It is impossible to make the information environment a rational, disinterested space; it will always be susceptible to pressure. People will continue to cosset their own cognitive biases. When there is value in misinformation, it will rule. Big political players have just learned how to play this game. The current [information] models are driven by clickbait, and that is not the foundation of a sustainable economic model. There is too much incentive to spread disinformation, fake news, malware and the rest.
Governments and organizations are major actors in this space. As long as these incentives exist, actors will find a way to exploit them. These benefits are not amenable to technological resolution as they are social, political and cultural in nature. Solving this problem will require larger changes in society.
A number of respondents mentioned market capitalism as a primary obstacle to improving the information environment. The information that will be disseminated will be biased, based on monetary interests. They eschew accountability for the impact of their inventions on society and have not developed any of the principles or practices that can deal with the complex issues.
They are like biomedical or nuclear technology firms absent any ethics rules or ethics training or philosophy. It would be wonderful to believe otherwise, and I hope that other commentators will be able to convince me otherwise. Conflict sells, especially to the opposition party, therefore the opposition news agency will be incentivized to push a narrative and agenda.
Any safeguards will appear as a way to further control narrative and propagandize the population. They cited several reasons:. A share of respondents said a lack of commonly shared knowledge leads many in society to doubt the reliability of everything, causing them to simply drop out of civic participation, depleting the number of active and informed citizens.
The success of Donald Trump will be a flaming signal that this strategy works, alongside the variety of technologies now in development and early deployment that can exacerbate this problem. Philip J. These are the main causes of the deterioration of a public domain of shared facts as the basis for discourse and political debate. These people will drop out of the normal flow of information.
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What is a fact? Who gets to decide? Each can have real facts, but it is the facts that are gathered that matter in coming to a conclusion; who will determine what facts will be considered or what is even considered a fact. Some respondents predicted that a larger digital divide will form. Those who pursue more-accurate information and rely on better-informed sources will separate from those who are not selective enough or who do not invest either the time or the money in doing so.
Anonymous respondent. This will use a combination of organizational and technological tools but above all, will require a sharpened sense of good judgment and access to diverse, including rivalrous, sources. Outside this, chaos will reign. However, when consumers are not directly paying for such accuracy, it will certainly mean a greater degree of misinformation in the public sphere. That means the continuing bifurcation of haves and have-nots, when it comes to trusted news and information.
Many who see little hope for improvement of the information environment said technology will not save society from distortions, half-truths, lies and weaponized narratives. In the arms race between those who want to falsify information and those who want to produce accurate information, the former will always have an advantage. David Conrad. Paul N. Many of those who expect no improvement of the information environment said those who wish to spread misinformation are highly motivated to use innovative tricks to stay ahead of the methods meant to stop them.
They said certain actors in government, business and other individuals with propaganda agendas are highly driven to make technology work in their favor in the spread of misinformation, and there will continue to be more of them. There are a lot of rich and unethical people, politicians, non-state actors and state actors who are strongly incentivized to get fake information out there to serve their selfish purposes. Jason Hong. Scott Spangler , principal data scientist at IBM Watson Health, said technologies now exist that make fake information almost impossible to discern and flag, filter or block.
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Lastly, the incentives are all wrong. Those wanting to spread misinformation will always be able to find ways to circumvent whatever controls are put in place. Some respondents expect a dramatic rise in the manipulation of the information environment by nation-states, by individual political actors and by groups wishing to spread propaganda. Their purpose is to raise fears that serve their agendas, create or deepen silos and echo chambers, divide people and set them upon each other, and paralyze or confuse public understanding of the political, social and economic landscape.
Anonymous project leader for a science institute. This has been referred to as the weaponization of public narratives. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Reddit and Twitter appear to be prime battlegrounds. Bots are often employed, and AI is expected to be implemented heavily in the information wars to magnify the speed and impact of messaging. Messages can now be tailored with devastating accuracy. Furthermore, information is a source of power and thus a source of contemporary warfare.
An emeritus professor of communication for a U. It is being replaced by social media, where there are few if any moral or ethical guidelines or constraints on the performance of informational roles. The existence of clickbait sites make it easy for conspiracy theories to be rapidly spread by people who do not bother to read entire articles, nor look for trusted sources.
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Given that there is freedom of speech, I wonder how the situation can ever improve. Most users just read the headline, comment and share without digesting the entire article or thinking critically about its content if they read it at all. The rise of new and highly varied voices with differing agendas and motivations might generally be considered to be a good thing. But some of these experts said the recent major successes by misinformation manipulators have created a threatening environment in which many in the public are encouraging platform providers and governments to expand surveillance.
Some of these experts expect that such systems will act to identify perceived misbehaviors and label, block, filter or remove some online content and even ban some posters from further posting. Retired professor. This will end up being a censored information reality. A distinguished professor emeritus of political science at a U.
Censorship will be rejected. But because the internet cannot be regulated free speech will continue to dominate, meaning the information environment will not improve. But another share of respondents said that is precisely why authenticated identities — which are already operating in some places, including China — will become a larger part of information systems. A professor at a major U. In the United States, corporate filtering of information will impose the views of the economic elite.
Several other respondents also cited this as a major flaw of this potential remedy. They argued against it for several reasons, including the fact that it enables even broader government and corporate surveillance and control over more of the public.
Lying is a powerful way to do that. To stop that requires high surveillance — which means government oversight which has its own incentives not to tell the truth. Algorithmic solutions to replacing human judgment are subject to hidden bias and will ultimately fail to accomplish this goal. They will only continue the centralization of power in a small number of companies that control the flow of information. Most of the respondents who gave hopeful answers about the future of truth online said they believe technology will be implemented to improve the information environment.
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They noted their faith was grounded in history, arguing that humans have always found ways to innovate to overcome problems. Most of these experts do not expect there will be a perfect system — but they expect advances. A number said information platform corporations such as Google and Facebook will begin to efficiently police the environment to embed moral and ethical thinking in the structure of their platforms.
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They hope this will simultaneously enable the screening of content while still protecting rights such as free speech. Adam Lella. In fact, the companies are already beginning to take steps in this direction.
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