Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Social Media and the Destruction of the World

2010-01-15 09:21:09
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We're always looking for patterns in things -- the rise and fall of the markets, the increase in global temperatures, what color will be the new black this season, whether that cute girl always takes the 7:32 bus... We're pattern obsessed to the point that it gets us in trouble with games of chance (our brains are trying to figure out when that 777 will come up on the slot machine, so we keep spending).

The reason for this obsession with patterns is simple biology -- if you can't figure out what berries are good for you and which will kill you, you're dead, and your genes don't move on to the next generation. If you can track more complicated patterns, like the seasons and what plants you can grow, or what animals you can herd, you can build the kind of civilization that supports over six billion people.

So patterns are naturally really important to us. We judge intelligence on the use of patterns -- SETI is looking for repetitious patterns in the radio noise of space under the assumption that if an intelligent species was going to try to contact us, they'd use mathematical progressions, or at least a steady beat.

I'd like to argue that visible patterns are getting harder to find as the Internet evolves. The way we interact with each other and the incomprehensible amount of information flying around is changing civilization in ways we don't understand. It's not just the random noise drowning out intelligent discourse, it's that the random noise is becoming intelligent discourse.

I have always been a generalist, and often answer questions correctly without knowing how I know the answer. I have a pretty good foundation in rational thought (having been called a Saganist because I subscribe to the philosophies of Carl Sagan), so I'm pretty good at filtering the random noise, rating it, and learning from it. But most of my peers are linear thinkers and base their answers on education and experience that is becoming less relevant.

Just as toddlers are able to pick up a mouse and keyboard and surf the Internet, I'm seeing a generation that doesn't find the idea of random information disturbing, and I'm seeing an older generation that is perplexed by it.

We are seeing the dark side of this Information Revolution -- as one school of thought (the search for ordered patterns in the world) is augmented by another (the acceptance of randomness and chaos), we see information based crises like the mortgage crisis where the patterns went from manageable to complex to uncontrollable to disaster.

I think we're also just starting to see the tip of the obsolesce of a lot of professions based in the information world. I'm talking the top of our economy -- lawyers, bankers, managers and even politicians who not only can't keep up with the rate of change, but whose livelihood was based on being one step ahead by watching patterns that no longer exist.

So, maybe the lawyers are the first with their backs against the wall now that the revolution is here.

Adding facts together, or why you can't charge your cell phone from wifi
Rabid Fans vs Passive Viewers -- The Coco vs Leno saga

Jane Blue: Re: Social Media and the Destruction of the World
2010-01-15 19:17:56

And maybe the poets, the "intuitionists" will take over the world. Interesting.

Kristen: Re: Social Media and the Destruction of the World
2010-01-17 17:04:09

PLEASE let it be the politicians! :)
Seriously, I know exactly what you mean about being a generalist and being able to just follow patterns, random or not. Should be an interesting decade.

john bissell: Re: Social Media and the Destruction of the World
2010-01-19 22:04:38

This is disturbing. I believe a PhD disertation in sociology could be written on this issue. One change we see is fear, leading people away from rational thought as the seemingly randomness of information overwhelms their personal filters. The easy solutions found in fundamentalist religion or new cults is appealing. Knowledge is then labeled as dangerous.

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