TED Talk: Jeff Hancock: The future of lying

Thanks to Penn who introduced me to this TED talk from Jeff Hancock, here are some notes I made as I was listening:

  • Lying seems to be a central part of being human. As a former Canadian border guard, spent time trying to determine who was lying.
  • Diogenes – sought to find a single human who didn’t lie – died without finding one
  • Confucius – believed in sincerity, in principles.
  • Over the last 20 years, communications has been transformed, we are now connected 24/7
    • The Butler: Small lies that we tell, to create a buffer, as a butler used to do – protecting a relationship (I still care, but I didn’t want to connect then – e.g. “I’m just coming”)
    • The Sock Puppet – e.g. R.J. Ellory, wrote positive reviews about his book under a pseudonym (not the first time it’s happened, but digital gave it extra attention)
    • The Chinese Water Army – takes that to scale – 1000s are paid small amounts to write content, including product reviews (known as astroturfing in the US)
  • Many are taking this as a sign that the internet is making us more deceptive, but no, once we put aside the sites designed for affairs, and the Nigerian prince, and concentrate on interactions between ‘ordinary folks’, there are some interesting findings:
    • Comparing email, phone and face-to-face, email was the most honest, and phones the least
    • In online dating, with all those stories .. typically there are tiny lies – not big lies – because then it’s game over. People will take a slight height difference, but not a huge one!
    • In considering CVs, those on LinkedIn were more honest.
    • Facebook has a reputation for offering an ‘idealised’ lifestyle, but in an experiment, each person had 4 friends give an assessment of personality, then 4 strangers assessed that personality just from Facebook – there was huge consistency. 
  • It would appear that online, people are actually more honest. Most of us are very bad at detecting lies, and tend to think that we take cues from e.g. “the eyes”, but the literature shows that there are no reliable clues, especially when the stakes are low.
  • We have been talking for 50k+ years, writing for 2k+ years, printing for 500+ years, with widespread literacy only for 50+ years. The expectation is that next everything that we do will be recorded.
  • Everything that we now do leaves a trail, which can be analysed … which the speaker does by looking at hotel reviews – at which algorithms are better at detecting fake reviews than humans are [although the human would have had to programme the algorithm for what to recognise, right?]
  • In the networked age, has it become more important to be true to ourselves, than about the actual lie/not lie. Do we want what is recorded to be become part of our personal legacy?

[TED Talk] Depression

Currently listening to this – eloquent – depression is not the opposite of ‘happiness’, but the opposite of ‘vitality’:


Checking out a talk from a couple of years ago by Gordon Brown (via @sarahbrownuk)

I missed this TED talk a couple of years ago, but came across it again by checking out Gordon & Sarah Brown’s website, inspiring stuff!


Johanna Blakely: Social Media and the End of Gender (@TED)

“Media and advertising companies still use the same old demographics to understand audiences, but they’re becoming increasingly harder to track online, says media researcher Johanna Blakley. As social media outgrows traditional media, and women users outnumber men, Blakley explains what changes are in store for the future of media.”