“Fake” Knowledge: Knowing and the Illusion of Knowing at the Helix Center

2:30-4:30 pm, October 14th: join us in NYC or watch us stream LIVE!
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The Helix Center for Interdisciplinary Investigation presents: “Fake” Knowledge: Knowing and the Illusion of Knowing
Saturday, October 14th, 2017 at 2:30pm

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The Marianne & Nicholas Young Auditorium of The New York Psychoanalytic Society & Institute
247 East 82nd Street, NYC Free and open to the public Seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis No registration required!

A nomenclator was a slave whose duty was to accompanying his master in canvassing the streets of Classical Rome in order to recall the names of those his master encountered. Each of us is, in a way, both that ancient politician and that slave, relying on others’ memories to supply us with knowledge, and others relying on us for the knowledge we recall for them. Hence, knowledge has always been, in part, a distributive entity, requiring a delegation of mental tasks, an implicit commitment to a social contract.

Histories have documented the occurrence of mass delusions—which also leads us to question our collective intuition. Close to the origins of humankind is a fascination with the unknown and the unverifiable, with the early cultivation of spiritual life and religion proving as a testament to this. What is apocryphal and what should believe in? Even to the present day, as technology and science become evermore complicated, we are asked to distinguish between proven fact and educated speculation.

In the age of a seemingly omniscient internet, an impersonal cloud-mind (with which—despite attempts to humanize Siri and “her” ilk—no one can yet lay claim outside of fiction to a convincing reciprocal emotional relationship), when the object of our confided ignorance is no longer a person but a thing, when our subjective sense of self is no longer limned by the encounter with another, what happens to our ability to distinguish internal from external knowledge? Are we led to an illusory sense of our own knowledge?

Is the immediate, distributive information of the internet changing the way our brains work, possibly holding the promise of transcending the limitations of individual knowledge? If so, does the virtue of its collective knowledge lead us further to question the very value of our individuality? Or are we heedlessly (or ineluctably) heading toward a human-machine collective heretofore only within the purview of science fiction?

There is great excitement in the scientific community about the prospect of forming a transitive partnership with a seemingly unlimited source of knowledge. Where, however, is the place of wisdom? Does more information, more knowledge, inevitably lead to superior opinions, decision-making, and moral understanding? Is collective knowledge always less susceptible to the pretense of knowledge that individual thinking is? The history of human advancement would suggest otherwise, replete as it is with counterexamples to the superiority of collective knowledge over individual reasoning

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