Saturday, February 11, 2017

Solutions for a post-truth world

Note: These are my personal views and not those of my employers, Tata Consultancy Services
A recent BBC program described how our world has become post-truth giving examples of US and UK politics. In both these elections, different partitions of citizens got drawn into webs of public and social media, which created and sustained totally different viewpoints influencing the outcome of the elections. This is itself not unique. What was unique was that the content which influenced on both sides was "post-truth" in the sense that it was not necessarily factually and totally true. Data when tortured long enough can confess anything. And after the moment of consuming a nugget viewpoint, attention span shifts to the next, without always validating the nugget and as time passes, the interest in validating past nugget is lost but the impact of the past nugget on the person remains. So with a stream of such nuggets, it is possible to shape viewpoints of partitions of citizens over time. It is due to this that public and social media strategy has become more important in electoral strategy.
Rajesh Shewale, a childhood friend, in a personal discussion today suggested a way of deploying technology to solve this problem. I really like the idea and think it should be mandated by regulation and enabled through the correct technology solution.
Essentially, real-time audio/video/text streams should be processed to validate the facts (to whatever extent is possible) and the results should be displayed in parallel with the display of the audio/video/text stream. Even if this is done for all public media and provided as an option for social media, this will suddenly change the way information is consumed by humans. The effort to validate facts is high and so people find it difficult to validate them and hence become vulnerable. The capability to support such a service should be a government provided service and its usage should be audited.
The technology to create this kind of solution exists. We merely need the will and legal support to enable this.
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