Barack Obama has described it as "truth decay" – the sense that not only do we not need to tell the truth, but that truth doesn't even matter anymore.
Tackling the global issue of digital disinformation requires a greater understanding of why we believe what we do – and formalised learning of how to think critically.
Truth decay is one of the greatest threats to humanity. More explosive than climate change and more contagious than Covid-19. With no common platform of truth, disinformation threatens the very foundations of democracy.
As Obama says, unless we can agree on what the facts are, we can't begin to decide what actions to take.
Unfortunately, the global problem of fake news and digital disinformation will never be solved with the techniques currently being deployed. The whack-a-mole approach, where Facebook or Twitter try to take down each false post as it pops up, is ineffective in the face of retweets and shares.
A study by MIT Sloan found falsehoods are 70 times more likely to be retweeted on Twitter than the truth and reach their first 1500 people six times faster. The study also found bots spread true and false information at the same rates, meaning people are the ones hitting retweet on the false information.
We need a radically different approach. We need a vaccine against falsehoods.
We're all familiar with optical illusions where our brain completely gets the wrong answer.
My favourite is the Pinna-Brelstaff illusion where a printed image seems to move all on its own. You can't fight this illusion no matter how hard you try. The reason this happens is because your brain is hardwired to take "shortcuts" to reduce the amount of processing it needs to do. Without them, your brain would become overloaded.
Just like optical illusions or magic tricks, your brain also takes shortcuts when it comes to deciding what to believe. These "logical shortcuts" frequently give you the wrong answer, despite your very best efforts. It does this without your knowledge or permission. After all, no one deliberately wants to believe things that aren't true.
We need to learn about these natural "bugs in our brains" so we can spot them in action and inoculate ourselves against disinformation.
Knowledge is power. It's like the magician's trick. Once you know how it's done, you're no longer fooled.
By formalising the study of how our brains work early on in schools, we'll create a generation of thinkers as well as learners – able to process information faster and more critically - to enable better decision making.
Why would we learn the life cycle of a butterfly but have no idea how our own brains work? Cognition needs to be formally taught in the school curriculum, rather than assuming students will learn "critical thinking" by studying other subjects.
Just as we revolutionised the training of our Olympic athletes with our Goldmine programme which brought new technology and data analysis to create a more competitive edge, so too could we revolutionise our curriculum.
As a country known for its resourcefulness and innovation, we could also lead the world in facing the far more important challenges the internet has unwittingly unleashed on modern society.
We need to embed a curriculum course based on the science of how the brain actually works. Cutting-edge critical thinking is one of the most valuable assets any graduate can have – and now, more than ever, truth matters.
• Dr Kerry Spackman is a cognitive neuroscientist who coaches athletes, business people, and other personalities to succeed within their chosen fields.