‘In news media an echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an “enclosed” system, where different or competing views are censored, disallowed, or otherwise underrepresented.’
A spotlight has been cast on news and content censorship this month with Facebook’s algorithms being called into question for perpetuating Donald Trump’s political momentum, which culminated in an election win that shocked the world.
‘Facebook’s hyper-personalised News Feed’ is at the heart of the debate and whether the social media giant’s technology connects people or rather creates an echo chamber solidifying our own ideas, is a question permeating media spheres. President Obama went as far as to call this web condition ‘A cloud of nonsense’.
With increasing amounts of fake news stories flooding the internet, click bait headlines misleading readers who are eager to find the next viral story and adblockers putting the thumbscrews on reputable media outlets, are we spiralling towards a darker, more siloed web?
Facebook and Google this week vowed to combat the influx of fake news malaising the internet by strangling ad revenues at the source. Whether this will be effective or an ongoing game of digital ‘whack a mole’ is yet to be seen.
The sound of tension
Concurrently we’re seeing tension rising in the investor world, as the percentage of failed start-ups climbs to 90% and anxious VC’s fail to pinpoint the next smartphone level boom.
Artificial Intelligence, along with Fin Tech, clean tech, and farming have been touted as the next wave of innovations to bet on, but perhaps AI is the vehicle to success rather than the destination.
VC’s and investors are trapped inside their own echo chambers on opposite sides of the fence. You only need to take stroll through a modern co-working space to hear the sound of self-assured tech start-ups, 100% convinced they are the next big thing. With only the comforting bubble of friends, family, employees and other gung-ho tech start-ups to bounce their sentiment off, it’s no wonder the positivity swells.
VC’s are also sheltered by their own biased perception and online actions, with personal and professional interests, likes, dislikes and web behaviours creating a digital profile that determines what content they are most likely to see.
If you have ever completed a Myers Briggs personality test you will be familiar with being pigeonholed into a 4-letter acronym, ‘ENFJ seeks INTP’ for example. Our web profiles are now no different.
When it comes to making important decisions, we turn to the web first, to source information that will help us evaluate the best course of action. This is true whether making a purchasing decision such as buying a car or a stereo, voting in an election or deciding on an entrepreneur or start-up to invest in.
But informed decisions aren’t the same as decisions based on content we ‘like’ or are accustomed to seeing. Sometimes we need different and balanced forms of content to make the best decisions.
Forrester research suggests consumers now need an average of 11.4 pieces of research to make a purchasing decision. This is likely not all branded videos but a mix of research, reviews, tutorials, unboxing videos, how-to’s etc. Information combined with a narrative that supports an emotional connection helps incite buying behaviour. You can bet your bottom bitcoin investors are looking for more pieces of content than this to make their decisions.
The minefield is so daunting that some VCs believe the only way to get ahead is to avoid the noise altogether and spread bet on hundreds of ventures in the hope some will pay off. Taking this approach to extremes is the Anti VC Dave McClure who has more than 1,600 startups.
Lessons from ecommerce
Online consumer shopping technology has only now begun to glue together new web platforms to provide users with a more guided internet journey, streamline the information gathering journey and prevent fake news stories and web clutter from distracting the consumer.
AI is also uniquely placed to better understand the decision-making journey between VC’s and investors. As much as consumer struggle to cut through the noise of fake news and clickbait, VC’s are now confronted with the same dizzying array of hype bubbles, jargon and digital trends that cloud the real business case of new ventures.
We need to burst these hype bubbles. We need more guided internet journey’s and less predictions about industry fuelled ‘the next big thing’. We need to revert to finding relevant authentic content and evaluating it on its merits rather than jumping on the next ‘big trend’.
Using algorithms designed to curate relevant but balanced forms of content on an entrepreneur’s subject matter, automating the serving of this content to VC’s and machine learning the outcome of the action would result in a continuous feedback loop where VCs are served more and more useful and relevant content to make decisions. Entrepreneurs would benefit from onboarding the right investors who fully understand the market and proposition and we might see that start-up failure rate decline.
While VR fishing or clean farming robots may be the future, let’s use the AI tech we have available today to make more informed decisions online and get to the information we need, not the information we ‘like’.
Vishal Kawatra is co-founder of NowDiscover, an intelligent web application that enables etailors and brands to algorithmically curate video content based on product data into a digital supply chain.