Digital Cognition & Democracy Initiative

The Digital Cognition & Democracy Initiative seeks to investigate how digital systems affect human cognition, and what those effects mean for democracy and democratic institutions.

In 2020, the Institute for Security and Technology began to examine future digital threats to democracy that would arise over the next decade. This body of work led us to explore in depth the ways digital systems affect human cognition, and how these effects might undermine civic participation and democratic institutions. This foundation body of work led us to initiate what we now call the Digital Cognition & Democracy Initiative (DCDI). 

Our early findings: digital systems are changing our cognitive faculties and their capabilities, but in both negative and positive ways, and each need to be explored to better understand the net impact. The best solutions to problems that arise as a result will mitigate the negative externalities of technology on cognition and amplify the positive ones.

DCDI will bring together a global coalition of actors to dig into the question of whether digital systems are overwhelming human cognitive abilities—and in turn, how that might undermine citizens’ abilities to engage, participate, and support democracies. The goal is to build a global, collaborative coalition of academia, civil society, industry and government to clearly diagnose the core drivers, identify practicable solutions, and then work to potentially drive and coordinate implementation of successful ones, and in doing so bolster the resilience of democratic society.

For more on IST’s efforts in the information environment and democracy, see our topical resources page here.