FORWARD BASE B

"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

Tag Archives: internet

Internet Benefits People Asymmetrically

I saw a great article at Return of Kings a little while ago about how the internet is the “great equalizer.”  This is true insofar as internet is the next printing press.  It’s true like all revolutions in communication that it raises all boats, but as always, some more than others.  Every change in a given environment favors species in some niches over others.
Let’s face it, most internet users stay obediently on the designated pasture of facebook, social media, and its attendant shared games.  Those who are able to explore further are affected very differently.
The constant flow of information can give someone a trans-human sort of consciousness or riddle their mind with irrelevant details and outright falsehoods.
In real life and on the internet, I see many people who still don’t get it.  They complain about how the online world has degraded the quality of content and has enabled short attention spans.  That speaks more to the content they choose to interact with than what is actually available.  Someone with a naturally critical mind and inquisitive nature can tear through a hundred different sources, taking note of the bias of each and arrive at a synthesis.  Those who thrive on the internet understand every piece of information has strengths, weaknesses, and biases.  There is no holy gospel or answer to everything.  Those who deal in nuance do well.  Those who can’t handle it end up indignant and frustrated waxing eloquent about the good old days when a few printing presses in New York controlled the entire flow of the written word.  Or they end up in an echo chamber where everyone tells them what they want to hear—but that’s no different than what most people already do in real life.
For anyone willing to learn the internet has made almost any field of knowledge accessible at any time.  Outliers intuitively understand this means a potential path around the usual gatekeepers who weed them out and make would-be-apprentices grovel for their secrets.  Hands on instruction guided by experienced teachers remains important for mastery, but is no longer necessary to get an introduction and crack open the realms of theory.  The more autonomous the individual the greater the benefit derived.

Those who swim in the ocean of information like a natural habitat become a new aristocracy as they wield disproportionate influence over cultural ideas and public opinion.  Anymore the next trend in politics, art, or culture begins far out at sea as a ripple until finally it hits the teeming coral reefs that hug the shoreline as a towering wave.
As time goes on, those who can’t survive outside the safe coral reefs of facebook and instagram get left further and further behind getting liked by all their “friends” while those on the outer rim create the discourse and therefore weave the very fabric of their social reality.  For herdlings, social opinion and consensus are truest reality and a fist to the face, bitter cold wind, fatigue after hard labor, or even the piercing pangs of hunger or the need to breathe are but flimsy dreams compared.

The Internet Makes Social Outliers Viable

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

Politics is Changing Because of Internet and Social Media

It has been a delicious spectacle to watch new competitors not only messily shit all over business as usual in politics, but actually take over the existing party machinery for themselves.  There’s something poetic about that since the established parties protected their mediocrity by rigging the system against competitors.  It ends with their own weaponry turned against them.
I have been typically apathetic towards politics, but it has been a particular fixation of mine to watch the consensus that has existed all my life begin to finally burn down.

There’s a lot of talk as to why this movement is finally happening now even though people have complained about “choosing the lesser evil” for decades.
It’s simple.
a) enough people are getting desperate enough.
b) more importantly, the internet is maturing as a technology and we are beginning to feel its true impact.

The internet is the new printing press. It changes society by dramatically increasing people’s access to information. The original printing press set up the right circumstances for the emergence of mass literacy. The trouble with mass literacy was that traditional monarchy, religion, and social mores were predicated on most people having very little access to information.
The change was slow but steady and sure. Over a few centuries, more abundant information made kingdoms and empires non-viable. In the age of the railroad and telegraph, nation-states began to replace the old kingdoms in earnest and WW1 settled the matter.
The emergence of radio and television provided more access to information but ended up bolstering the power of nation-state because both mediums were very easily controlled from tiny centralized sources.
The internet as a decentralized medium was always going to be a challenge to the order of nations.
It was already beginning to destabilize things as a minority of curious people browsed nerdy websites on their PCs. This was the printing press. Then “mass literacy” began to take hold with the advent of social media that involved ordinary people in online discourse. In 2008, Barack Obama soared to victory as the candidate of the internet. Around 2011-2012 we saw twitter riots in Tunisia and Egypt spread to the Western World as Occupy Wall Street. This spate of activity was startling but not enough to upend business as usual. One more development was needed. The spread of smartphones has finally sealed the deal. No longer can “soundbites” on TV and radio, or “experts” in the newspapers decisively control public opinion.
It took over 300 years for the implications of the printing press to be felt in full. The internet in 30 years is making an impact much faster since it is
a) orders of magnitude beyond previous breakthroughs—even the printing press at first just gave people access to the bible, a few classics, and public posters and pamphlets.
b) starting off with a society that already has orders of magnitude more information and wealth than was available in 15th century Europe.

Even so, we are just beginning to understand how big the implications are. I’ve already guessed that nation-states and their political systems will be replaced altogether by more cohesive “tribe-states” steadily over time just as a literate public inevitably led to empires being replaced by nation-states. Each increase in access to information has made possible finer gradations of mass political organization:
Empires – Political associations decided by force of arms.
Kingdoms – Association often decided by some precedent of cultural cohesion at least in a core region, with subjugated peoples surrounding.
Nation-states – Association decided by common language, culture, and in varying degrees, ethnicity.
Tribe-states – Affiliation by one’s natural proclivities and values within a larger population. Ordinary people with incredible logistical capabilities and access to information allows cohesive bands to avoid being subjugated by massive bureaucracy-bound states. The development of politics goes full circle from small tribes that were subjugated by empires based in the first cities.

Politics has always been about “choosing the lesser evil.”
Empires/Kingdoms – The ruler taxes people to bare subsistence, but if you don’t back him, his competitors’ armies will destroy what little you have.
Nation States – Any sort of republic leaves most people mostly unsatisfied but properly implemented can maintain a tepid status-quo.
Tribe States – Most people get the society they want; that’s what defines this type of association.

Each upgrade in access to information enables people to pursue their interests more effectively. This is why the ruling classes have always wanted the masses to remain hobbled by ignorance but once a major new advance spreads, they can only struggle to contain it until they finally cease to be relevant.

There has been a growing inability of US political factions to reach compromises as each insists on fully realizing its agenda. When representatives have tried to behave more moderately, their constituents have denounced and abandoned them.
Not only is a shrinking pie making people more urgent, fewer are satisfied with getting only a part of their demands met. The masses begin to intuitively sense that it is now viable to associate more finely to more effectively get what they want. There’s no more Soviet Union, nukes make conventional wars unlikely, and internet allows people to associate with those most like them and pursue their shared objectives.
From now on, the alignment of tribes, not of entrenched parties will be the shaping force in the politics of nations.

MITx: What the students think

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