Dwarf elephants, imaginary medieval kingdoms, political parodies mistaken for reality, viral falsehoods and meaningless debates on social media – these are just a few examples of hoaxes, which have always triggered people’s curiosity. Such bizarre examples of human credulity provide an opportunity to interact in semi-serious ways. Today such unsubstantiated beliefs increasingly cause social panic, achieve international relevance in the guise of fake news, and have become the bugbear of our times. It is reasonable to be alarmed by their (real or alleged) influence on fundamental democratic processes, such as elections and referendums. But online disinformation above all reflects radical changes in new communication technologies. Living happily with all this is possible, perhaps necessary. To do so, one needs to consider hoaxes not as rubbish to get rid of, but rather as wonderful opportunities to hone our skills. This irreverent and original book allows readers to become more familiar with the new information ecology.
Fabio Paglieri is a researcher at the Italian National Research Council’s Cognition Science and Technology Institute in Rome.