Reflecting on the recent US electoral campaign and its aftermath as the most recent and powerful evidence for the existence of a “post-truth” age, Duncan Watts and David Rothschild argue that we have entered a legitimacy crisis—“whom and what to trust,” as they put it—in relation to knowledge claims and the institutions that validate them. The authors discuss why information technologies have exacerbated the problem, and offer some suggestions for compensating for and perhaps restoring lost legitimacy.
David Rothschild is an economist at Microsoft Research. He has a PhD in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. His primary body of work is on forecasting and understanding public interest and sentiment. Related work examines how the public absorbs information. He has written extensively, in both the academic and popular press, on polling, prediction markets, social media and online data, and predictions of upcoming events; most of his popular work has focused on understanding the public’s sentiment, an economist's take on public policy, and choices in news consumption.