Motivational quotes, wisdom buzz and elder scams
Why is Deepak Chopra still popular on the internet?
Before we get to Deepak Chopra, let’s start with a quick question.
The supposed answer is in the image I saw online, which came with no disclaimer. I haven’t counted six-year olds laughing nor do I count how many times I laugh in a day, and regardless, I ended up thinking “it is very likely true”. I liked what I read without much thought to it.
Although I enjoy reading the articles on The Crow’s Feet, this particular one I saw online made me stop in my tracks.
Wisdom buzz (yes, its a thing) is bigger than just quotes, and used as a smart way to get your attention.
A person that you may know and has used this technique very successfully is Deepak Chopra, and in fact, there is a website dedicated to generate wisdom quotes that sound like him.
Enter Gordon Pennycook.
Pennycook is a Canadian psychologist who studied bullshit, using statements generated by such tools. He was given the 2016 Ig Nobel prize for Peace for his research, "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit”. The Ig Nobel prize, which is organized by the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), a magazine dedicated to scientific humor, “honors achievements that first make people LAUGH, and then make them THINK”. Pennycook’s team built an empirical model to detect bullshit, and if you are keen to know where you stand with your natural talent to detect BS, you may find this video from an informal lecture at MIT quite interesting (and funny).
It is important to distinguish harmless content, and the ones that can be more than just inspiring and funny. With the lines getting blurred between harmless content, misleading advertising and fraud, healthy skepticism and fact checking can help.
For example, the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)’s has published data around misleading advertising by brands in India.
According to the 2021 Microsoft Global Tech Support Scam Research Report, people across all ages are vulnerable to online fraud with Indians continuing to persist through such practices the most with almost a third losing money. While scams are quite prevelant in both the physical and digital world, it is not uncommon to read news articles around phishing, cyber fraud and payment scams specificallay targetting elders. Having a BS meter can really help, and this starts with the information we consume on the internet, and outside.
Fun fact: Deepak Chopra was given the Ig Nobel prize in 1998 for ‘his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty, and the pursuit of economic happiness’.
Have a nice Sunday figuring out what that means!
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