Saturday, September 28, 2019
"Techno-Uptopianism" is breaking down because people aren't smart enough for it
Andrew Marantz, in a challenging piece in the Sept. 30, 2017 New Yorker, p. 69, called “The More Things Change: does connecting the world actually make it better?” but called “the Dark Side of Techno Utopianism” on the cover and in the online article.
He gives a short history of the democratization of information for the masses, most obviously going back to the printing press, but even before in ancient times – and also some attention to English Bible merchant William Caxton. Centuries later, the Internet became the next iteration of what could amplify the personal asymmetry of speech.
He goes give some biography of Mark Zuckerberg and Chris Hughes, and some other people like Christopher Poole. They all wanted absolute connectivity and free speech at first, and even like in 2011 with the Arab Spring some of their ideas were going right. By 2016 when Trump one, they learned that the life cycle of free speech with all its asymmetries was like the life cycle of an insect or of a star. It had a main sequence.
Much of this has to do with the dangers of asymmetry when hyperindividualism runs away and people who live at a distance and watch others gain too much power by staring at them without any responsibility for them (relativity and quantum theory teach us that). But it also has to do with the change from Web 1.0, search-engine driven in a simple way inviting to amateur speakers, to modern social media, which now have to pretend to be both platforms and publishers, and depend on clickbait for a business model. The 2016 election showed what happens when too many people are left behind and feel neglected. We face returning to gatekeepers, or to using new cyclical norms of "social credit".