Nancy Wong’s Photo of Bill German and Jack Breibart in the SF Chronicle newsroom.
Nancy Wong’s Photo of Bill German and Jack Breibart in the SF Chronicle newsroom.

Improving the News, with Max Tegmark

Photo Credit: Nancy Wong, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.
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About This Episode

How do we fix America’s media problem? In this episode of StarTalk Radio, Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice talk echo chambers and the polarization of news with Max Tegmark, physicist and creator of AI media tool ImproveTheNews.org, and journalist Jeff Jarvis.

You’ll find out why our media landscape, and by extension our democracy, is suffering because of polarization and distribution of news through social media platforms. You’ll learn what our media landscape has in common with the multiverse. Tegmark walks us through how his tool works with machine learning to aggregate news articles, and how it tries to combat polarization in the way we find news articles. What are the pitfalls of such a tool? Will it even work?

We dive into the idea of objective truth, fact checking, and if big tech is trying to play big brother with our news media. Are readers trapped in their own social media bubbles? Are they willing to break out? Are people ready to challenge their own beliefs or is everybody only looking to confirm their own bias? Tegmark tells us why changing the delivery method of the news might result in less polarization. We explore the differences between scientific disagreement and political disagreement..

Then, Jeff Jarvis joins us to offer some criticisms and compliments about Tegmark’s website. Does the tool offer an accurate picture of the world? Is the material the website aggregates even capable of solving the problem? Discover why echo chambers might be a myth. Jarvis explains the transformation of mass media from the invention of the printing press to our current news climate. Do people need a single, go-to place for objective news? All that, plus, we get into a discussion about America’s epistemological war, how journalists need to take on the responsibilities of educators, and Jarvis gives us an optimistic vision of our media future.

Thanks to our Patrons kbw, Mike l Ness, Ashley Finamore, Amy A, Brandon, Scott, ITinker, Mike l, CrownFire, and Luke skywalker lustila for supporting us this week.

NOTE: StarTalk+ Patrons can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free.

About the prints that flank Neil in this video:

“Black Swan” & “White Swan” limited edition serigraph prints by Coast Salish artist Jane Kwatleematt Marston. For more information about this artist and her work, visit Inuit Gallery of Vancouver.

In This Episode

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