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An Interview with Andreas Gunnarsson on Propaganda, Rhetoric, Lies, Ignorance, Big Data, and the Giga Society (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2020/03/08


Andreas Gunnarsson is a Member of the Giga Society. He discusses: misrepresentation of facts and propaganda, rhetoric, and lies; denial of truths in science, and the apparent ability to make people believe anything; other areas of concern; big data; and developing an alternative/non-mainstream intelligence test. 

Keywords: Andreas Gunnarsson, big data, Giga Society, ignorance, intelligence, lies, propaganda, rhetoric, Sweden.

An Interview with Andreas Gunnarsson on Propaganda, Rhetoric, Lies, Ignorance, Big Data, and the Giga Society: Member, Giga Society (Part Two)[1],[2]*

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

*Original interview from October 20, 2016.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: You have a concern about the ability of interest groups and rumors to misrepresent the facts. Can you explain those concerns in detail, please?

Andreas Gunnarsson: It’s my impression that propaganda, rhetoric and lies can be very efficient tools to manipulate people. The human mind has many flaws that can be abused to mislead, and everyone should in my opinion read a little about cognition biases in order to be aware of how we work. Democracy depends on people making informed decisions, and when powerful lobbyists, interest groups and politicians have the power to blur the picture of reality and influence people in opaque ways we’re down an unpleasant path. I think it’s a difficult problem to solve but it would be a good start if people start recognizing cognition biases, rhetorical tricks and how others try to manipulate them. This is probably not a new risk but there are new challenges with social media, the possibility to directly reach lots of people and the ease with who you can find echo chambers that never challenge you.

There is real science on this topic and I want to point out that I am not an expert so what I say here is only a layman’s opinion and I’m happy to be corrected if I got anything wrong. I don’t usually keep pointing that out, but one of the ways to mislead people is by arguing from false authority and I don’t want to give that impression. If you’re not expert in a field you should find out who is and listen to them, not to a random dude who may or may not be an expert in something totally different.

2. Jacobsen: You have an interest in the skewing of facts with examples such as the anti-vaccine movement, climate change denial, and creationism. What is the main set of concerns with each of these topics?

Gunnarsson: While I’m not interested in skewing the facts, I’m fascinated and worried about how easy it appears to be to convince people to believe anything. There is a long list of conspiracy theories and some are perhaps benign in themselves such as flat earth or the moon landing conspiracy while others can do real harm. I think that this ties in with the previous question and is related to cognitive biases. In some cases these myths can be built up and fuelled by interest groups that have some other motives. As for the three examples you give, anti-vaccine is obviously very concerning since it encourages people not to vaccinate their children or themselves, which leads to unnecessary suffering and death. Climate change is a complex issue where there is ignorance and misleading statements from both sides. Inflated statements, lies and misunderstandings, for example saying that the world will end in a few years, only makes the people who don’t think that climate change is due to human activities and/or bad more certain of their belief, and vice versa. Unless you go to the actual science and read the peer reviewed papers it’s difficult to know what the facts are. Since the earth climate has a big impact for us it’s important that decisions on what to do and not to do are informed by the best science we have. The risk with creationism is a little different, what worries me is the amount of effort spent to try to undermine and redefine science. If they were successful to redefine science in school then it could put the next generation of scientists at a disadvantage and that mindset could also play into the hands of the postmodern ideas that all truth is relative. Considering that today’s technology and medicine that we take for granted is based on science I think it’s important to embrace and improve it, and attempts to dismantle it are dangerous.

3. Jacobsen: Are there other areas of concern? What are the sets of concerns with them, too?

Gunnarsson: Of course. There are many areas of concern in the world on many different levels. War, people that are starving, diseases, violent crimes, discrimination and so on.

4. Jacobsen: There is the new phenomenon of big data. What are your worries about it?  What are the potential pluses and minuses with them?

Gunnarsson: Big data can be used for a lot of good things. The amount of information and metadata being produced every day can help finding trends and patterns that can be used to come up with better solutions that improve people’s lives. For example, correct and up-to-date information about traffic and weather can help vehicle navigation and reduce traffic congestion. Availability of large data sets has helped machine learning take off. There are numerous other examples.

That said, there are also risks. One big concern is privacy. It’s possible to infer more information about individuals than I think most people would be comfortable with if they were aware of it. Location tracking apps on your smartphone collect data that can be used to learn a lot about your life. A single security breach can give criminals access to lots of sensitive data. Whether or not you trust your own government, there are other governments and well funded entities that you may not trust as much. The data collection performed by Cambridge Analytica has been widely discussed. Another risk is that flawed data can lead to the wrong conclusions even if the intentions are good. As a possibly hypothetical example, what if your insurance fee would increase because the insurance company noticed that you often buy some kind of medicine without knowing that you buy it for your neighbor?

I think that our understanding will improve over time and a reasonable trade-off will be reached. I do think that the expectation of privacy will be lowered though, something that I’m not at all comfortable with.

5. Jacobsen: You created an IQ test. You joined the Giga Society. What insights into the IQ world and IQ testing world in general comes from these experiences and qualifications?

Gunnarsson: Some of this was covered in a previous answer but I prefer not do go into too much detail. While I may have thoughts and ideas regarding this I am not an expert and there are others who are more qualified to give more insightful answers than I can. Although that in general does not stop me from expressing my opinion, under the circumstances of this interview I think that there is a risk that wild speculations from my part could be mistaken for well researched claims.

6. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Andreas.

Gunnarsson: Thank you, Scott.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Member, Giga Society.

[2] Individual Publication Date: March 8, 2020:; Full Issue Publication Date: May 1, 2020:

*High range testing (HRT) should be taken with honest skepticism grounded in the limited empirical development of the field at present, even in spite of honest and sincere efforts. If a higher general intelligence score, then the greater the variability in, and margin of error in, the general intelligence scores because of the greater rarity in the population.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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