Shoddy Crypto Media and the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

By Bread | Breadonomics | 25 Jan 2022

What is something you know a lot about?

It might be Star Wars, or football, or physics, or maybe a niche cryptocurrency. Regardless, you know enough that when you read a news article about that topic, it's easy to quickly tell whether the writer knows what they're talking about.  Most of the time, you realise the author doesn't have a clue!  You chuckle to yourself, shake your head, and open a new link to another story with a topic you don't know much about.  For some reason you quickly forget your scepticism from the previous article you read, and you believe whatever this author has written on the new topic.

This is called the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, coined by writer Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame).  Crichton highlighted the phenomena of smart people believing the media on topics outside their personal area of expertise, and especially straight after noting that articles in the same publication that are in the reader's area of expertise are riddled with errors.  


Cryptocurrency media is not immune to this.  Many times I've read an article about BCH and cringed at the clear lack of understanding of the writer in areas where I've done substantial amounts of reading.  Then I jump to an article about a new DeFi app and believe it word for word.  Likewise, it's all too easy to laugh at YouTubers who demonstrate obvious ignorance when talking about Monero, but in the next video about Cardano we just assume they know what they're talking about.  So what techniques can we apply to hold a healthy level of scepticism about crypto media?

Learn the difference between good and bad journalism

Good journalism helps to inform you of who, what, when, and where.  Great journalism leads you to an understanding of how something happened through the former information.  It doesn't pressure you to think a certain way, or tell you who is good or bad in the situation.  It gives you the facts and lets you draw the conclusion.  Good journalism also clearly separates opinion and fact.

Bad journalism is basically just opinion or propaganda.  It will tell you why something has happened/will happen and what you have to do.  It often simply repeats statements from powerful/influential people as fact.  It won't include any contrary opinions or sources that conflict with what the writer wants you to believe.  Bad journalism also gives you heroes and enemies, often to push you to a pre-made conclusion or course of action.  And of course, bad journalism blurs the line between opinion and fact.


Triangulation refers to the scientific process of using multiple sources or methods of acquiring knowledge.  You then process these together to increase the validity and reliability of what you believe.  When it comes to identifying truth from crypto media, you need to read, read and read some more.  Go straight to the source as much as possible; read white papers and seek articles/videos/podcasts with as little editing as possible.  Read from sources you like and sources you don't. 

Then write.  There's a lot of joy to be found in creating!  Take what you have learned and create something that you can share, so that it can be questioned, criticised, discussed and dissected.  Don't assume what is true and accurate today will still be true and accurate tomorrow.  Keep searching, learning, and questioning.


Healthy scepticism is just that, healthy, especially in the crypto world of shills, scams, rugpulls, and pump-and-dumpers.  Everyone wants to sell you something, whether it's a coin or a belief.  Keep your wits about you and look for primary sources and hard evidence, not opinion.  

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