You may have heard of him as the soothing voice over of Dragons’ Den. You may have heard of him from the incisive questioning on Newsnight. You may heard of him of being one of very few people who actually has a recording of his voice on Wikipedia.
Regardless, Evan Davis is one of the most high-profile presenters in the economic and political sphere. In between his work with BBC, he has written a blog covering topics on care for the elderly and choosing wines, as well as books such as “Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do About It”. It is this book on which he bases his talk for Warwick PPE Society on Thursday.
Politics remains a fickle and ever-changing field, with new developments seeming to happen every hour. From threats of nuclear war to allegations against senior politicians of betraying the country running rife, it’s hard to keep up, and harder still to determine exactly what is true and what is, as Mr Davis puts it, “bullshit”. He discusses how the truth has been warped to further agendas, and how easily a lie can captivate an audience, where the message is perpetuated until it becomes gospel.
He mentioned the need for symmetric (or even perfect) information in a rational world, which essentially means both sides of any market have all the information about any transaction. That’s just a luxury we don’t often have right now, but this rise of “bullshit” is making things much, much worse. After all, how do we know who and what to believe? This “bullshit” can be very persuasive, especially as it’s often used to show that you’re a good and moral person.
Take that to the next level, and everyone feels obliged to do the same. Mr Davis talks about how, very quickly, it becomes the “social norm”, so it’s almost outrageous to speak the truth anymore. If everyone’s doing it, why shouldn't you? How many people say they’re five minutes away when they haven’t even got changed yet (guilty)? How many say “what a cute baby!” yet just don’t understand the attraction (guilty)? How many students who are right-leaning feel ashamed to admit it (not guilty, but still concerning)? Bullshit becomes a very slippery slope.
And then it affects our very psychology. Rationale breaks down for some pretty animalistic behaviour. Charlottesville was a scarily recent example of how lies can spark mass devastating action across the world.
All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity to have Mr Davis speak to Warwick PPE Society. Look out for more insightful talks coming to a lecture hall near you!