The Nobel Prize Summit held between 24th and 26th May 2023 in Washington DC showcased how the war against the ‘viral infection’ of misinformation and disinformation is to be fought by academic institutions, the mainstream media, social media companies, and governments. The summit’s title, ‘Truth, Trust and Hope’ is a reflection of a view held by the organisers and their backers. They uphold that unless this war is won, public trust in science is done for. You may not be surprised to learn that cancel culture and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to play key roles in the battle strategy against ‘scientific misinformation’.
“The great thing is not having a mind”, writes Nobel Laureate Louise Glück, in her poem “The Red Poppy”. And what a great thing indeed, for having a mind is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles in the way of authoritarianism and the hunger of a few for extreme power. People’s minds can be either a tool to further an agenda, or a hindrance to achieving it. It depends from what perspective you choose to look at it. We’ll explore the idea of perspectives throughout the article.
The Nobel Prize Summit began by putting the assembled in-person and virtual audience into an almost trance-like state with a performance piece about mis- and dis-information by film producer Smriti Keshari. Warning: don’t be put off by the performer’s disembodied mouth, the words which emanate from it are too insightful to be ignored – this is art, for corporate science protectionism’s sake!
“….Were their eyes or ears or nose or memory, playing tricks on them? […] Did they see something that wasn’t there? … What were they to believe?… Disinformation’s web, tangled threads of falsehood spread, truth obscured, misled”. Extracts of the monologue from Smriti Keshari’s performance piece at the Nobel Prize Summit.
It turns out Keshari’s piece was inspired by Samuel Beckett’s 1972 monologue Not I that is delivered in a similar way: via an illuminated, seemingly disembodied mouth. Keshari borrowed another idea from Beckett’s work in which the previously voiceless protagonist begins to doubt her ability to find her voice as well as her own memory, coming to the conclusion that “memories could be false”.
Nobel Prize Summit listeners were taken on an emotional journey, which included the 130 years of Nobel prizeworthy discoveries as well as an “experience” of what some may consider misinformation and disinformation