Mind Hacking

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Code Completion Credits Range Language
NI-HCM ZK 5 2P+1C Czech
Garant předmětu:
Josef Holý, Marcel Jiřina
Josef Holý, Marcel Jiřina
Josef Holý, Marcel Jiřina
Department of Information Security

Cognitive security is an emerging discipline that is closely related to cyber security. While the domain of cyber security is the protection of networks, information systems and assets, the domain of cognitive security is the protection of the human mind from intentional and unintentional digital manipulation. The topic of cognitive security is growing in importance in the context of information warfare, increasing digital dependence and the development of artificial intelligence, where these phenomena from the Internet environment have real societal impacts such as disruption of social cohesion, threats to democracy or war.


There are no entry requirements.

Syllabus of lectures:

1. (Intro) Introduction to the topic, digital manipulation and epistemic crisis, societal implications.

2. (Intro) Context. History, ethics, myths, what is different today than before. Paradigm shift - from book printing, to mass, to social media.

3. (Intro) Optics for structuring complexity. Digital Manipulation - The Epidemiological Triad

4. (Deep) Zoom in on the detail. Agent. Memetics, actor identity, motivation.

5. (Deep) Zoom on detail. Agent. Manipulative narratives, troll strategies.

6. (Deep) Close-up. Guest - individual. Humanity, transhumanism, limits of critical thinking. Neuroplasticity - Mere Exposure Effect,, Emotions - Cognitive Biases, Behavioral profiles and their processing.

7. Guest - Group. Group dynamics in information space. Types of communities, models of (self-)organization, value frameworks. Digital cults - QAnon, cryptocurrencies and others. Herd behaviour, group manipulation, „movement hijack“.

8. Environment. Social networking algorithms, Situational Awareness, Digital addiction.

9. Environment. Media space and conspiracy, fragmentation of society.

10. (Defence) Looking back at the whole. So what? Solution 1 - Individual. Critical thinking, mindfulnes, depolarizing techniques, tools.

11. (Defense) Looking back at the whole. So what? Solution 2 - Group/Organization. Technological solutions.

12. (Defense) Looking back at the whole. So what? Solution 3 - Company. Legal aspects, European vs US law (for digital technologies, AI, social networks).

13. (Conclusion) Reminder of red line subject and highlights. Opening the door for further exploration and resolution of the topic.

Syllabus of tutorials:

Exercises will take the form of semester projects in which students will work in teams to solve real problems. The semester projects will focus on a wide range of technologies used for digital manipulation. Specific assignments will be developed at least in part with relevant government and non-profit sector stakeholders. The output of each semester project should ideally be a working prototype published as open source and reusable by the general public.

1. Assignment of semester projects and formation of teams.

2. Understanding the problem, mapping existing solutions.

3. Mapping of existing solutions, concept design.

4. Supervision 1. Design of own solution.

5. Supervision 2. Testing and calibration of own solution.

6. Defence of semester projects before an expert committee (practitioners + external experts).

7. Reflection of semester projects.

Study Objective:

Upon completion of the course, students will be able to:

- Evaluate how cyber and cognitive security interact.

- Evaluate digital manipulations at different levels.

- Understand the mechanisms of monitoring, surveillance and influence on the Internet

- Identify misinformation

- Apply tools to explore inauthentic activity at the account and network level

- Evaluate the ethical aspects of misinformation and digital manipulation

- Understand the different defences at the individual, organisational and societal level

- Develop tools to limit the impact of digital manipulation

Study materials:


[1] Sinan Aral: The Hype Machine (2021)

[2] John Rust, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell: Modern Psychometrics (2021)

[3] Kate Crawford: Atlas of AI (2021)

[4] Johan Farkas, Jannick Schou: Post-Truth, Fake News and Democracy (2020)

[5] Christopher Wylie: Mindfuck: Insiden Cambridge Analytica’s Plot to Break the World (2019)

[6] Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019)

[7] Peter Pomerantsev: This Is Not Propaganda (2019)

[8] Katherine Hayles: Untought: The Power of the Cognitive Nonconsious (2017)

[9] David Halpern: Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference (2015)

[10] Frank Pasquale: The Black Box Society (2015)

[11] Gad Saad: The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas Are Killing Common Sense (2021)


[12] Carlos Carrasco-Farré: The fingerprints of misinformation: how deceptive content differs from reliable sources in terms of cognitive effort and appeal to emotions (Nature, 2022)

[13] Topological measures for identifying and predicting the spread of complex contagions (Nature, 2021)

[14] Predicting human decisions with behavioral theories and machine learning (2019)

[15] Aral, et. al: The spread of true and false news online (MIT, 2018)


[16] Center for Humane Technology

[17] Stanford Internet Observatory

[18] Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics and Public Policy

[19] The Markup

[20] Algotransparency

[21] Behavioral Institute


[21] Jonathan Haidt: Why the past 10 years of American Life have been uniquely stupid (2022, The Atlantic)

[22] Shoshana Zuboff: The Coup We Are Not Talking About (2021, NYTimes)

[23] Why some biologists and ecologists think social media is a risk to humanity (2021)

Further information:
Time-table for winter semester 2023/2024:
Holý J.
(lecture parallel1)
Holý J.

(lecture parallel1
parallel nr.101)

NBFIT učebna
Holý J.

(lecture parallel1
parallel nr.102)

NBFIT učebna
Time-table for summer semester 2023/2024:
Time-table is not available yet
The course is a part of the following study plans:
Data valid to 2024-05-18
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