In the post-capitalist, post-digital, post-fact world of the 2020s, we’ve come to recognize that belief is all-important, and facts don’t really matter.
Belief in ‘fictions’ is what holds society together, and what makes markets work. Without a common purpose, a shared belief that the system works, no one would be prepared to enter into a mutually beneficial transaction; which is what markets are all about: cooperation.
In point of immaterial fact, all of the earliest forms of social cooperation and human endeavour relied on belief systems that are devoid of supporting evidence or factual provability. From the divine right of kings, to any religion, to simple trust in social norms, facts hinder rather than help the process. Belief is essential.
The global financial system elevated this to a new level. Without faith in the dollar, trust in the yuan, or belief that the fiction called the euro actually has value, the whole edifice would collapse in a heap. The only value Bitcoin has, is the belief that others believe it to be valuable! The only banks that are trusted, are the ones that are trusted.
Back in 2017, a Harvard study found that – if you can believe it – people, once convinced about an issue, wouldn’t change their minds, even when presented with undeniable facts to the contrary. Remember ‘alternative facts’ in the age of Trump and Brexit? Social media proved that influence beats science, time and again. Never mind ‘deepfake’ videos!
Which is why good debaters can win the argument from either side of a controversial issue. Perception is reality; if most people believe something, it must be true. Persuasive communication is the critical skill, and a trusted brand the most valuable business asset. And facts don’t matter.