I wrote this meditation on the “untruth” crisis back in late February. I shelved it as “ more mad ramblings”, which it is. But I guess it’s a mad, mad, mad world anyway, so here it is…
Facts, data and faith. Take these, dump them into a person and shake. Squeeze the tube. Paper tape will come out of its mouth. To remove tape, pull sharply up across the front teeth. Read the tape. Junk data? Figures.
So, I’m being figurative, conflating people and machines. And we are (humanity, that is) the most beautiful, god-like, defective machine(s) that we will ever hope to experience.
See what I did there with the parenthetical “s”? I posited a question. Are we individuals or are we an organism? A hive mind. If you asked ethnic Germans in the first third of the twentieth century, they may have leaned toward the concept of the human race being a single organism…and you know where this philosophy got them. Junk data.
But swarm intelligence/theory can not be written off. These theories, traditionally presented as “mob/herd mentality”, play a role in every facet of our lives. These swarms, like gravitational fields, pull us into orbits, within larger orbits, within larger orbits on up. The top level mega-swarm, a universe of its own. A beautiful and terrifying, elegant and chaotic dance.
And the collective mind does great things. All of our technological achievements come from the hive mind, the hive intelligence (see “rat king”). Our innovators “stand on the shoulder of giants”. Of course, by building the one-click means to our own destruction we may have scaled one shoulder too many, but that’s a cold rat king kebab better served another day.
The leap that seems to have really changed the game in hive behavior in recent years is the potential for instant digital interconnection between all individuals. I call it the “digital shock wave”. And with this advancement we once again leap, as a species, as a hive, into a brave new world. One rolled out before anyone took the time to truly understand its long-term effects. And now the die is cast.
To break it down, let’s say the mega-swarm, when at rest, is a placid pool. Information drops, traditionally (pre-Gutenberg), would be like autumn leaves occasionally cascading down from the sky to gently rest upon the surface (i.e., “This trader has a sharpened stone, I think I’m gonna get me one of those, too”). This is the environment under which humanity evolved into existence, how it was “meant to be” (under the terms of, you know, evolution). So on to post-Gutenberg, we can now cast, informationally, a nice stone into the pool (you know, like a medium-size river rock). Throw enough in at once and you can get some nice ripples going. Twentieth century mass broadcast technology, telecommunications etc., we’re getting into the boulders. 21st century World Wide Web, we’re lobbing school buses in with cranes…and all just to see if anybody really “like”s us (spoiler alert, they don’t).
We watch our political, military, corporate and media entities constantly, irresponsibly and methodically sending shock waves of informational instability through the collective conscious and unconscious. They all believe in their own (collective, tribal) minds, from their own preview, that they are doing important work. Work to help them, to help people of their ilk, to help “all”. But isn’t one of our greatest programming discrepancies as a species the inability to ever truly consider the “all” outside of the “tribe”. I do it, and I imagine you do it, too. Do you think there is anybody who is above this? Truly? 100% of the time?
I > us > all.
This has come to bear down on my mind in light of the assent of the concept of “untruth” as a dominant thread in the world conscience. Untruth is the supposition that all mass communicated information, even if it is empirical fact, is by default invalid.
This phenomenon is not new, but the world wide web has provided a hereto unprecedented platform for the instantaneous dissemination of torrents of unsubstantiated information labeled as “fact”. A platform with no discernible rules of credibility, where the purveyors of information have no accountability for the veracity of their output (even if that person is the president of the United States). “Rule 1” in this virtual domain is that any and all false information can be traced to other false reports sourced from the internet. And in this way the snake eats its own tail, and nothing is anyone’s fault.
Without accountability there is no recourse. Without recourse we are unprotected as individuals. School buses are not hurled into the pond by individuals. Those come from the cranes (collective entities, nation states, corporations). Individuals are affected by swarms, join swarms. Swarms are stirred and re-stirred by digital shock waves. So we see the digital shock waves being used as a tool against us, right through the pipes of our free internet. Pipes that go right into your pocket.
The argument for acceptance of untruth is supported under the reasoning that truth data is used in mass communication only to bolster an argument for a particular tribe’s position (is thus partisan propaganda). “Truth” is used as bait to influence you into believing the “big lie”. The “big lie” being that the communicating tribe is working for you, when, in fact, they are working in their own interest (they just need your compliance). And so only the “Truth”s that come from sources within your belief sphere are credible. This of course relates back to faith, which drives so many but is also the place where truth goes to die (and junk data is born).
Untruth plays into base human behaviors tied to fear, tied to survival instincts, and is manifested through subtle paranoia. Fears that the other tribe’s goal is to take your money, power, influence, freedom, etc. These survival instincts seem to me, at least in this country, to be tied to resource insecurity (even though, in America, true destitution is typically more a frame of mind than an actual state). We never think we have enough, and yet we do. And if we ever find it within ourselves to truly work together it seems there is nothing we could not achieve. And yet we continue to work in opposition mindsets that can only lead to conflict, distraction and death.
The next shoulder we may climb, as a species, will very likely be the steady and inevitable progression toward the total automation of labor, with only the engineers left to develop and program the AI robots who will eventually learn to build themselves (and everything else) under the gentle guidance of technological handlers. A 3D printed world delivered right to your doorstep. This will result in a vastly reduced need for traditional labor. A trend that we already see. There will be jobs to be done, but in such a world, work may evolve into a choice for those unfulfilled with total leisure. Concepts of work for money and social welfare would have to be completely re-conceived in such a world to maintain order (Free money? All individuals being born into a default starter class…with HEALTH BENEFITS? Oh, it’s just too sci-fi). Certainly adjustments for this upcoming reality would have to start to be addressed now. Not all at once, but certainly it should be acted on ahead of the wave that is sure to come. Lest a lost generation of unemployables trigger and economic depression that leads to an epoch ending World War (let’s even throw in “extinction level”). Can we do it? Can we get ahead of this wave before it breaks? Or will we cling to a coalminer job retention mentality?
Do you want my untruthful opinion? Okay (I think you see it coming). Well, if we look at the management of the global warming/climate change issue as an example, I will prophesize “no”.
We will more likely see the current monetary system and social structure continue to be used to punish, demoralize and control the peasant class. We will see global communications continue to be used as a cudgel. And the inevitable automation technology turned to 3D printing autonomous murder robots deployed to maintain the current class hierarchy.
To quote one of the great sages of our time, “Sad!”