Last January, MIT Technology Review published an article dissecting an arXiv paper. The paper models how propagandists affect policymakers by selectively presenting scientific evidence. The researchers used the tobacco industry's efforts to downplay the harm of smoking as an example. They found propagandists don't even have to publish their own papers. Showing legitimate research that supports their interpretation is enough! This is a cheap, effective and legal way of influencing decision makers.
MIT Technology Review adds:
That finding has important implications. It means that anybody who wants to manipulate public opinion and influence policy makers can achieve extraordinary success with relatively subtle tricks.
Indeed, it’s not just nefarious actors who can end up influencing policy makers in ways that do not match the scientific consensus. Weatherall and co point out that science journalists also cherry-pick results. Reporters are generally under pressure to find the most interesting or sexy or amusing stories, and this biases what policy makers see. Just how significant this effect is in the real world isn’t clear, however.
An important takeaway is that a balanced view is always required. Strong evidence in favor of one interpretation does not automatically mean the opposite is false.
Due diligence of SciTech companies is similar to policymakers' duties. Not necessarily subject matter experts, both policymakers and investors need to make decisions with long-term consequences. But asking an expert is not always a reliable or accessible option. An expert might be biased, while asking tens of experts is tedious and expensive. Avogadro One's goal is to simplify this task. We will show relevant content, regardless of which side it supports. The user will be able to use these results directly or to have an informed discussion with an expert to get a deeper understanding of the underlying issue.
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