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reclaim the Internet

Sometimes writers develop interesting plot twists. One of the best is in the sci-fi thriller Independence Day. In that film humans are resisting an alien invasion. They prevent the aliens intercepting messages by resorting to Morse Code. Sometimes going backward a couple of steps helps us find a better way to move forward. Before social media most people created websites which they therefore owned. Sites were portable between hosting services. By contrast if you invest in creating a profile on a social media account you give a corporation control over of your content and Web presence. You can be shadow banned, removed, or you can lose access to your profile completely. Back in the day there was a simple technology called a web ring. People could choose to link their websites together. With the programming and infrastructure resources available now, if people had a convenient and affordable way to set up a profile they continuously owned, they could choose different networks to join or leave at will. These networks of associated and like-minded people could enjoy a degree of uniform functionality (similar to what social media offers) under the protection of open source code. No-one would own the networks and moderation could be by elected regulators under an agreed legal framework. This is only an outline, and the obstacles could be many, but there must be a better way for people to connect and have a voice.

Thu, 14 Jan 2021 12:31:43 GMT post menu

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to conspiracy and beyond

Buzz Lightyear is the most complex Toy Story character. His factory settings lead him to think he's on a crucial mission at risk of being compromised by Zurg interference. When it's obvious to him that he's a toy, he's devastated. This invites a question: Is he a conspiracy theorist or a believer who has been disillusioned? Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories are deemed by psychologists to be poorly educated and conceited. Their divergent beliefs are supposed to allow them to feel superior. But Buzz doesn't suffer an identity crisis because he thinks he's better than anyone else. He genuinely believed in his programming and has to adapt to reality. That is an important distinction. There is a chasm between those who attack 5G masts on the basis of a celebrity prank and people who have assimilated evidence that the world doesn't correspond to descriptions of it. Instead, perhaps psychologists are part of an apparatus that routinely denies narratives unfavourable to established interests? Do they attack the credibility of anyone who suggests an alternative interpretation of facts by using the example of people with extreme or untenable beliefs? If you've got the sanctioned qualifications, licences, and salary, do you have an interest in maintaining the status quo? Can you be value neutral if you're dependent on approval and payment in a biased system? You might not get a free lunch if you bite the hand that feeds you. Buzz isn't capable of powered flight but he saves the day because man, that toy can glide.

Fri, 09 Oct 2020 15:43:27 GMT post menu

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a line in the sand

The first episode of the 1990s TV series The Outer Limits is entitled Sandkings. In it, a research scientist finds life in Martian soil samples. After being dismissed from his official role he experiments with alien material he has smuggled out of the military facility where he worked. Hatching sentient arthropod-like creatures in a glass sided sand box in his barn, he manipulates their environment by reducing available food. The creatures develop different colouration and opposing sides organise accordingly. This is a prelude to battles, after which the victors carry the fallen away to eat. The story suggests that when resources are scarce there is an instinct to form sides and fight. Will the population of the Earth reach the point where pressure on resources inclines people to be more intensely nationalistic or fanatical? Whether under the colours of Nazism, Imperialism, Communism, or BLM, are the tensions a reflection of an enhanced sense of relative deprivation, the imperative to survive, or territorial ambition? A colour might represent a country, or a political doctrine, but any distinctions may function like the colours of the fictional bugs in the story. Basal structures in the human brain activated by overpopulation could incrementally amplify contrasting behaviours like parsimony or plunder to the extent of creating factions. Conflict would then be inevitable, and human numbers are already astronomical; almost inconceivable. Civilisation begins to seem like a tenuous, even illusory concept. In Cronenberg's film The Fly, the character Seth Brundle is turning into an insect. He feels like he dreamt he was human, and loved it, before the insect woke up. As his character acts with selfish determination, he realises bugs are brutal. They have no capacity for diplomacy or dialogue. The increasing stress of population growth could flush rationality and conscience from the human nervous system. If you look at the headlines you might suspect it already has. The present is just vaguely Orwellian, but the future could be positively Kafkaesque.

Tue, 06 Oct 2020 10:23:32 GMT post menu

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