“And a lot of the focus that we have is in taking the two centuries old idea of census data and augmenting it to have richer census data. So, the census data is something that it’s hard to appreciate, but any sort of modern management of society, government services depend on knowing where the people are and something about them and not at the individual level, but at the neighborhood level.”
“So, in the United States most people on the left top graph believe that the people on the right are more extreme, more interested in subverting democracy. They’re really engaged in a culture war.
But the truth is very different. If you actually go and you sample in a scientific way very few people on the right are as radical as they’re painted. In fact, most are quite moderate and willing to support engagement. And the same is true about the right’s belief about the left’s opinion. The right believe that the left is full of crazies. But the truth is if you actually go and you ask people one on one for their actual opinions, they’re very much more moderate. And so, it’s this lack of knowledge of the other side that is driving this notion that the other guys are cheating and we need to take radical action in order to be able to protect ourselves.
And I put peace and war up here in the United States, it’s not that extreme yet but it’s perhaps closer than we would like to believe. But this is a general psychological process. When people don’t interact broadly, they develop suspicions of each other. And what we found is just showing people what we showed you just now.
In other words, this notion of what the real beliefs are of the other people has a dramatic change on people’s beliefs and their willingness to subvert democracy, their willingness to promote radical effects. In fact, it’s something where perhaps extreme beliefs, the warlike attitude of each group can be decreased by something on the order of 50% just by having trusted the third party data.
This is the sort of thing that I think that the UN in particular could be very good at is. What are the actual beliefs of the people in each of these countries? Are they actually trying to subvert the peace or are they not? This may not apply very much to situation like the Ukraine Russian war because that seems to be something that comes generally from a small coterie of people at the top.
But if the Russian people had been much more aware of what was happening or had much more access to the true opinions about Ukrainians, it would have been much more difficult for the people at the top to fan the flames of war.”