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The Splinternet and Cyberbalkanisation, how worried should we be about these allegedly real Phenomena?


joigus
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Internet algorithms --probably-- have lead me to an interesting talk. I'm trimming it up to the point where the concept appears:

The term appears to be standard enough that there's an article on it on Wikipedia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splinternet

Several developments on these forums have led me to think there must be a nugget of truth at least about these things. It feels like strong "reservoirs" of opinion, no matter how weakly unsustained by facts or logical consistency, seem to thrive much better than ever before on the Internet.

Are these phenomena real?

Were you familiar with them?

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As an older, somewhat educated person, I stay away from social media ( forums, which exchange ideas, are my weakness ).
Young people have never experienced the old style informative, not opinionated, news, and get a lot of self re-enforcing opinionated news from social media.
The 'splinternet' makes it easy to find like-minded people who share your opinions, no matter how extreme, and 'splinter' us into different groups.

Social media is possibly the biggest social engineering experiment ever, and although the internet was initially hailed as a way to bring us together, it could turn out that it ruins society as we know it.

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1 hour ago, joigus said:

Are these phenomena real?

Absolutely, and it's more or less always been the case with humans (and I hypothesize, non-human animals) for as long as time itself. We're rather tribal, naturally seek others who confirm our preconceptions / remind us of ourselves, and it takes conscious attention focus to avoid splitting everyone into "us" and "them" buckets.

With that foundation as the background, many humans are then quite easily drawn to specific narratives even when they're self-evidently false, even you and me who are otherwise rather rational and introspective.

The internet has just supercharged it. In the before-times, we had to find these like-minded morons members of society in our own local village or town with maybe a few hundred people. The connections would only occur after chance encounters once or twice yearly at the local feed store or fuel pumping station.

Now, however, we can find them on every corner of the oblate spheroid earth... nothing more needed than an internet connection, and the underlying software is actively pushing the connections which further amplify this tribalism and speed its growth.

Then, corporations who build and manage the algorithms prioritize engagement, attention, and time focused within the app or in the community. They're financially incentivized to lock our minds into their worlds for as long as absolutely possible because it generates advertising dollars, and so they amplify the most attention grabbing content... which, as you surely have seen, is often the most extreme, most outrageous, and most disconnected from empirical reality.

News is boring. Fighting and drama are fun. Humans are pretty simple in the end.

Add to that "bad actors" and nation states who maintain their own power and wealth by convincing the masses not just of specific untruths, but of the idea that there's not such thing as truth and truth itself is an impossibility... and we land in the state we're in now with wars, and election denial, and climate change denial, and basically anything else that distracts us like cats to catnip instead of focusing on real problems that require our collective efforts and attention or from focusing on the cronies and crooks who want us focused on anything BUT them. 

Things will likely get worse before they get better now with deep-fake video technology and easily deployed bots and troll armies... but I do have a lot of faith in our younger digital natives who are aware of these challenges and organically building a societal immunity to much of it just with how they engage together.

Their "mental immune systems" are more familiar and better experienced with these mind viruses and better equipped IMO to stamp them out than generations past. 

Edited by iNow
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Thanks both for your thoughts.

I prefer to be optimistic, and look at it as the opening of just another niche. The rules and criteria must evolve, in keeping with the new conditions.

I would like to set my hopes on this kind of thought:

23 minutes ago, iNow said:

but I do have a lot of faith in our younger digital natives who are aware of these challenges and organically building a societal immunity to much of it just with how they engage together.

The audience of the talk that I posted, with their questions and observations, --they were all very young-- gave me a glimmer of that hope.

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