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Stevan Harnad

Stevan harnad 242x262 ks photo
The Future of Communication series

In web we trust

September 19, 2013 | 20:00

Is our intellect evolving at the same pace as the proliferation of knowledge and technology? On September 19 Stevan Harnad, an expert in the field of cognitive science and professor at the universities of Quebec and Southampton, answered that question at the Digital October Center.

On September 19 the Digital October Center hosted a tele-lecture with an expert in the field of cognitive psychology: Stevan Harnad, PhD, who has spent over 40 years in US, Canadian, and British universities working on the issues related to cognition … online.

During his lecture Stevan spoke about the greatest revolutions in communication over the past 300,000 years, without which the internet may never have come about. He did explain:

  • how did the brain and consciousness evolve before the digital age?
  • what changes are occurring in our perception and production of information now?
  • is there such a thing as an “extended mind”?
  • are we going to be replaced by artificial intelligence in the nearest future?


Participation is free of charge thanks to Rostelecom, the project’s general partner. Register and join us at the Digital October Center!

Way back when, Harnad anticipated the appearance of many web mechanisms: key tools we use today that allow us to transmit thoughts and ideas almost as fast as they appear. He also assisted in opening up the latest scientific knowledge to the general populace and was the first to directly propose to other scientists the “green” road for providing open access to their articles free for all online.

In 1978, decades before the Web, he launched Behavioral and Brain Sciences(BBS), a journal formatted similarly to today’s web publications, with articles accompanied by comments and questions written by other scientists just as in an online forum. BBS, published by Cambridge University Press, is currently among the highest impact journals in all the fields it covers.

Building on his experience with BBS, in 1990 Stevan proposed the concept of “scientific skywriting,” the creation of an electronic archive of materials in different formats (from articles and news to correspondence) organized by topic and category with the ability to comment on them, thinking that the upcoming century characterized by digital communications would replace the tradition of oral training.

In order to encourage his colleagues to share their discoveries free for all on the Web, he posted his manifest entitled the “Subversive Proposal” in 1994 later publicizing it at a major conference in London. The gist was that copies of articles should be openly accessible at the same time that they are published in subscription-based scientific journals.

Today, as universities are coming up against the necessity of offering mass education and more and are more actively employing new technology for that purpose, his idea is gaining momentum. Stevan hasn’t given any thought to stopping and his research is also investigating the basis for all these new cognitive developments in the brain and in the evolutionary history of the mind. He is Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Sciences at Université du Québec à Montreal as well as Professor of Web Science at University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. He will be directing a Summer Institute on Web Science and the Mind in Monreal in 2014.


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    Maria Falikman

    Senior researcher, Center of cognitive science at philological faculty, MSU

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    Vladimir Spiridonov

    PhD, Professor, RSUH

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    Ekaterina Pechenkova

    Head of the Department of Academic Psychology, Institute of Practical Psychology and Psychoanalysis

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    Alexander Voyskunsky

    professor, PhD in Psychology, director of “Psychological Problems of Informatization” laboratory in the Psychology Department of Moscow State University. Specialist on the Internet's influence on the human psyche

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