edgecase
Author: StJohn Piano
Published: 2020-09-19
Datafeed Article 180
This article has been digitally signed by Edgecase Datafeed.
1186 words - 223 lines - 6 pages




I wrote this out in a recent chat conversation. I was trying to figure out what's happening to us.



current apocalypse, as far as I can see, has been brought about by the flat connection approach of new platforms (facebook, whatsapp etc). [0]

any peer can connect to any other peer, via some single central hub.

the effect on traditional human social networks has been very similar to inserting a bunch of short circuits into a computer. [1]

we're still limited in physical terms - it's obviously not possible to travel instantaneously.

but it's possible to travel mentally to the other side of world, or to a completely different subculture, in about half a second. [2]

once you can join any group on the internet, the only major factor that sorts you into one cultural group or another is your inbuilt personality traits. [3] what's happening now is the formation of networked tribes. [4]

people are trying to gather together geographically with their groups. the physical world is now being re-sorted based on these internet-filtered group identities.

the identities that matter now are either hyper-local ("I'm from this particular city/town" or hyper-global ("I'm a member of this global identity"). [5]

nothing in between [6]

our species is being restructured, mentally and physically, to better match the most effective properties of computer networks.

BLM looks to me like a nascent networked tribe, far better adapted to the internet + smartphone era than the old political parties or social classes.

The old social system, which had a more structured hierarchy, [7] doesn't know what to do. It's fighting against an enemy that it can't really "see". [8]

But it looks to me like its instinctive reaction has been "nobody move!", which probably explains the strangely enthusiastic embrace of coronavirus lockdowns.




[New section, written for this article]

If people have access to all the information in the world, including lots of information created by malicious actors, then they go mad.

They don't know how to make sense of the world anymore.

So, if everyone's going mad, then you have to at least stop them moving around. If a lot of maddened people can gather together in one place, the results are unpleasant for all concerned.

It almost doesn't matter what excuse you pick - you can't say the real one ("You're all stark raving mad! Your freedom is destroying your mind!"). So pick something handy ("Coronavirus!") and never back down.

I see two possible futures.

Future 1:
- Access to information is brought under despotically centralised control, and it's generally difficult to publish or share information which is a) critical of the government or b) crowd-maddening. This is the Chinese approach (and note, they have a lot more repeated historical experience with crowd management than we do).
- Travel is relatively free.

Future 2:
- Access to information is relatively free.
- Networked tribes continue to coalesce. They implement thought control based on a selection of global identities, with publically-broadcast rallies / denunciation sessions to enforce loyalty. Their members ignore all information that conflicts with the communal worship of these global identities. [9] This filtering is actually adaptive, in the sense that they can now orient themselves in a world of chaotic information streams, whereas before they couldn't.
- Travel is heavily restricted, either by government regulations or by the existence of hostile tribes that will attack you.



On reflection, I think Future 1 is what happens wherever a networked tribe has achieved full informational control over a geographical region.

Hm. "access to information" -> "access to social network platforms" -> "smartphones".

I guess the new kingdoms are "networked tribes that control a smartphone network and the social apps available on that network".










[start of footnotes]


[0]
No doubt the next century will have its own apocalypse to worry about.

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[1]
Lots of smoke, occasional fire, sparks, etc.

Among other problems, it's destroying our ability to bond and work together. No one can truly pledge themselves as a spouse, apprentice, employee, employer, friend, etc, because it's really easy to break the relationship and walk away. Importantly, everyone knows that they have an easy exit strategy. This makes it very hard to tackle big / difficult / complex projects (e.g. building large-scale infrastructure, raising children), because these require large groups of people to work together for a long period of time without any real option to leave.

cf. The Collapse of the Family and the Community by Yuval Noah Harari

Unfortunately, if there are no strong economic & spiritual bonds between the next generation and the previous one, the cultural pattern is not transmitted. See Divine voices, dreams, and culture for further details.

We're visibly regressing - the publically-broadcast thought structures in our culture are becoming more primitive, more like magic / voodoo mentalities ("bad person!", "bad word!", "bad thing!", "wah!") than like anything recognisably civilised. There's no complexity in it, there's nothing worth arguing with or talking to, there's just the raw emotion of a hundred million toddlers.

I imagine the old-school Romans felt similarly about the Christians spreading through the Empire.

I'm really not sure how long we can keep the power stations going. Who's going to operate and maintain them? Really, who?

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[2]
If you watch a video clip from another country, your brain reacts very strongly, almost (but not quite) as if you're physically present. Much more strongly than if you read a text description of the video clip.

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[3]
And then you join a set of online echo chambers that's a function of your personality.

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[4]
This isn't my own idea. I've been reading John Robb.
- His twitter: twitter.com/johnrobb
- His website: globalguerrillas.typepad.com

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[5]
In both cases, these are identities that are very hard to convincingly fake. It's difficult to pretend to someone who's lived in a particular town all their life that you are from the same town, and it's also difficult to pretend to be another race or sex.

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[6]
Including nation-states. As David Berlinski points out, it's become impossible to talk about nationality or patriotism without a certain irony.

Source:
- Title: Uncommon Knowledge with David Berlinski on "The Deniable Darwin"
- Channel: Hoover Institution
- Link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=LuEaJDksxls
- Time: 49:00 to 50:35
- Recorded on June 3, 2019 in Italy.

Transcribed excerpts:
- "The fact of the matter is nobody believes in the nation-state ... - it's gone. Not in Italy, not in France... There are vestiges of patriotism, everyone is emotionally sympathetic... The nation-state is an idea that no longer has an overwhelming hold on man's imagination."
- "The idea of France is cultural, now. It's a matter of taste... but it's not a matter of a tremendous sense of French identity."
- "[The idea of La gloire de la France] cannot be said today without irony."

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[7]
This hierarchy is built on the remaining relationships from the pre-social-internet era.

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[8]
And it's being torn apart from within by those same network-realignment forces.

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[9]
This applies to Trump supporters as much as to BLM, by the way. And to Brexit ("England!") vs Remain ("Europe!").

Somewhat related: Some thoughts on Brexit and the European Union [paywalled]

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[end of footnotes]