On July 30, 2020, the GeoTech Center hosted a discussion on how to best increase trust and sensemaking in our communities as we further integrate our digital and physical lives. Sensemaking can be described as how individuals and groups interpret current events based on past experience, while trust is the reliance on entities whose actions one does not control. The panel featured Alex Ruiz, Founder of Phaedrus Engineering; Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, Senior Scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Health Security; Joseph T. Bonivel, Jr., PhD, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center; Stephen Rodriguez, Nonresident Senior Fellow and Senior Adviser at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; and Sara-Jayne Terp, Cofounder of the CogSec Collaboration, all moderated by David Bray, PhD, Director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center.
Alex Ruiz emphasized the importance of trust and sensemaking when it comes to people cooperating and how important it is to understand these issues in our current geopolitical climate. Dr. Tara Kirk Sell works to improve public health in times of crisis and terrorism through information and communication and pointed out the divide created by the novel coronavirus in our country, further solidified by poor communication and misinformation and how this could be better handled in the future by strengthening trust between people, communities, and government. Dr. Joseph T. Bonivel spoke to the importance of people’s willingness to trust the unpredictable, and the reasons that such trust is critical while adopting new technologies. Mr. Stephen Rodriguez expressed how the US government alone is ill-equipped to digitally protect and secure the public from misinformation, particularly during elections. All the panelists agreed that trust and sensemaking can and should be strengthened in a lively discussion about how we can best use technology to make that happen.
Hannah Biggs is a recent University of Redlands graduate with a B.A in Political Science and Public Policy with an emphasis on human rights and criminal justice reform. She is currently an intern at the Atlantic Council’s GeoTech Center where she uses her skills as a writer and researcher to support the team. She was previously an intern at the National Criminal Justice Association and worked with a coalition of non-profits to create policy implementation tests for California’s Fair Chance Act.