16 April 2018, AUC Logic Lectures, Alexandru Baltag
This is an invitation to reflect on the successes and failures of collective rationality, particularly as embodied in modern mechanisms for mass information-aggregation-and-exchange (media, markets, voting, social networks, crowdsourcing). What are the nature, sources and dynamics of “collective knowledge”? Do the benefits provided by ''the wisdom of the crowds" outweigh the dangers posed by the stupidity or even ''madness" of the crowds? Do the above-mentioned aggregation mechanisms fulfill their epistemic promises (helping us acquire relevant information and take better collective decisions), or do they end up creating their own pseudo-reality (as exemplified by echo-chambers, ''fake news" and ''alternative facts"), leading in the end only to catastrophic mass delusions and self-defeating protest votes?
Can Logic and Philosophy help us understand this dilemma? Can Computer science help us verify and ''debug" our social software, diagnose its weaknesses and provide tools for social-informational ''mechanism design", that could be used to prevent the worst forms of ''groupthink"? Can ''epistemic democracy" actually work and endure? Will the ''facts" (the actual facts) eventually emerge from the noisy networks of irrelevant data, self-confirming rumors and self-congratulatory 'likes'? Or, to put it more bluntly: will 'truth' (the real truth) survive the ''information age"?