Protagonist Science presents:

Understanding the lab leak narrative

A trilogy on how the combination of addictive targeting algorithms, initial scientific uncertainty, and malicious human behavior can fuel conspiratorial thinking to undermine the scientific process.
Targeted algorithmic misinformation

Algorithmic misinformation

Online conversations are routinely plagued by extremist and polarizing narratives with little attachment to factual reality. The more attention any particular topic garners, the worse the online information system surrounding it becomes.

This is no coincidence but rather the inevitable outcome of our cognitive biases and heuristics, the targeted information drug of social media, and the financial incentivization of malicious behavior.

Yet finding actionable solutions to cooperation problems facing public health, climate, economics, politics and society at large cannot work while these conditions persist. Is there a way out of our self-made ‘infodemic’?

The true origins of SC2

The true origins of SARS-COV-2

Scientific uncertainty is common but not ever-lasting. In the absence of clear scientific proof, or direct and compelling evidence, scientists use a Bayesian probability framework to assess the likelihood of competing hypotheses.

Despite what you might have heard on social media, there is now a scientific consensus built on multiple lines of evidence behind the origins of SC2. There is strong, unequivocal evidence that the virus was not engineered but evolved in nature and that the pandemic started with an outbreak at the Huanan market.

While this does not preclude all possible lab leak theories, can any lab leak scenario really account for the body of evidence?

The grifter playbook

The grifter playbook

Influencers and grifters usually excel at one particular thing: Catching eyeballs and building trust with their audiences so they can then leverage that ‘special’ relationship into some kind of profit.

There is no punishment for being catastrophically wrong on social media, and no reward for correcting the record or changing one’s mind.

Doubling down on a pet conspiracy retains one’s audience, leaving the conspiracy behind is seen and treated as audience betrayal. Influencers profit from keeping a scientifically-dead, but emotionally engaging zombie hypothesis alive.

Is it really a surprise that the most shameless have advanced the furthest in this ecosystem?