Theory about Internet and judging personal probabilities already exist?
March 28, 2014 3:37 PM Subscribe
I have an original pet theory I came up with a long time ago involving the Internet and how people judge probability. It probably would fall into the anthropological, sociological or psychological fields. I'm not intending to make this post to discuss the theory itself as a sort of "let's b.s. back and forth about my idea" kind of thing. Reason I'm posting is because I'd like to know if this theory already exists or is an application of something broader that already exists. Maybe it's a theory being applied onto the communications medium of the Internet of some older theory in one of the above field(s) of study, or maybe it's a piecemeal construction of a few theories spliced together. Anyway, enough babbling, actual theory after the cut.
posted by WCityMike to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So, I have this theory that our brains aren't well-equipped to handle the "tribe size" that the Internet gives us access to. For millennia, we've only had the means to be exposed to a small "tribe" of people personally. You probably would know 200-500 in your lifetime.
So, for example, if you knew 180 people who get fwangied when thwipping, and you yourself are going to thwip, you'd think that you had a good chance of getting fwangied yourself, because you'd compare it against your tribe -- your 200 or so people.
Wikipedia seems to suggest there's about 1.5 billion people on the Internet who speak English. But, your brain isn't equipped to judge probability based on those numbers. So when it reads 180 posts from people who got fwangied, it doesn't say to itself, "That's 180 people who got fwangied out of 500,000 who thwip annually." Instead, it says, "That's 180 people out of my tribe!" and it misjudges the likelihood that you'll get fwangied, making you feel as if it's a lot more common than getting fwangied actually really is.
I would imagine this is probably a lot more prevalent among those who lived some part of their life without the Internet. I wouldn't be surprised if this sort of problem disappears as people continue to grow up who have never not had the Internet.