[Fis] Summary of the New Year Lecture Discussion

Pedro C. Marijuan pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
Thu Jan 30 20:52:54 CET 2020

Dear Joseph and FIS colleagues,

Thanks indeed for the work done. It has been a New Year Lecture that has 
left a rich sediment of ideas and reflections that hopefully, as you 
mention, might find continuity.
In my own view of the theme I was mostly focused on the biological 
underpinning and also in some social-historical aspects. In particular, 
the historical mixing (inseparability?) of information and 
disinformation is fascinating. I had penned a short paragraph about that 
(in what follows).

 From the most abstract perspective, it is information the essential 
concept that underlies the revolutionary changes of human 
societies--perhaps accompanied by its inseparable companion: 
disinformation. For instance, books ignited the Scientific Revolution, 
although it was accompanied by national states wars and by religious 
wars. The outstanding developments of steam engines, railways, 
electricity, telegraph, phones, cars, planes, radio, TVs, electronics, 
etc., that propelled the first, second, and third industrial 
revolutions, had attached a string of deep social conflicts and 
political upheavals. The continuous clash of nationalistic and politic 
ideologies contributed to create a blanket of disinformation that made 
very difficult the sheer perception of the new conflicts and the means 
to solve them. Nowadays it is computers, Internet, cell phones, 
robotics, and genomics what are propelling the new revolutionary period. 
But once more, along these crucial informational inventions a new wave 
of discord and disinformation is menacing the promising outcomes of the 
new epoch… It looks as if the “global brain” will always be victim of 
new viruses, more and more sophisticate ones (sorry--an unfortunate 
metaphor in the current times).

Best wishes to everybody and, again, thanks Joseph.

El 30/01/2020 a las 9:11, Joseph Brenner escribió:
> Dear Friends and Colleagues,
> For people interested in information, the New Year Lecture on 
> disinformation and its discussion has taken place against an 
> unbelievable background. It is nightmarish, /ubu-esque/, Orwellian. 
> Literally, the United States Minister of Health stated last week that 
> a woman’s /freedom/ to have an abortion was /slavery/. War is peace. 
> The greatest short-term menace to humanity is coming from entities 
> that consist essentially of information plus a few bits of protein and 
> RNA. The not-so-long term menace is global warming whose existence is 
> considered disinformation by some people, themselves heavily involved 
> in disinformation.
> In spite of everything, I think the key issues came out well:
> 1. Disinformation and Misinformation. Intent
> There was general agreement on the fact of the existence of 
> disinformation and of misinformation as distinct from it. 
> Disinformation is characterized by the anti-social intent of the 
> disinformer, although questions remain about the detailed structure of 
> intent as an operator.
> 2. Countering Disinformation
> Faced with the pernicious phenomenon of disinformation, there was a 
> substantial consensus that ‘something should be done about it’. The 
> need for tools, perhaps at first computational ones, to identify 
> disinformation in documents was mentioned by several contributors. 
> Others suggested the inherent limitations of solely computational 
> approaches and the need to find and authenticate other criteria or 
> ‘markers’ to identify disinformation. I think there should be a 
> working group on disinformation, based on the willingness of FIS 
> members to commit time to it.
> 3. The FIS Group (1)
> I found a certain confusion between different perspectives. 
> Considering the diversity of our group, this is not surprising. There 
> has not been a consensus about what information and information 
> science are. I noted here a lack of consensus about what /foundations/ 
> or foundational principles are or should be. The result was that many 
> valid insights were stated in the form of examples and anecdotal 
> cases, rather than as structures or principles. The, for me, basic 
> principle that information is a process, an ‘informing’ rather than a 
> datum or data received little attention. It should also be obvious 
> that this Lecture could not cover all related aspects of communication 
> and /behavioral/ science.
> 4. The FIS Group (2)
> The above notwithstanding, I feel that many fascinating concepts 
> related to information/disinformation, just touched upon here, are 
> well worth further development; the following list is completely open 
> for additions, including significant points I may have missed. The 
> order is not significant:
> -grounding of disinformation in cognitive structures/the genome ;
> -hypocrisy and other recursive disinformation processes
> -public origins of disinformation
> -the universe of discourse in informational terms
> -art and its informational content
> Thank you. It was a pleasure working with you.
> Joseph
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Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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