As humans, we see ourselves as uniquely capable of reasoning and understanding. Our much vaunted giant brains are supposed to make us rational and logical, and yet we are seduced by a good story every time. Whether you explain this with neuroscience, evolutionary biology or anthropology, the answer is the same: a killer story always trumps a proven fact. We read gossip more than news, we buy into the grand narrative of scientific progress and technological triumph, advertising works and is glorified for it, and the truth-tellers about climate change remain doomed Cassandras in the face of a compelling competing narrative. This is not all bad news. New digital tools are enabling a new breed of storytellers to breathe life into science and politics. But it does make us vulnerable to master narrators who use our most human love of meaning and story for their, even fact-less, own ends.
Chair: Ann Mossop is Head of Talks & Ideas at Sydney Opera House, and is co-curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
Kirby Ferguson is a New York-based writer, director and producer. He is the creator of the web series Everything Is A Remix and the forthcoming This Is Not A Conspiracy Theory.
Evgeny Morozov is a Belarusian writer and researcher. He is the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, and most recently, To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism.
Simran Sethi is an award-winning Indian American journalist. She is currently undergoing a research fellowship at the University of Melbourne in Australia on the loss of agricultural biodiversity in our food system.