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Social media, message apps and other digital communications technologies restructure the ways in which information flows, and thus how humans interact with one another, how they make sense of the world and how they come to consensus on how to deal with problems.
Now, more than a dozen researchers at multiple universities who study technology, behavior and complex systems believe questions about the impact of communications technology on collective behavior should be regarded as a “crisis discipline,” noting that “the vulnerability of these systems to misinformation and disinformation poses a dire threat to health, peace, global climate and more.”
In a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they call on researchers and social media executives to take a Hippocratic oath and pledge first to do no harm to humanity.
To hear more, I caught up with three of the authors:
Joseph B. Bak-Coleman, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public and the lead author the paper;
Carl T. Bergstrom, a UW professor of biology and member of the Center for an Informed Public;
and Rachel Moran, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public who studies disinformation and trust in information environments.
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.