Rewired: How digital technologies shape cognition and democracy
This analytical report takes an escalating three-tiered approach: examining how effects of digital technologies on cognitive processes then affect the individual and society. At Tier 1, the most basic cognitive level, we hone in on the processes of memory, attention, and reasoning. At Tier 2, taking into consideration the combinatorial implications for individuals, we focus on critical thinking, trust, and emotions. Finally, at Tier 3, the analysis delves into how these insights drive societal-level issues, namely the susceptibility to disinformation and affective polarization. We attribute these negative effects to two forms of digital technologies: 1) those that affect and manipulate cognition, and 2) those that outsource cognitive functions.
To develop a model for understanding these effects, we propose a Framework on Techno-Cognitive Risks that identifies the precise elements of digital technologies that may lead to areas of concern or vulnerability from the fundamental cognitive level up to the societal level. This framework identifies 12 risks that emerge from 4 main features of technology in our increasingly digital world: 1) Design and Gamification; 2) Unnaturally Immersive and Easy Experience; 3) Lack of Friction; and 4) Information Overload. It is through the identification of these specific risks within these technology-driven domains that focused efforts can work to mitigate the threats to democracy we see today.download pdf