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The UK Future of the Internet Network - Cogito Glasgow Hub

2023 - 
PI: J. Adam Carter (Glasgow)
Co-I: Jesper Kallestrup (Aberdeen)

Cogito has partnered up with UKRI and other stakeholders with an aim of meaningfully impacting the future of the internet in the UK. Initial work will lay the foundations for future development of technological, sociotechnical, and ethical research, innovation, community- and partnership-building needed to make the UK an active leader in the development of the internet, and an intelligent customer of internet technologies in the 2030s and 2040s.
We rely more and more on the internet for uploading, transmitting, and downloading information, but under what conditions does such information constitute knowledge? The internet offers—via sophisticated technological devices—easily accessible ways of expanding our knowledge of the world and our place in it, but it’s also rife with fake news, propaganda, conspiracy theories, and disinformation. So, how can laypeople navigate the internet to their epistemic advantage, when these threats to their knowledge are ubiquitous? The problem of how to capitalise on the epistemic opportunities while managing the risks is exacerbated by the fact that many are unable to reliably discern trustworthy sources of information, let alone identifying those with the right expertise, in online contexts. Our abilities to gather and disseminate knowledge were typically acquired and developed in offline contexts. Moreover, we are increasingly unable to discriminate between humanly and artificially generated information, and trust in experts and authorities seems to be eroding at pace. Against this background, the COGITO Future of the Internet lab will explore a cluster of interrelated questions in this space, with input from interdisciplinary experts. Among the more specific questions explored (also in connection with the AHRC Digital Knowledge Project and the ERC Knowledgelab project, along with collaborating partner UKRI) include: (i) Are there any ways in which the expected expansion of the datasphere over the next decades threatens to make knowledge on the internet more difficult, rather than easy, to come by? If so, are there any promising ways to safeguard, epistemically, against such threats? (ii) Information used to structure our lives is increasingly stored in the cloud rather than in our heads; as the digitally rather than biologically stored information increasingly serves as proxy memory, how might we best understand how to ‘convert’ mere digitally stored information into digital knowledge, and how might we best communicate, and educate for, such knowledge?

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