truth”

It could be argued that the best thing about the internet is that it decentralizes content, allowing for any individual, blog, or independent media company to stimulate discussion and new ideas with low barriers to entry. Millions of new entrants have changed the media landscape, and it has left traditional media flailing to find ways to adjust revenue models while keeping their influence intact.

If we say that “truth” can only be verified by a centralized mechanism – a group of people, or an algorithm written by a group of people – we are welcoming the idea that arbitrary sources will be preferred, while others will not (unless they conform to certain standards).

Based on this mechanism, it is almost certain that well-established journalistic sources like The New York Times or The Washington Post will be the most trusted. By the same token, newer sources (like independent media, or blogs written by emerging thought leaders) will not be able to get traction unless they are referencing or receiving backing from these “trusted” gatekeepers.

The Impact?

This centralization is problematic – and here’s a step-by-step reasoning of why that is the case:

First, either method (human or computer) must rely on preconceived notions of what is “authoritative” and “true” to make decisions. Both will be biased in some way. Humans will lean towards a particular consensus or viewpoint, while computers must rank authority based on different factors (Pagerank, backlinks, source recognition, or headline/content analysis).

Next, there is a snowball effect involved: if only posts referencing these authoritative sources of “truth” can get traction on social media, then these sources become even more authoritative over time. This creates entrenchment that will be difficult to overcome, and new bloggers or media outlets will only be able to move up the ladder by associating their posts with an existing consensus. Grassroot movements and new ideas will suffer – especially those that conflict with mainstream beliefs, government, or corporate power.

Finally, this raises concerns about who fact checks the fact checkers. Forbes has a great post on this, showing that Snopes.com (a fact checker) could not even verify basic truths about its own operations.

Removing articles deemed to be “untrue” is a form of censorship. While it may help to remove many ridiculous articles from people’s social feeds, it will also impact the qualities of the internet that make it so great in the first place: its decentralized nature, and the ability for any one person to make a profound impact on the world.

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Chart of the Week

The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Which innovations will dominate headlines in 2019? According to Bill Gates, watch for these 10 breakthrough technologies to change the world.

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The 10 Breakthrough Technologies That Will Define 2019

Gone are the days of turning stones into spears. With the advent of new technologies, we’ve learned to develop tools that not only make living faster and easier every day, but also improve the future of humanity as a whole.

Today’s Chart of the Week draws from the MIT Technology Review, which features Bill Gates’ predictions for the top 10 breakthrough inventions that will capture headlines in 2019.

Top 10 Breakthrough Technologies

1. Gut Probe in a Pill
These swallowable devices can detect and potentially prevent diseases that cause malnutrition and stunted growth in millions of children worldwide.

2. Custom Cancer Vaccines
Personalized cancer vaccines, targeting only the cancerous cells and leave healthy cells alone, could help ensure faster recovery times and pose fewer risks to patients.

3. Meat-free Burgers
Plant-based and lab-grown food products will ideally alleviate the environmental impact of the livestock industry.

4. Smooth-talking AI assistants
The AI assistants of the future will have even more human-like conversations to personally engage customers. Companies would see measurable benefits, with just one breakthrough here garnering a 5% jump in productivity.

5. Sanitation without sewers
Improperly drained sewage causes death in one out of every nine children. Sanitation that doesn’t require sewers would not only prevent exposure diseases but also help turn waste into useful products like fertilizer.

6. ECG on your wrist
While most medical ECGS have up to 12 nodes to detect abnormalities, today’s wearables typically have only one. An ECG on the wrist would help reduce the risk of heart disease by monitoring changes and patterns in daily life.

7. Robot Dexterity
Advancements in robotics will enable the natural dexterity required to complete a greater range of tasks, such as helping an ailing loved one out of bed, doing the laundry, or building toys.

8. Predicting Preemies
Premature births are the leading cause of death for children under five years old. Tests to detect the possibility of a premature birth could be available in doctors’ offices in as little as five years.

9. Carbon Dioxide Catcher
Carbon dioxide catchers filter out CO₂ from the air and capture it for other uses. These include synthetic fuel creation, CO₂ for soft drinks, and plant growth in greenhouses.

10. New-wave Nuclear Power
Traditional nuclear reactors produce ~1,000 megawatts (MW), while these proposed mini-reactors would produce tens of megawatts ─ making them safer, more stable, and more financially viable for potential users.

A Vision for a Better Future

The biggest takeaway?

Seven of the 10 breakthrough technologies stem from the healthtech sector.

While several inventions on this list are years away from becoming a reality, they continue to embody the vision and passion that humans share to create and explore.

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Banks

Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry

In the digital age, the issue of trust is emerging as the game-changing factor in how consumers choose financial services brands.

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Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry

In the digital age, money is becoming less tangible.

Not only is carrying physical cash more of a rarity, but we are now able to even make contactless payments for many of the products and services we use on the fly.

Our financial transactions are starting to be analyzed and optimized by artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, investments and bills are paid online, and even checks can now be deposited through our phones. Who has the time to visit a physical bank these days, anyways?

Trust in the Digital Age

The migration of financial services to the cloud is increasing access to banking solutions, while breaking down barriers of entry to the industry. It’s also creating opportunities for new service offerings that can leverage technology, data, and scale.

However, as today’s infographic from Raconteur shows, this digital migration has a crucial side effect: trust in financial services has emerged as a dominant driver of consumer activity.

This likely boils down to a couple major factors:

  • Tangibility
    Financial services are becoming less grounded in physical experiences (using cash, visiting a branch, personal relationships, etc.)
  • Personal Data
    Consumers are rightfully concerned about how personal data gets treated in the digital age

Further, the above factors are compounded by memories of the 2008 Financial Crisis. These events not only damaged institutional reputations, but they elevated trust to become a key concern and selling point for consumers.

Trust, by the Numbers

In general, trust in banks has been slowly on the rise since hitting a low point in 2011 and 2012.

At the same time, consumers are consistently ranking trust as a more important factor in their decision of where to bank. To the modern consumer, trust even outweighs price.

Top Five Factors for Choosing a Bank:

  1. Ease and convenience of service (47%)
  2. Trust with the brand (45%)
  3. Price/rate (43%)
  4. Service resolution quality and timeliness (43%)
  5. Wide network coverage of ATMs (40%)

It’s important to recognize here that all five of the above factors rank quite closely in percentage terms. That said, while they are all crucial elements to a service offering, trust may be the most abstract one to try and tackle for companies in the space.

With this in mind, how can financial services leverage tech to increase the amount of trust that consumers have in them?

Tech Factors That Would Increase Consumer Trust:

  1. Reliable fraud protection (36%)
  2. Technology solves my problems (13%)
  3. Useful mobile application (9%)

Better fraud protection capability stands out as one major trust-builder, while designing technology that is useful and effective is another key area to consider.

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