CANCELLED: The Cognitive Errors Enabling the Unchecked Power of Tech Platforms

April 3, 2020 10:00 am
Wilson Library, Pleasants Family Room

*As a precautionary measure to help prevent the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, SILS has decided to postpone the 2020 Kilgour Lecture with Arvind Narayanan and the CITAP panel "Free Speech, Paid Speech, and Fake Speech," both originally set for April 3. Both events are tentatively rescheduled for Sept. 10. Additional details will be shared closer to the new date.*

The UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) will welcome Arvind Narayanan, lead researcher with the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project, on April 3 to deliver the 2020 OCLC/Frederick G. Kilgour Lecture. Narayanan’s talk, “The Cognitive Errors Enabling the Unchecked Power of Tech Platforms,” will begin at 10 am in the Pleasants Family Room at Wilson Library. The event is free and open to the public.

The examination of the powers and problems of tech platforms will continue that afternoon, with a panel discussion, “Free Speech, Paid Speech, and Fake Speech in Democracy,” featuring faculty and affiliates of Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP).

Lecture abstract:
Consider the standard litany of ills of tech platforms: erosion of privacy, harmful speech including disinformation and hate speech, fraud in online marketplaces, and so forth. Narayanan will argue that a series of pervasive cognitive errors help explain why we did not adequately anticipate these harms and why we continue to struggle to regulate platforms effectively. The errors include failure to recognize the many drawbacks of eliminating transaction costs; inadequately accounting for externalities; confusing value creation and value displacement in the rhetoric of innovation; and ignoring collective rather than individual harms. Based on this analysis, Narayanan will explore the role of ex-ante regulation, cultural reform, and external technological audits in steering the development of platforms in a way that better aligns with human values.

Speaker bio:
Arvind Narayanan is an associate professor of computer science at Princeton. He leads the Princeton Web Transparency and Accountability Project to uncover how companies collect and use our personal information. Narayanan co-created a Massive Open Online Course and textbook on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency technologies, which has been used in over 150 courses worldwide. His recent work has shown how machine learning reflects cultural stereotypes, and his doctoral research showed the fundamental limits of de-identification. Narayanan is a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), twice recipient of the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Award, and thrice recipient of the Privacy Papers for Policy Makers Award.