Some physicists believe the cosmos is home to an infinite number of bubble-shaped, parallel universes. The same theory could describe today’s American politics.
Somewhere between the rise of cable news and social media, our shared sense of reality splintered. We live in an era of endless political narratives, in which the phrase “my truth” is supposed to be taken seriously. Algorithms built to confirm pre-existing biases shape our social media feeds and opinions. Living in our own bespoke information bubbles, Americans today cannot agree on the existence of facts, let alone what the facts are. All this has serious implications for public discourse on the most difficult issues facing society—from racial injustice to Covid-19.
We are living through an information revolution arguably more disruptive than Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. Before Gutenberg, one narrative of reality predominated Western society. By democratizing access to the written word, the press overthrew Rome’s monopoly on ideas and allowed competing interpretations to proliferate. That took Europe from the Middle Ages to the modern era. It precipitated the Reformation, the Renaissance and the American Founding.