Those who never knew the old world before high speed internet became commonplace would be hard-pressed to comprehend it. For all of human history we had to form connections with the relative handful of people it’s possible to get to know face to face and from this tiny sample our concept of the entire society was formed. If you couldn’t successfully form alliances within that small sample, you got weeded out, you starved, you died.
Survival has always before depended on getting along with those immediately around us. Once we realize this it suddenly makes sense why people were willing to make suicidal charges on trenches with machine guns or actually believe in religions that tell us life is finally fair in a heaven no one has ever seen. It was actually rational.
The chances of survival from charging a machine gun were greater than the odds of surviving social ostracism. Humans have a primal fear of social rejection greater even than the fear of death. For one might die and still leave behind memes and offspring, or at least a clean reputation so others sharing one’s genes might be in good standing with the pack. So almost everyone was willing to risk their lives for stupid causes or believe in a flying spaghetti monster, if necessary, just to be able to belong.
These intense selective pressures have been there as long as there’s been people but there’s always been strange people, mutants who weren’t quite wired to think the same way as everyone else. I figure someone just needs to have some mental quality that’s less frequent than every 1/300 or so that interferes with their ability to blend into the group. That’s enough to make it likely, I suppose, that someone will be unable to relate to any of the people they meet. If they were even suffered to exist in the past they were relegated to live as hermits. In the best case, they could live in monasteries and even have the potential to contribute to their societies while being kept at a distance. It’s surely no coincidence that these people became the sages and the first scientists. The ability to think and act free of social pressures gave them the ability to deal with problems that more eusocial humans were constitutionally incapable of contemplating.
It’s always been dangerous to traffic in the ways of reality. For humans, the real reality is almost always the consensus of the group. Humans cling to their collective ideas even as Mongols gather outside the city walls. Even where outlier people were allowed to contribute to society most social orders made sure they remained childless, ensuring their odd traits became even scarcer with each generation.
We look at those civilizations that have been around longest and sure enough, even where their average members have very high IQ, they tend to lack personal initiative and creativity. Above all, living in big groups selects for people who feel comfortable fitting in with the group.
There’s always been plenty of people who had misgivings about the social order but enough wherewithal to blend in and sense enough to keep their mouths shut about the tribal taboos. However even inner conflict puts one at a competitive disadvantage against those who are perfectly in their element and unable to question or think for themselves.
The internet though, has changed everything. There was no internet until I was already well through childhood and dialup access when it arrived was something of a novelty no one my age quite knew what to do with yet. High speed internet with modern search engines, a mature blogosphere, and social media didn’t start to become common until I was nearly out of high school.
So my case is illustrative because I was an isolated island all through my early life and about a decade behind in social skills by the time I left high school. The internet saved my life. I would at best have eked out a bare existence as a basement dweller forced to avoid most other human beings to get by. It was brutally hard to catch up on years of missed early development as it was.
Being able to go to a website and read written explanations of human behavior in mechanistic terms I could understand was crucial for getting me started. I never was able to “get” all the tacit understandings that seem to flow effortlessly between most people. Having it all spelled out for me in logical terms was just what I needed. After years of practice, I can play their games now. Strangely enough, I find myself coming out on top now because I understand their underlying motivations better than they do.
Since the internet began to grow up, I’ve been able to look for people who have the most similar thought patterns and share ideas. I’ve been able to put my own ideas out there for anyone who might be receptive. Though I am very small as bloggers go, hundreds of thousands of pairs of eyes have seen my writings where without the world wide web, these thoughts would have been relegated to a personal notebook no one would ever read. When even someone like me has access to several sports stadiums worth of people, it’s past time for the establishment to start worrying.
In the larger society, word of mouth, television, the news, a few publishing houses determined social reality for everyone with no real voice of dissent possible. I can remember as a child in the 90s how journalists with newspaper columns seemed like minor gods and the voice of public opinion. It seemed even more official when the newspaper was a physical thing that arrived on the doorstep every morning. Now, less than two decades later, they’ve been reduced to a joke, their commenters often painfully more knowledgeable and open-minded than they are. More telling still, their commenters aren’t bought and paid for by magnates who control their salary.
Freeing up thoughtful people who would otherwise have lived out their days as closeted outcasts has created critical weak points in the social consensus.
Outliers are by definition few in number but simply seeing anyone challenge the tribal taboos without consequence gives permission to millions of others to follow in apostasy. Most people only believe the things they believe because they’re useful to social belonging. Once these beliefs outlive their use, they are forgotten overnight.
We now see the rise of politicians that say what what people really think when they aren’t posing in social environments.
Most importantly, outliers are now able to thrive, gain influence, and have offspring. For those who thrived best in the Old Consensus the present seems like the apocalypse as the world gets ever more complex and the last traditions fall apart. For outliers who’ve always had to live in the shadows like cockroaches, there’s never been a better time to be alive. Instead of being thankful to be allowed to live as celibates in a monastery or left unmolested as wandering sadhu ascetics, we are in the fray, able to participate and exert power for the first time ever.
Barely 6-7 years ago, heretical dissident groups like MRAs, MGTOWs, and gamers were seen by most as being in the same league with NAMBLA and the KKK. And now, after years of aggressively growing their audience, these dissidents find they suddenly have an ideological influence over national politics. Only the internet makes such a sudden seismic shift possible. Along with them, many formerly covert schools of thought are finally able to make their presence felt. Or rather, many disparate thinkers, have the opportunity now to found their school and compete directly for turf with tenured academics who punched all the right tickets.
See Also: On Herdbeasts