A really interesting study conducted by researchers at Princeton University suggests that uninformed members of a community act as a break on extreme ideas. A team lead by scientist Iain Couzin studied the collective decision making process of a school of fish and found that "uninformed" fish had a magnifying effect on the majority view and stifled minority opinions. They modeled the behavior they saw in fish to simulations run using models of known human behavior and found that the same effect affects their simulated groups of people.


They plan on testing the idea on real groups of people but even a shallow view of the voting patterns of Americans seems to back up their initial conclusions. A lot of information-poor voters go into the booths and cast their ballot based strictly on their party affiliation and/or the candidate all their friends are voting for.


While a less extreme society is probably a more stable society, unfortunately the phenomenon has been hijacked by professional propagandists in politics and the media funded by interests within Big Energy and others with financial stakes in maintaining the climate status quo. They have used the bully pulpit and right wing media to spread false doubt and misinformation and have greatly held up our society's transition to true sustainability, maybe irreparably. A problem as big as anthropogenic climate change needs solutions outside mainstream thinking, especially mainstream thinking that's been massaged by well-monied oil companies. We need to take drastic measures like committing to weaning ourselves 100% off coal within a decade and then doing it (or getting damn close) by removing government subsidies for coal, taxing it at a higher rate, and plowing huge investments into renewable energy development and deployment. We can't be afraid to tackle the enormous task of updating our 20th century energy grid to handle our 21st century world, which also is going to require a lot of fighting against the majority opinion. It makes this fight of ours all the more challenging.



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Shea Gunther is a podcaster, writer, and entrepreneur living in Portland, Maine. He hosts the popular podcast "Marijuana Today Daily" and was a founder of Renewable Choice Energy, the country's leading provider of wind credits and Green Options. He plays a lot of ultimate frisbee and loves bad jokes.

Study shows that uninformed citizens may be critical to a stable society
A new study suggests that low-information voters could help stabilize society by suppressing extreme ideas sprung out of the political system.