The crisis of human collective decision-making in a social media world

Seminar Details
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm


The crisis of human collective decision-making in a social media world
Professor, Biology, University of Washington


Talk presented by The Center for the Study of Complex Systems


Carl Bergstrom is a frequently consulted expert on disinformation, and is professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Washington. (Short bio below.)

This will be a live presentation in the Rackham Amphitheatre followed by a light reception. Registration to attend at the last link below. This event will be livestreamed as a webinar. Scroll to bottom for complete webinar invitation.

This talk is free and open to the public. All welcome. Register at link below.

ABSTRACT: We are a species of information foragers. Individually and collectively, we have evolved to scour our natural and social environments for useful information. Over the past twenty years, society has constructed an information pipeline, the so-called Internet 2.0, to satisfy and profit from our evolved desires for novel information and social connection. What happens when the scale of human communication is radically transformed in the span of a generation, and our mechanisms for creating collective understanding are upended? What happens when this entire process is not stewarded to promote the spread of accurate information, strengthen democracy, and advance human well-being—but rather is to a first approximation engineered by machine learning algorithms to get people to click on advertisements?

In this talk, I’ll look at what social media and information technology more generally are doing to society, consider how we ended up here, and explore some possible suggestions for what we can do about it.

Short Bio

Carl Bergstrom is a Professor of Biology at the University of Washington. Though trained in evolutionary biology and mathematical population genetics, he enjoys working across disciplines and integrating ideas across the span of the natural and social sciences.

The unifying theme running throughout his work is the concept of information. Within biology, he studies how communication evolves and how the process of evolution encodes information in genomes. In the philosophy and sociology of science, he studies how norms and institutions influence scholars’ research strategies and, in turn, our scientific understanding of the world. Within informatics, he studies how citations and other traces of scholarly activity can be used to better navigate the overwhelming volume of scholarly literature. Lately he has become concerned with the spread of disinformation on social networks, and is interested in figuring out what we can do about it.


Dr. Bergstrom has published extensively on COVID, and misinformation (and COVID misinformation!) in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Scientific American and innumerable scientific journals. He was also a frequent guest on news programs especially during the early times of the pandemic.

Dr. Bergstrom is also an avid birder (especially corvids) of which he takes beautiful photos.


ACCESSIBILITY: Please email if you have accessibility and accommodation needs.

RESTROOMS: Gender Inclusive: Floor 1 Room #1514, Floor 3 Room #3132T & 3134T
Accessible: Floor 0B-4 Gendered Bathrooms
ELEVATOR & STAIR ACCESS: Elevators for the upper level are found on either side of the lobby.
LACTATION ROOM: Room 2521, West Wing/west end of building, 2nd floor. Privacy Room with sink. Contact the Rackham Business Office at 647-5927.
PARKING: Parking structures are cash-only.
- Liberty Square
- Maynard Street
- Fletcher Street: (Power Center structure)
- Palmer Drive
- Thayer Street
RAMP ACCESS - There is a wheelchair ramp on the Washington Street side of the building.


You are invited to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Carl Bergstrom - Complex Systems Special Event
Time: Jan 31, 2023 04:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 988 8845 7065
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Meeting ID: 988 8845 7065


City Parking: Maynard Street Parking Structure
324 Maynard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104