Infostorms

Vincent F. Hendricks & Pelle G. Hansen

The information society is upon us. New technologies have given us back-pocket libraries, online discussion forums, blogs, crowd-based opinion aggregators, social media and breaking news wherever, whenever. But are we more enlightened and rational because of it?

With points of departure in philosophy, logic, social psychology, economics and choice and game theory, Infostorms shows how information may be used to improve the quality of personal decision and group thinking but also warns against the informational pitfalls which modern information technology may amplify, from science to reality culture and from cyberbullying to what it really is, that makes you buy a book like this.

Reviews & Reactions

Infostorms uses examples and logic to offer a distinctive perspective on how everyday activities combined with public information may manipulate our actions, our opinions, or our choices of what to buy or sell. Their examples illustrate notions ranging from social proof, information cascades, opinion bubbles, pluralistic ignorance, framing and polarization effects, and bystander effects. The pages are full of summaries of experimental studies, anecdotes and simple models that challenge how we think of information, knowledge, and actions. This book should be read by everyone interested in network formation and researchers interested in decision-making behavior.

Robert A. Becker Professor of Economics, Indiana University, Bloomington

Informed fair decision-making is not a fixed virtue that a democratic society acquires once and for all, it is a process that constantly needs rethinking and reshaping under changing circumstances. This highly original book brings the latest insights from logic, philosophy, social choice theory, cognitive psychology, and game theory to bear on the vast information streams that drive our lives. Its innovative unified perspective sensitizes the reader to the many informational whirlpools that can make us, and our societies, spin out of control, and it makes us better equipped to cope with them. The result is a showpiece of socially responsible fundamental science.

Johan van Benthem Professor of Logic and Philosophy, University of Amsterdam & Stanford University

Hendricks and Hansen alert us to a gathering storm – the Infostorm – that threatens to overwhelm societies with vast amounts of information used uncritically by people to form opinions and make decisions. The storm, they argue, undermines our ability to sort true from trite from tendentious and will, if unchecked, undermine our collective intelligence. With this brilliant book, we have been warned. It is up to all of us in the world today to be stewards of the common resource that is trustworthy and relevant information.

Adam Brandenburger J.P. Valles Professor of Business Economics and Strategy, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, NYU

Infostorms is a sophisticated and accessible investigation into the crucial information flows that shape and govern so many aspects of our social, economic and political lives. It elegantly manages to select crucial results in a variety of technical fields, from logic to game theory, from economics to psychology, and make them cast new and much needed light on the infosphere. An interdisciplinary tour de force not to be missed.

Luciano Floridi OII’s Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information, University of Oxford and Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford

Modern man doesn’t need more news – he needs better news. And journalists should learn that information is no longer a scarce resource. We all drown in the polluted information surrounding us. What people need is means of navigation, meaning and alignment. Infostorms is a thoughtful, well-written and scary warning to every media organization: Change!

Ulrik Haagerup Executive Director of News, Danish Broadcasting Company

We live in environments that are rich in information, soundbites, and noise. Our highly connected social networks facilitate the transmission of information, but can also contribute to the spread of misinformation and even disinformation. To build strong democracies and flourishing liberal societies, we must understand how our information environments function and what challenges and opportunities they generate. Written by two scholars with a strongly interdisciplinary orientation, this book brings together insights from many different academic fields to shed light on the mechanisms underpinning information flows in society and how we might respond to them. It is a highly recommended read for social scientists and concerned citizens alike.

Christian List Professor of Political Science and Philosophy, London School of Economics

This is an unusual book with a wonderful collection of social phenomena that involve logical reasoning with important notions such as knowledge, information, and beliefs. I was particularly impressed by the nice balance between intriguing stories, formal analysis, and the insights conveyed by the authors. I am sure that readers will be enlightened by this book.

Fenrong Liu Professor of Logic, Tsinghua University, Beijing

Relying on a variety of disciplines, tools and traditions Infostormsprovides a very exciting and disconcerting analysis of the powers, which must be scrutinized by all who are concerned about the quality, and future of our democratic systems. We are blown away by storms of alleged information …

Mogens Lykketoft President of the United Nations General Assembly

A highly readable book, Infostorms is aimed as much at "students" in the broad sense as those at the university. It is sure to provoke wide-ranging discussions in classrooms. In addition, its themes and examples suggest new research questions. All in all, it is an important contribution to the social sciences for both the academy and the public.

Lawrence S. Moss Professor of Mathematics, Indiana University Program in Pure and Applied Logic

This is a delightful book and deserves to be read by everyone who wants to understand our information saturated twenty first century. It is written in a light and breezy tone, with amusing examples, but manages to cover an enormous amount of ground. The points made by the authors explain when democracy works, and when it does not. I have already given copies of the first edition to several friends and look forward to the second.

Rohit Parikh Distinguished Professor, Computer Science, Mathematics, Philosophy, City University of New York

We now make our democratic decisions, as we live our everyday lives, buffeted by gales of purported information that are stronger and more wayward than any previous generation has had to weather. Drawing on many different disciplines and traditions, Infostorms offers an analysis of these forces that is indispensable for everyone who is invested, as we all should be, in the value and the future of democracy.

Philip Pettit L.S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University; University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University

Every few days, another digital tsunami passes through the global web. Hendricks and Hansen bring a clear, structured understanding of how this happens and its impact on society. A structured analysis of how network effects turn small ideas into digital tsunamis.

Andreas Ramos Former Manager of Global SEO at Cisco, Palo Alto

We’re all familiar with the idea that without a well-informed electorate, democracy is doomed. But what does this mean today? At the same time advances in technology are profoundly changing how we receive and share information, science is providing startling new insights into how the mind works and the predictable pathways that lead us to behave irrationally. Fortunately for us, Vincent F. Hendricks and Pelle G. Hansen can explain and integrate what’s happening on both cutting-edge fronts. Their highly original and lucid text is an indispensible guide for making sense of the present and securing the future!

Evan Selinger Professor of Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

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