We have invited Vincent Hendricks, professor of formal philosophy to talk about the current state of the information age, or should I say, the information market, which is nowadays filled to the brim with knowledge, beliefs, opinions, but also misinformation, fake news and all kinds of trolling, [BLEEP] and blah, blah. Welcome, Vincent. Thank you, sir. You tend to call the current state of the information age an Attention Economy. Can you expand a little bit on that? I sure can. You're absolutely right that there's a lot of products out there, information products, whether it's fake news and nudes or misinformation of various categories and truthful, reliable acquired information. Back in 1971 and I was one years old that time, Herbert Simon who received the Nobel Prize in 1978, who was actually a psychologist by training, but received the Nobel Prize in Economics, he said something back then, which is very prophetical about an information age in which there's a lot of information available. He said, in an information-rich world, you're going to find a scarcity of something else. It'll be a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. But what information consumes is pretty obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. There you have it in the information age is not microchips or oil, which is a new black. It's people's attention, but not as a cognitive resource or as catching you chose attention, but as a capital asset. Because as soon as you get people's attention, using information, they start engagement. Once you get engagement you get data, once you to get data you can analyze it. Once you can analyze it, you can sell it to the advertisers and so you have an attention economy in an information market. To understand correctly, the attention economy, who is the buyer and who is the seller? Well, there's a lot of producers of information, whether those are the established media on one end or [inaudible] on Reddit on the other, whoever it might be. They are all in the business of peddling information. Now information is consumed by our attention and so basically everybody from user to the press, to politicians are now sunk into this attention economy in this information market, either to make money or to set the agenda or influence or whatever the motive might be for capturing people's attention. But in any event, it's a matter of getting attention so that you can get your message out and you can profit from the data if your's a social media platforms. If this is an attention economy, what does that then mean for the quality of the information which is exchanged among the people? Well, that's a very good question. That's really what Herbert Simon reminds evolve. Because he says "Look, information consumes attention." But that means that you can speculate in what information people are willing to spend their scarce attention on, and then peddle that information. The information that tends to be very spectacular, that's very loud, interesting headlines is that it attempts to capture a lot of attention independently of whether it's true. There is a market for subprime information products living very well in an attention economy in which there are no checks and balances on the quality of the information, so the quality of the information becomes secondary. Attention, acquisition, allocation, and data becomes the main goal here. You can speculate what information people are willing to spend their attention on, peddle that independently of whether it's true. Are there some positive sides of this economy then? Certainly. We have now an infrastructure that we have never had before. We have information at our fingertips. We've never seen or been never been able to acquire and get in contact with so information. That is in it by itself, a good thing. The only problem is that there's a lot of noise in this market and we tend to get seduced by the noise, and the problem is that whatever is true is not necessarily viral and whatever is viral is not necessarily true. But you can say that keeping checks and balances on politicians or governments, etc, is in a very big way dependent on the information infrastructure. That information infrastructure is a good thing. Look we wouldn't have the Arabic Spring we wouldn't without the social media, probably, and there are other ways in which we get informed about what goes on in Israel and Palestine and Afghanistan and what not. That is and by itself a good thing. But it does come at a price, and that price is noise and misinformation and fake news. Doesn't that mean then that the information pollution you also talk about and the harm it's doing, does this need to be regulated now? Well, look we just came out with a book called the Ministry of Truth, where we actually discuss these things and Camilla Mehlsen and I, who just wrote this book. We're coming up with three different I's. There is individual mobilization. That means digital education programs and schools, etc. There is institutional mobilization, for instance, during the corona we saw Facebook getting together with WHO to make sure that misinformation was not peddled too much pertaining the coronavirus. We can also find these kinds of partnerships. Then there is the ideological part, or if you wish, the policy-making part, and that has to do with regulation. It could be pursuing an anti-trust agenda as the Americans are doing now. Namely, is it okay that Jeff Bezos owns amazon.com and he also owns the Washington Post. They had different information products and they are different gathering information, but is that okay? Is it okay that Facebook gets its own currency, say Libra? So there's an anti-trust element to this. But there's also a question of, since you are the one, the purveyor of the data and since you are the user, maybe you should have more to say about what your data is being used for. That's what you have with the EU GDPR legislation say. There's a question of whether or not they should regulate the way they can use artificial intelligence. There are various different legislative proposals up for grabs now. Do the Republicans go along with that in the States? Well, I mean, look it's an interesting thing because the Europeans have been targeting two problems. They have been targeting the data privacy problem on one hand, but they've also been targeting this entire idea that there should be no regulation on the information market as such, whether that's in terms of antitrust, etc. Whereas the Americans have been looking more at the antitrust thing. Between Europe on one hand and the US and the other, I think it's fair to say that we have a good coverage of this regulation that we are talking about. But even between the EU and the US, that's not enough. We have to move it all the way up to the UN. We have to do it as an overstate global organization and democracy in terms of that is what we have with the UN. If you have to get through a global consensus about it, we're looking at as a different kind of legislation. There's also this aspect of trust. It seems that your analysis and also other people looking at the information age, the social consequences of it is that there's an erosion of trust in authorities. Sure. How does that come into the equation looking at it in terms of the attention economy. Because then there's no authority, there's no center to hold everything together in a way. Right. I think the coronavirus that we're still living in, is a very good example of the amount of misinformation and fake news just went through the roof there, and everything from health authorities to state had a harder time in actually peddling the correct information as to vaccines and where the coronavirus came from, etc. The reason is that they're much more restricted purveyors of information, because either the press have to look at good principles of journalism, etc. The state can only say so much, there is a scientific underpinnings for etc, whereas the ones who are basically just cowboying around out there, they can peddle whatever information that they want and they can do it in ways that tends to capture a lot of attention. So standards are different? The standards are different for the purveyors of information and that means that the ones who tend to be more careful about the way in which information that they can purvey, they can't use the same headings. They can't use the same tricks as to get things into circulation and out into wider circulation, inform the public of the issues pertains to the coronavirus. Does this erode democracy? Well, in the end it will look, our understanding of democracy is from the Enlightenment period and Enlightenment period, the basic idea was that information, read, knowledge was very central and for two reason, it should bolster the autonomy of the individual citizen so that they can make their own qualified decisions on one end, and by making qualified decisions on their own. They were micro parts in bolstering the democracies that we're growing all over Europe and in the US, and so yes, information and democracy, have since the Enlightenment been extremely intimately connected and if you start messing with one eventually you start messing with the other, it's not for fun, that World Economic Forum since 2013 have been saying that misinformation is a global challenge on par with climate change, global health issues, etc. Why? Essentially because it can undermine a governance that we really like namely democracy. But nowadays the network society has also traded a new type of economy. I'm thinking about digital currencies and Bitcoins and so on, which are completely without central authority, without simply network with the booms and busts all day long in a way, are we heading towards this information exchange also? Can you make any resemblance to the Bitcoins economy? Well, I think it's fair to say the following. Namely, these days everybody is now capitalizing on what is a value and what is a value now? Information is. What is currency? It's about exchanging of goods for a certain currency, or exchange one currency for the other. That is an information transfer problem. You get in a certain sense, say that yes, of course it has something to do with currency and we have also seen situations in which misinformation have crashed stock markets, etc. All of those things, one has to realize now that we're talking about a very, very complicated network between users, companies, banks, states, everybody is sunk into this now, and so, yes, we could see some problems pertaining to micro currencies or Bitcoin currencies and whatnot, all of a sudden gaining a certain leverage and then later busting markets like we have seen in the financial markets. When there's so much competition about attention for everybody, from anybody and so on. It might also have the result that there's little attention to the details. It's more quantity instead of quality kind of thing. Can you give an example of such situations or developments of that? Just look at the way in which people read posts. You go to your favorite Facebook post on politics, etc. Now if you have to make an informed decision based on the post, you have to read quite a few. That never happens. People will read the headlines of the first two, three posts formulate their opinion and done. That's because the social media platforms, they reward fastness and they reward basically engagement. That's the reason why you have like, comment, [inaudible] etc. Instant opinion investment that you can make, and so the entire system is based on speed and from that perspective, we know that if we were to speed up the way the science, the way that we speed up our opinions on social media, we wouldn't have any reliable science left quite probably. My point is just basically to say this, knowledge acquisition takes a lot of time, information provenance doesn't take anytime. Information production doesn't take much, but knowledge acquisition takes a lot. That's the reason that we have science on one hand and every day on the other and so from that perspective, if we're putting them on par, reliable scientific inquiry is going to have a hard time. Thank you very much.