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Can’t you hear that rooster crowin’?
Rabbit runnin’ down across the road
Underneath the bridge where the water flowed through
So happy just to see you smile
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you
Bob Dylan, New Morning
What is truly horrifying is that fake news is not the manipulation of an unsuspecting public. Quite the opposite. It is willful belief by the public. In effect, the American people are accessories in their own disinformation campaign.
That is our current situation, and it is no sure thing that either truth or democracy survives.
What we are now calling fake news—misinformation that people fall for—is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, in the Republic, Plato offered up a hellish vision of people who mistake shadows cast on a wall for reality. In the Iliad, the Trojans fell for a fake horse. Shakespeare loved misinformation: in “Twelfth Night,” Viola disguises herself as a man and wins the love of another woman; in “The Tempest,” Caliban mistakes Stephano for a god. And, in recent years, the Nobel committee has awarded several economics prizes to work on “information asymmetry,” “cognitive bias,” and other ways in which the human propensity toward misperception distorts the workings of the world.
If Donald Trump wants to understand Pakistan, a good start would be to read Mohsin Hamid.
Part of the great political crisis we face in the world today is a failure to imagine plausible desirable futures. We are surrounded by nostalgic visions, violently nostalgic visions. Fiction can imagine differently. Wrenching climate change will happen. Mass migration will happen, on a vast scale. But maybe our children and grandchildren can still inhabit a world where they have a chance at hope and optimism. Fiction can explore this possibility, it can make us feel something other than the sense of either doom or denial that is so prevalent in our nonfiction discourse. It can make human beings less unmoored by the endless nature of change. Maybe that is partly why our ancestors invented fiction in the first place. We certainly need it now. Because if we can’t imagine desirable futures for ourselves that stand a chance of actually coming to pass, our collective depression could well condemn humanity to a period of terrible savagery.
Laboratoria’s current students are aware that if they weren’t learning to code they’d be working low-paid, low-skilled jobs (or no job at all).
The Saudis and the Russians are masters of this game: The regimes, more than anyone else in the world, depend on being good at it. Problems begin when the U.S. fracking industry, which consists of numerous non-state players, tries to ride on the big tricksters’ coattails. When the frackers see prices go up, they start making optimistic plans and ratcheting up production. As soon as they achieve a significant increase, this gets reported, becomes a tradable story, prices go down and the state actors — Russia, the Saudis, other Gulf states — increase their output so they can still balance their budgets. The frackers’ projections prove false, hedging becomes costlier, creditors and investors abandon them and they end up extracting less oil.
Investors pulled $10.7 billion from U.S. bond funds in the two weeks after Trump’s victory, the biggest exodus since 2013’s “taper tantrum,” while American stock indexes jumped to records.