ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2018 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Digital Maoism

This is a really good interview with Jaron Lanier which hits on three important concepts:
This dovetails with something you’ve said in the past that’s with me, which is your phrase Digital Maoism. Do you think that the Digital Maoism that you described years ago — are those the people who run Silicon Valley today?

I was talking about a few different things at the time I wrote “Digital Maoism.” One of them was the way that we were centralizing culture, even though the rhetoric was that we were distributing it. Before Wikipedia, I think it would have been viewed as being this horrible thing to say that there could only be one encyclopedia, and that there would be one dominant entry for a given topic. Instead, there were different encyclopedias. There would be variations not so much in what facts were presented, but in the way they were presented. That voice was a real thing.

And then we moved to this idea that we have a single dominant encyclopedia that was supposed to be the truth for the global AI or something like that. But there’s something deeply pernicious about that. So we’re saying anybody can write for Wikipedia, so it’s, like, purely democratic and it’s this wonderful open thing, and yet the bizarreness is that that open democratic process is on the surface of something that struck me as being Maoist, which is that there’s this one point of view that’s then gonna be the official one.

And then I also noticed that that process of people being put into a global system in which they’re supposed to work together toward some sort of dominating megabrain that’s the one truth didn’t seem to bring out the best in people, that people turned aggressive and mean-spirited when they interacted in that context. I had worked on some content for Britannica years and years ago, and I never experienced the kind of just petty meanness that’s just commonplace in everything about the internet. Among many other places, on Wikipedia.

On the one hand, you have this very open collective process actually in the service of this very domineering global brain, destroyer of local interpretation, destroyer of individual voice process. And then you also have this thing that seems to bring out this meanness in people, where people get into this kind of mob mentality and they become unkind to each other. And those two things have happened all over the internet; they’re both very present in Facebook, everywhere. And it’s a bit of a subtle debate, and it takes a while to work through it with somebody who doesn’t see what I’m talking about. That was what I was talking about.

But then there’s this other thing about the centralization of economic power. What happened with Maoists and with communists in general, and neo-Marxists and all kinds of similar movements, is that on the surface, you say everybody shares, everybody’s equal, we’re not gonna have this capitalist concentration. But then there’s some other entity that might not look like traditional capitalism, but is effectively some kind of robber baron that actually owns everything, some kind of Communist Party actually controls everything, and you have just a very small number of individuals who become hyperempowered and everybody else loses power.

And exactly the same thing has happened with the supposed openness of the internet, where you say, “Isn’t it wonderful, with Facebook and Twitter anybody can express themselves. Everybody’s an equal, everybody’s empowered.” But in fact, we’re in a period of time of extreme concentration of wealth and power, and it’s precisely around those who run the biggest computers. So the truth and the effect is just the opposite of what the rhetoric is and the immediate experience.

A lot of people were furious with me over Digital Maoism and felt that I had betrayed our cause or something, and I lost some friends over it. And some of it was actually hard. But I fail to see how it was anything but accurate.
This guy is sharing some important insights into the intrinsic danger of centralization, even when it is unintentional and inadvertent. It also underlines the importance of the Infogalactic approach, which rejects the concept of the One True Page that defines objective reality for everyone on the basis of the opinions of the information gatekeepers.

Labels: ,

24 Comments:

Blogger Gordon Scott April 26, 2018 8:11 AM  

This is some interesting thinking.

Once upon a time in Ireland, there were a whole lot of kings. You could be the king of from here to that big rock way over there. You had to be a good king, because if you weren't, the king over the hill could show up and kick your ass, and take your cattle. Of course, someone had to think about larger issues, like the Viking raiders. They like to show up, steal gold and people, and leave, although they had a permanent base at Dublin. So they had great kings, who were regional bosses. There was also a high king, but no one really ever paid attention to him, because he had no national army, and the rest of the great kings made sure the high king never got too powerful.

Then along came Brian Boru. He became a great king, then he challenged and defeated the high king, and he was a serious guy. They needed that, because the Vikings were back, and in big honking numbers. Brian led the combined armies against the Vikings and defeated them at Clontarf near Dublin. Unfortunately, he got killed. So it was back to petty tyrants, which of course meant that the English could pick them off, one by one.

The rest of the analogy is left as an exercise.

Blogger Peter Gent April 26, 2018 8:14 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger VD April 26, 2018 8:17 AM  

How can Infogalactic avoid the same issues? He seems to say it is inherent in the process.

Perspective filters. The process will be different.

Blogger James Dixon April 26, 2018 8:34 AM  

OT: http://www.castaliahouse.com gives an "Error establishing a database connection". Looks like someone needs to kick a server.

Blogger Uncle John's Band April 26, 2018 8:38 AM  

This ties back into the earlier post about optimal community size. When has centralization beyond a certain point furthered intellectual or cultural development? Obviously security is an issue; the Renaissance is a great example of small, dynamic states engulfed by empire. But the global hive mind is terrifying.

More rhetorically: fixing everything on the fat part of the global bell curve is basically declaring an end to innovation.

Blogger Johnny April 26, 2018 9:24 AM  

The big problem isn't the private company that seeks to dominate, it is when that company gets covert or direct government support. Apparently that has been going on already with entities like Google and Facebook, and it would seem that currently they are trying to increase the level of dominance of a few companies. Ah well... Power consolidates. From tribes to empires, or countries and monopolies in our era.

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer April 26, 2018 9:44 AM  

I find it interesting that he lost friends for stating the obvious. Is there anyone who doesn't think people act worse on the Internet than they would in person, that Wikipedia is edited mostly by cranks with a fetish on certain subjects?

Blogger dtungsten April 26, 2018 9:45 AM  

And Kanye West tweeted "decentralize" recently. Naturally, I disagree with him on a lot of things, but he seems to have his finger on the pulse of something there.

Blogger Solaire Of Astora April 26, 2018 10:51 AM  

It's amazing how people are constantly surprised by globalism amplifying winner take all dynamics. This should be common knowledge already.

Blogger Rocklea Marina April 26, 2018 11:16 AM  

Life was once more tactile. Specialization, leading to higher IQ, but lower G, then eventually lowering IQ. I'm finding it difficult to imagine a way the open internet could continue without these effects, even with border enforcement and near zero movement of peoples. The knowledge of what is happening "over there" will cause some people to agitate for the same "here" and the cultural effects will continue unabated. Do we need our Gatekeepers? I don't know.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash April 26, 2018 11:38 AM  

I just got an email today from http://www.getwikified.com/. For a small fee, they'll create your Wikipedia entry, and protect it from edits.

Blogger 罗臻 April 26, 2018 12:33 PM  

America's digital Maoism is scarier than China's. The country already forbids most behaviors. Technology allows it to more fully implement its system. Aside from protecting the party, they're trying to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. It's a substitute for morality. China's system is already being "hacked" and might not function very well, both a plus and minus depending on how you're affected by it. Plus I don't live in China. But even if I did, I'd have to go out of my way to get punished in their system.

Whereas in the US, this is a system wholly at odds with our history and tradition. The system is designed to punish political enemies. Where China is relatively transparent, America is opaque. Take Wikipedia, you have to dig through the edits to see what is actually going on. With YouTube and Twitter censorship, many people have no idea why they were banned. There's a clear political bias, but people with no political content also get banned for reasons they do not know.

Blogger Patrick Kelly April 26, 2018 12:45 PM  

"The rest of the analogy is left as an exercise."

Encyclopedias are not armies fighting vikings.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash April 26, 2018 1:30 PM  

Encyclopedias are more important than armies, but not as important as cable channels or record companies.

Anonymous Anonymous April 26, 2018 2:34 PM  

The important part of centralization is that there are less people needed to be bribed for a rent seeing outcome.

Blogger Robert Pinkerton April 26, 2018 2:40 PM  

Is a Big Noise from big tech purporting to channel Hari Seldon?

Blogger DonReynolds April 26, 2018 2:47 PM  

The entire notion of dominant culture, or majority rule, or democracy has changed in my lifetime.

The dominant culture WAS once diverse, and multi-sided, and everyone seemed to insist on FREEDOM of speech, and association, and a kind of live and let live attitude. The law (and the rule of law) existed to guarantee individual freedom. There were Italian neighborhoods, where the language was discerned not as Italian but by the regional Italian accents. There were German neighborhoods. There were Greek neighborhoods. This was not a problem, except for traveling salesmen.

Somehow and somewhere, all of that changed and ethnicity became a source of friction. In order to be a part of one ethnic group, you could not associate with other ethnic groups without the risk of violence and crime. The larger and wealthier WASP population was challenged by the massive arrival of Roman Catholic immigrants and some of the very old animosities and incompatibilities from the European experience started to creep into our society. The Irish (in particular) were more assertive and aggressive in their takeover of political institutions....city hall of major cities especially. (The Irish also created what we call gangland crime and organized crime in American cities. The Italians and Germans who followed were just cheap imitations.) This created pressures and conflicts with the predominantly WASP state legislatures...which were dominated under the Republic by the rural areas. (The Puritans of New England were the original hotheads and radicals, who brought their conflict with them when they arrived, during and after the English Civil War.)

One man, one vote in the mid-1960s slowly crushed the WASPs out of the state legislatures and replaced them with Big City politicians....who represented largely ethnic populations. This was the actual genesis of the democracy movement in the USA.

Majority rule in the hands of the WASPs would not mean the same thing when when their rivals came to political power. Suddenly, it became "majority will", which was not at all tolerant of actual diversity, but insisted that the "majority will" be followed. So one by one, small minorities acting in unison came to outweigh the plurality, with the active intervention of liberal judges and ambitious politicians. What had long been neighborhood schools was suddenly wrong. What had been long understood as ethnic neighborhoods was no longer permitted. The right of an employer to choose his employees was no longer a right, but a wrong. Generations of public service by certain families as police, and firemen, and soldiers, was also cast aside in favor of inclusion, and diversity, and integration. The peak of the anti-WASP campaign reached it's final ridiculous stage with the Obama administration, leaving no tradition or custom or convention or habit untouched by the Federal bureaucracy, the radicals in the judiciary, the mobs in the street, radical educators at every level, and foreign criminals. This is a culture war and the purpose is to remove all vestige of the historic WASP population influence in this country, leaving not even the history that it once existed. Maoist? Stalinist? Most certainly.

Blogger Don't Call Me Len April 26, 2018 3:06 PM  

Few things are more antithetical to human nature than the ideals of Marxism, and few things are more in tune with the basest urges of humanity than its execution.

Blogger Resident Moron™ April 26, 2018 3:09 PM  

When I read the words "we're centralising culture" I hear the words of Christ:

"As it was in the days of Noah ..."

What Vox calls rebuilding Babel.

Blogger Dirk Manly April 26, 2018 4:21 PM  

@17

"The entire notion of dominant culture, or majority rule, or democracy has changed in my lifetime.

The dominant culture WAS once diverse, and multi-sided, and everyone seemed to insist on FREEDOM of speech, and association, and a kind of live and let live attitude. The law (and the rule of law) existed to guarantee individual freedom. There were Italian neighborhoods, where the language was discerned not as Italian but by the regional Italian accents. There were German neighborhoods. There were Greek neighborhoods. This was not a problem, except for traveling salesmen.

Somehow and somewhere, all of that changed and ethnicity became a source of friction. In order to be a part of one ethnic group, you could not associate with other ethnic groups without the risk of violence and crime."

It all started with the Sharks vs the Jets in West Side Story. Of course, libtards still love it.

Blogger LP999-16 April 26, 2018 5:43 PM  

It is so great we have IG News, IG Tech plus something cooler and better than wiki, Infogalactic.

History will reflect what a contribution Infogalactic meant to the country and the world.

Blogger Duke Norfolk April 27, 2018 6:48 AM  

Rocklea Marina wrote:The knowledge of what is happening "over there" will cause some people to agitate for the same "here" and the cultural effects will continue unabated. Do we need our Gatekeepers? I don't know.

Yes, I've had similar thoughts. How do we keep the rabble rousers, instigators, wormtongues, from their pernicious influence? How will feminism ever be stanched in a meaningful way (as one example)?

I think the key may be in r/K theory. Understanding how to keep the forces of r in check may be the key to mankind's success. Because in an increasingly wealthy world those forces will only be continually reinforced.

Blogger KPKinSunnyPhiladelpia April 27, 2018 1:15 PM  

Here's the link to the interview. Quite thought provoking. Lanier is a real intellect.

http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/04/jaron-lanier-interview-on-what-went-wrong-with-the-internet.html

Blogger Helldoge Desotryer April 27, 2018 8:00 PM  

My mind is blown. The same principle can be extracted and applied with the same results, democracy or wiki. One doesn't even necessarily imply intention of evil, it simply is. Maybe it's just the human taint.

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog
Please do not comment as "Anonymous". Comments by "Anonymous" will be spammed.

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts