University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Zangwill Club > Weaponized Lies: An American neuroscientist speaks on the post-truth era (and what we can do about it)

Weaponized Lies: An American neuroscientist speaks on the post-truth era (and what we can do about it)

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Abstract The language we use has begun to obscure the relationship between facts and fantasy. “Fake news” is too gentle a euphemism for what it is: lies. This is a dangerous byproduct of a lack of education in the U.S. (and, I’m sad to say, many other countries) that has now affected an entire generation of citizens. Lies now proliferate in our culture to an unprecedented degree. It has made possible the weaponizing of lies so that they can all the more perniciously undermine our ability to make good decisions for ourselves and for our fellow citizens. A U .S. government survey found that more than one in five Americans could not locate information in text, or make low-level inferences from printed materials. In this talk, I will provide a brief overview of the problem, and share examples of distortions, misleading charts and false claims. By way of these examples, I outline an educational defense against information illiteracy and the absurd notion that we live in a “post-truth” era.

Bio Daniel J. Levitin is a cognitive neuroscientist and best-selling author. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon under Michael Posner, and completed post-doctoral training in neuroimaging at Stanford University Medical School with Allan Reiss, and in visual perception at UC Berkeley with Stephen Palmer. He is James McGill Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Neuroscience at McGill University, where he holds affiliate appointments in Computer Science, Education, and Music. He is the Founding Dean of Arts & Humanities at the Minerva Schools at KGI (Keck Graduate Institute) in San Francisco, a new, accredited undergraduate program that emphasizes critical thinking and communication skills for the next generation of leaders and innovators. He is also Distinguished Faculty Fellow at the Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley. He is the author of four consecutive #1 bestselling books, including This Is Your Brain on Music and The Organized Mind. Prior to entering academia, he worked as a record producer in California, earning 14 gold and platinum records for sales in excess of 30 million records.

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