“Information Zombies and Hydroxychloroquine”
with Cailin O’Connor
February 16, 2022
During the COVID-19 pandemic, false beliefs have spread that fall outside our normal understanding of misinformation. In this talk, I use network models to discuss two ways this happens. In the first, plausible scientific claims turn out to be false, but nonetheless continue to spread and influence policy. These “information zombies” are hard to fight because they look like trustworthy information, even though they are no longer viable. The second involves cases where new scientific claims, like “hydroxychloroquine is an effective cure for COVID-19” get attached to political camps, thus preventing normal discourse about these claims.
Cailin O’Connor is a philosopher of biology and behavioral sciences, philosopher of science, and evolutionary game theorist. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Logic and Philosophy of Science, and a member of the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Science at UC Irvine. O’Connor is currently co- administering the NSF grant “Consensus, Democracy, and the Public Understanding of Science” with philosopher of physics James Owen Weatherall (previous NSF grant Social Dynamics and Diversity in Epistemic Communities). Their co-authored trade book The Misinformation Age was published with Yale University Press. Her monograph The Origins of Unfairness was published in July 2019 by Oxford University Press, and her book Games in the Philosophy of Biology was published in the CUP elements series in 2020.