How Communication can be Harmful to the Collective: on the Epistemology of Social Networks

Erik J. Olsson (Lund University)

7 de abril de 2016, 12-14 horas

Sala de Juntas del Módulo VII – Filosofía y Letras

Organizado por el Departamento de Lógica, Historia y Filosofía de la Ciencia, UNED y Episoc



Abstract: You probably agree that your social network influence influences what you believe to be true. But does this also mean that the particular structure of your social network, i.e. how people are hooked up topologically, is significant? The obvious common sense/internet age answer is that the more connected people are, the better they will be at tracking truth. It would follow that the fully connected network, wherein everyone is communicates with everyone else, maximizes truth-tracking performance of a social network. However, this corollary has been persistently undermined in a number of agent-based and empirical studies. According to these studies, many connections in a network can make the group less competent, although it usually speeds up the convergence of the network. Using a sophisticated Bayesian agent-based model developed at Lund University we improve on existing studies in a number of ways drawing on Alvin Goldman’s seminal work in social epistemology. Our study indicates 1) that connectivity and clustering are positively correlated with bad “group think” (bandwagoning) effects due to increased sensitivity to misplaced initial opinions, and 2) that agents in clusters are generally disadvantaged as far as truth-tracking is concerned.