Faced today with so much disinformation as we are today, how can citizens be mutually supportive in developing intelligence – intelligence being understood in all its senses, including as a capacity of individual inquirers, as a quality of publicly available understandings of the world, and as a source of insight into potentially disruptive aspects of social life?
Is there any reason not to be committed to:
- the development and exercise of inquiring minds as an essential aspect of human life;
- recognition of the value of social cooperation in developing intelligence;
- maximal openness in the sharing of knowledge and understanding;
- respect for the principles of freedom of thought and expression;
- defence of those whose lawful rights of free expression are curtailed by government;
- promotion of education that supports the development of intellectual autonomy and social understanding at all ages;
- defence of a political order that respects constitutional principles for the governance of intelligence gathering and sharing, including provision for democratic oversight of intelligence agencies, state and corporate?
Are there other related commitments that should be regarded as similarly important?
Personally, I perceive disturbing trends in society today that tend to undermine the possibility of fulfilling those commitments. Of particular concern is the spread of disinformation in public communications arising not merely from negligence or incompetence.
Agencies with resources to pursue particular agendas can engage in various strategic communications aimed at influencing the public into accepting beliefs that would, with the exercise of free intelligence, be more critically scrutinised.
A further concern is that the education system is being adversely influenced, with a particular risk being that universities, whose social role is to be custodians of the highest standards of research and instruction, are drawn into ventures that dilute and even undermine those standards.
In fulfilling a commitment to raising the level of public debate about significant matters of political or scientific controversy, universities have a vital role to play, on behalf of – and answerably to – the whole of society.
What do you think? Please feel free to comment below…