Willful Acceptance of the Unbelievable

In an increasingly critical, factual and logic-based society, Samuel Colleridge introduced the phrase ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ hoping to promote intellectual legitimacy of poetic and literary works. For anyone who’s ever written an original story, produced a television series or been involved in musical theatre, the phrase offers a context in which an educated audience can enjoy unreality. Coleridge and his colleagues ushered in English romanticism. It would be interesting to see what they might make of the 21st century.

Science continues to make advances in artificial intelligence. Technology has made journeys into space available to wealthy adventurers while planning orbiting hotels. And while human knowledge continues to expand at an ever increasing rate, the number of people believing in cryptids, crashed aliens and even a flat earth are becoming mainstream despite the 20th century, existential and scientific mindset that should be an incubator to filter out the extraordinary.

An abundance of social media platforms is, in part, responsible. Anyone, anywhere can express their opinion or make a statement online, whether in chat forums, blogs or videos. People looking for answers to specific questions rely on tech support and reddit chats.

With tech giant Microsoft hiring a team that could build the most advanced and far-reaching artificial intelligence ever, echoes of Stephen Hawking mingle with warnings by Sam Altman and Elon Musk about the dangers inherent in AI development. Just how will AI interpret the plethora of inaccurate, out of date or outright false information on the web? Where the rapid access to information rests at our fingertips, critical evaluation of what we read takes time, something many people are not willing to invest when searching for a quick answer. Thus, cyber hacks thrive in a lucrative new global economy while the United States, perceived by many as the most powerful nation on earth, sees its democracy crumbling under the tyranny of extremist points of view.

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