The Misinformation Age

This evening at the Hay Festival, festival sustainability director Andy Fryers questioned author and astronomer David J Helfand on his book A Survival Guide to the Misinformation Age: Scientific Habits of Mind. 

This followed a compelling presentation given by Helfand on the physics of the climate crisis. “Physics is a model for predicting the behaviour of the material world,” he said, as he explained the sunspot cycle, and the calamitous reality that carbon dioxide levels are rising and “the amount of oxygen in the air is falling”.

And “climate change denials”, Helfand explained, have further established the concept that we are products of misinformation.

 “Is this an education problem?” Fryers asked, to which Helfand answered, “our education system is profoundly broken in this miseducation age”. Helfand added that being able to understand for ourselves is empowering because it allows us to assess information self-sufficiently. Social media and “fake news” have made this incessantly difficult, though.

Helfand said that soon “all scientific papers will be accessible to everyone for free”, as he advocated the idea that audiences should be able to access transparent facts in a world full of false data. “Science is one of the best self-correcting methods I think we have” he said.

If you are interested in climate issues please also see Mary Robinson talks to Emily Shuckburgh about the fight for a sustainable future at 7pm on Saturday 25 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.

L-R: Andy Fryers, David J Helfand 

Picture: Chris Athanasiou