Joshua Becker, PhD on on Polarization, Collective Intelligence & Social Tipping Points

Joshua Becker, PhD

It’s all over the news: We’re getting more and more polarized. People can’t even seem to agree on basic facts anymore. Politics are tearing this country apart.
However, some of Joshua Becker’s recent research shows that – while polarization potentially makes things more difficult – people are still very capable of learning from each other even in highly polarized environments.
Joshua Becker studies collective intelligence through the lens of computational social science, which means that he studies the ways that groups of people share information, learn from each other, and settle on collective norms.
Check out the full conversation with Joshua below to learn:
  • Why polarization reduces our ability to learn from each other – but why it doesn’t actually prevent sharing information from improving our knowledge about the world
  • How social networks organize to solve problems like “which side of the street should I drive on” – and how groups of people can change those conventions
  • The role of community in creating a better future – and what tangible actions Joshua has taken in his own life to create community

Check out the episode at the links below. If you enjoyed the episode, the best way to support the show is to share with your friends, so send them a link.

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Show Notes:

  • [01:14] Are echo chambers a real thing?
  • [12:47] Is the backfire effect real? Or, do people still learn from sharing information with each other – even in highly polarized environments?
  • [21:38] Different studies show different effects depending on exactly what is being measured as an effect of “polarization.”
  • [30:10] Both academics and journalists are motivated to provide “compelling narratives,” “counterintuitive ideas,” and “difficult problems that must be solved!”
  • [39:39] How do people organize to solve collective action problems?
  • [45:12] What types of organization emerge in complex social systems?
  • [49:30] Is there such a thing as a “collective consciousness”? How do people coordinate conventions like which side of the road to drive on?
  • [01:00:58] “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – this isn’t just a platitude, the mathematics of network dynamics and social tipping points show that this is how you can actually change the world.
  • [01:05:14] How can we create a sense of community – and what actions does Joshua take to create community in his own life?
  • [01:14:32] How to connect with Joshua online

Links and Resources Mentioned

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