Who Needs a Wall When We Have Epistemic Closure?

Author:Reisman-Brill, Joan

Realm of Rigid Bubbles: I happen to travel in various circles of people. Within each circle, most people seem to agree on many basic views, about which they seem absolutely confident. But from one circle to another, the views are dramatically different. Its not just peoples views regarding President Trump, or free college tuition, single-payer healthcare, guaranteed income, or various religions versus none. It just seems that everywhere I go, there's another self-contained parallel universe. And although I definitely don't belong in some of them, I'm not sure I fully inhabit any of them.

I don't remember reality feeling this way before. Is it me, or is something really weird going on?

--Victim of Fake News or Just Lacking Conviction?

Dear Lacking,

Whatever your malady is, I've got it too. I feel I need to have some idea of people's positions before I venture into a conversation with them, for fear I'll forever alienate acquaintances with whom I just want to get through a dinner's worth of small talk or ongoing casual relationships. And yes, I do think something is going on.

There was an interesting discussion of this in a July 4 piece by Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle. Although her specific topic was the need for Democrats to nominate a presidential candidate who can actually win, she brought up the term "epistemic closure," credited to libertarian writer Julian Sanchez and defined by McArdle as "the systemic banishment of any source of information outside your ideological bubble." I'm not sure why or how the current administration seems to have divided the country, and perhaps the world, into camps that can't find any common ground to share, but it has also managed to spawn factions within groups that ought to be uniting to achieve shared goals instead of dissing each other and refusing to cooperate. Maybe the current administration is not the cause but rather a manifestation of this dynamic infecting us, a dynamic turbo-charged by the internet.

I see intolerance all around, on all sides. There are Democrats who won't brook any criticism of Barack Obamas policies as president, and some people are so...

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