Apophenia is the brain’s tendency to see meaningful connections between things that are unrelated. It is useful for finding creative breakthroughs, but it can lead to psychiatric dysfunction when taken to extremes. And that’s where the epidemic comes into play.
Our society is aiding people to see false connections. Controversies are born out of outrageous linkages. These are formed by social media and phony influencers. In the past when science could be used to dispel these erroneous connections, today false science itself has become the center of many of these misinformed connections.
How many of our societal challenges today are due to those who promote the development of apophenia? Think of false rumors about vaccines or those who promote unfounded medical cures. Then there are those who prey on those with gambling addictions with false connections thought to be a surefire way to win a bet.
Apophenia knows no socioeconomic boundaries. There has been a continuing series of surefire algorithms for predicting the stock market. These have the same false connections as are used in other conspiracy theories.
Those running for elected office have become some of the biggest generators of apophenia through conspiracies. Social media has become the growth source for the apophenia epidemic. At its extreme, those affected by the epidemic have become threats to others and our democracy.
Just imagine how the apophenia epidemic is likely to spread with artificial intelligence (AI). It won’t take much to seed the phony connections that AI will then use to produce what seems rational.
What is the treatment for this epidemic? It’s hard to imagine.
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“Not sure if everything happens for a reason or you apply reason to everything that happens.” – Unknown