Fake news? ASU symposium to suggest solutions to tell fact from fiction in the age of information

The second annual Cooperation and Conflict Symposium will take place May 2. Photo by Elijah O Donnell from unsplash.com


Does instant access to huge amounts of information help or hinder how we determine what is real? What impact does social media have on how we distinguish truth from deception? What can we learn from how information has been used by life since our very beginnings to help solve the problems of today?

At the second annual Cooperation and Conflict Symposium, hosted by the Arizona State University Department of Psychology and the Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative, experts and scholars will come together to answer these questions by discussing fact and fiction in the age of information. The symposium will take place May 2 in the psychology library from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. RSVP for the event.

The event is hosted by Athena Aktipis, assistant professor of psychology and co-director of the Human Generosity Project, and will feature experts from across ASU: Sara Walker from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Paul Davies from the Beyond Center, Roger White from the W. P. Carey School of Business, Virginia Kwan from the Department of Psychology, Carlo Maley from the School of Life Sciences and the Biodesign Institute, Mike Angilletta and Jennifer Fewell from the School of Life Sciences, Ted Pavlic from the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, and Kristy Roschke from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Experts from other universities like Chris Adami from Michigan State University, Joe Alcock from the University of New Mexico, Jessica Brinkworth from the University of Illinois and Greg Bryant from the University of California, Los Angeles, will also speak.

Each speaker will give a short talk that presents a solution to the problem of telling fact from fiction in the age of information. The symposium will address this issue from an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing from information theory in physics, signaling theory in evolutionary biology and communication science.

“What’s most exciting to me about the symposium is how we are bringing together scholars from across the disciplines to answer this question of how we tell what is real," Aktipis said. "We have speakers from physics talking about information theory, evolutionary biologists talking about how deception manifests across the tree of life, parasitologists talking about how infectious agents ‘lie’ to our bodies, and journalists talking about fake news. I can’t wait to learn from so many diverse scholars about how we distinguish fact from fiction and what we might learn from looking into the history of life on earth about how to deal with the problems of today."

Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative and Winter School

The intersection of Aktipis’ broad interests gave her the idea to foster cooperation across different academic disciplines. After the success of the inaugural Cooperation and Conflict Symposium and the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Meeting, Aktipis started a new strategic initiative, the Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative (ICI). The ICI is a strategic initiative supported by the Office of the President to establish and support a field of cooperation research and to foster interdisciplinary cooperation to tackle the broader challenges that face humankind.

“The ICI is a collaborative effort to look at cooperation from a variety of perspectives,” Aktipis said. “Our goal is to be a place where researchers can come together and share ideas about cooperation.”

The ICI supports a faculty working group which meets twice a semester to discuss a specific topic related to cooperation. The group is always looking for new members to participate in the next working group.

The Interdisciplinary Cooperation Initiative will host a Winter School in January 2020. At the school, students will learn about the fundamental processes underlying cooperation in diverse systems. The lectures and seminars will be taught by leading cooperation researchers from psychology, evolutionary biology, anthropology, sociology and computational modeling. The Winter School on the Interdisciplinary Study of Cooperation is open to advanced undergraduates, graduate students and postdocs that will cover the basic frameworks for cooperation and key tools and methods from each participating discipline. Students will be able to apply for scholarships to assist with the cost of attendance and travel. 

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