Many of you will already have heard of Nate Silver. He is an “American statistician, writer and poker player who analyses baseball, basketball and elections. He is the founder of FiveThirtyEight and held the position of Editor-in-Chief there, along with being a special correspondent for ABC News, until May 2023.
According to Wikipedia, “Silver was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time in 2009… Much of Silver’s approach can be characterised by using probabilistic and statistical modelling to try and understand complex social systems, such as professional sports, the popularity of political platforms and elections”.
However, you probably haven’t heard of Sander van der Linden. He is introduced on Wikipedia as “a Dutch social psychologist and author who is Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Cambridge. He studies the psychology of social influence, risk, human judgment and decision-making. He is particularly known for his research on the psychology of social issues, such as fake news, COVID-19 and climate change”.
I started following Van der Linden after reading about a couple of his lectures at Cambridge University. Not only does Van der Linden want to stop misinformation (which I’m sure we all want), he wants to go further and actually ‘protect’ people from it via ‘inoculation’. Inoculating people to misinformation involves exposing them to weakened doses of fake news and then telling them which bits were fake. This apparently produces future psychological resistance.
The duo’s X/Twitter spat began when Van der Linden excitedly tweeted that the World Economic Forum ranks misinformation and disinformation as the number one societal risk in the next two years.
Even Elon Musk laughed at this, saying “by ‘misinformation’, WEF means anything that conflicts with its agenda”. To this, Van der Linden called Musk the “Chief Conspiracy Theorist”.
Nate Silver responded to Van der Linden’s post and I present their argument to you below:
Van der Linden then turned his attention to Professor Jay Bhattacharya from the Stanford School of Medicine and co-founder of the Great Barrington Declaration, after Bhattacharya tweeted the following:
Unsurprisingly, after the reaction Van der Linden received to his ‘fight’ with Silver, he has turned comments off on his response to Bhattacharya.