Author Topic: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"  (Read 192 times)

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Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« on: December 07, 2017, 05:41:40 pm »
These were inspired by Vex's recent post on the reasons why we're fucked. Reason 1, in particular.

Initial Post:

"Our right to free speech is under attack. Not by our government, or by some other government pulling strings. Our free speech isn't in danger by the hands of "Commie" liberals or "Fascist" right-wingers. It's under attack by YOU.

Every single one of you have been contributing to the production and development of a communications network that is based on the expression of smaller and smaller pieces of information, which are incapable of encapsulating the true, complex nature of society's problems. Social media has become a "holier than thou" pissing contest, and the language is limited to memetics and one-liners. As you avoid production, expression, and transmission of complex ideas, the attention-span of the average social media user shrinks. Eventually, we'll be summing up ALL of our interpersonal problems and ideas with vines and memes, because they're more easily rewarded in the short-term and easy to blow off when faced with criticism. As our communications simplify themselves to nothing but partial-sentence reactions, our communications infrastructure will change to support only simpler and simpler ideas.

Eventually, we won't be able to communicate about our problems - and therefore, solve them - because we won't have access to large and complex enough mediums for communication to do so.

Wanna do something about it? Come up with an idea that involves multiple layers of complexity and criticize it. Express it in many words on social media for the world to see. Let it be analyzed, picked apart, and rebuilt again. Come back with a new idea if that one doesn't stand up to scrutiny. Respond to others' simple ideas with complex, and idealistic criticisms that force people to think for more than a few seconds. As people become used to dealing with complex language again, our ideas will be more complex. Eventually, they may even be complex enough to solve some of society's issues through idealistic compromise.

But until then, we're doing nothing but poisoning the future of our language, and limiting it to the point of simplistic semantic imprisonment. You're digging your right to free speech's grave, and further generations will be dumber and less free for it."

Part of a response to someone labeling it a "typical good old days fallacy.":

Note: This is also a general summary of the concepts I was throwing around in my head at the time, and I gave it some vocabulary to make the concept more palatable. Although, you guys will likely see most of this as old news with new words.

" We have two kinds of length limits when it comes to social media, or communications in general:

Hard Limits - These are limitations on characters set by the application or communication medium's administrative department. An example would be Twitter's 140 character limit (Yes, I know it just recently increased, but we haven't reached the threshold for semantic imprisonment I'm proposing yet).

Soft Limits - These are word count limitations set by societal pressures that include average attention span. Soft limits are statistically derived by marketing firms in order to determine the point at which readers move on to the next post/message.

Currently, hard limits are barely relevant for most forms of Social Media. The hard limit is mainly a factor for Twitter at the moment, but the theory behind my post implies that this will likely change in the future as the Soft Limit gets smaller and smaller.

Soft limits have been investigated thoroughly across social media and are expressed in detail, here, with different vocabulary:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/optimal-length-social-media

The main idea behind my post is that there is a relationship between an idea's complexity, and the number of words used to describe it. When the Hard Limit decreases, relative to the Soft limit, society's dictionary (Or common vocabulary) must get larger, so that any given idea's complexity can stay the same. This is usually caused by an increased need for efficiency in communication. This rarely happens except for in low-population communication mediums which are based on increasing Productivity. An example would be like the Skype/Lync Chat used in companies around the world by internal employees.

When the soft limit decreases, relative to the hard limit, we actually start to see a reduction in size of the common vocabulary, as society (Or the population of a specific communication medium) is craving simpler and more generalized ideas that require simpler words.

Our language determines how we describe and understand our world. If this process continues, eventually academics and intellectuals won't be able to fully understand the problems society has and solve them because they aren't being expressed in their entirety and complexity by the general population. Where people get their news, and the number of people discussing the news doesn't matter if all of the discussions consist of only memes and fleeting reactionism. In fact, more people expressing less complex ideas makes it even harder to understand any given situation because it's more useless data to sift through to find the meaningful snippets. And while it's damn-near impossible to find actual Facebook stats on post length, etc, due to monetization of that information for marketing wanks, the overall preference for shorter and shorter posts/messages has been confirmed and described by private organizations (The ones who bought those Facebook Stats) as a real trend. And they have no reason to lie about such information, since they actually benefit from the concepts described.

But I suspect, shortly before it gets to that point, our Hard Limits will start to decrease with the Soft Limits, which will limit our ability, as individuals, to speak on sociopolitical topics in the most populated areas of Social Media, which is a de facto reduction of free speech."


Response to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlL2Jj-kCNU ~ Noam Chomsky on Concision in US Media:

" I think he hit on something I was mostly reluctant to talk about because it seems conspiratorial to the degree that most would find extreme (Noam Chomsky kinda has that tendency, regardless of how correct he is a lot of the time). I've often thought that the brevity of speaking time for a given topic in the US media was intentional for the exact reasoning he provided: It gives you no time to provide evidence. Or, it requires that your evidence be simple and generalized enough that any attempts at refuting it would take more time than is allowed in whatever media segment it was brought up in. It makes specially crafted, fallacious arguments tough to combat in social media networks as well, especially as our Soft limit for word count decreases. And social media networks like Twitter, which have low bars for hard limits, make it even easier to use such tactics. I mean, this is literally the basis of Donald Trump's Twitter account. It has no other purpose.

I would even argue that this is one of the characteristics of social media that a large portion of the rich have used to their advantage to put Trump's administration in power. Most of the Alt-right is a collection of edgy twenty and thirty-somethings who have been gaining experience in the politics of the internet over the last decade or two. If they know anything, it's how to shut down debate with charlatanry and emphasis on brevity/concision/memetics.

I don't necessarily think that there is no place for memetics. With today's communication systems, the small, simple snippets of information are faster and further reaching than ever. Sometimes pictures or other forms of art are excellent communication methods for complicated concepts. But like any other linguistic tool, it is capable of being misused and abused. This is why I always make it a point to rip fallacious memes and snippets a new asshole every time I see them. The disadvantage of abusing memetics on social media that has very high hard limits on word count (Like Facebook, and their several thousand character limit) is that when a few people put in the time to destroy the arguments you post, it requires you to put more energy in to defend an argument you already know isn't worth the time. But the advantage is that you can easily share a new, nearly thoughtless and careless meme in minutes and force the attacker to have to put in more energy than it's worth. The key, as an attacker, is to have a far enough reach that your response can go viral, or you have to be able to output more frequent and effective arguments than the page you're attacking. Low soft limits make this whole thing even harder on the attacker, since they allow the meme abuser to increase their information output and reach with little effort. It's disguised victory by verbosity, on a large scale. Larger than most thought possible. And that's how we got to today."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I wanted to bring this stuff up here because I figured you guys would have things to add and remove, since many of you have much more knowledge on the subject of memetics, etc. than I do.
Listen carefully. I don't have much time, and I only have 462 characters left. I'm a scientist from Area 52 (Area 51 was used to draw attention from Area 52, where the aliens were ACTUALLY stored) who was working on neural interfacing with networked devices. In an experiment gone wrong, I accidentally uploaded my mind to the internet. In the 2 seconds I had before my mind scrambled itself with the world's network traffic, I was able to store this snippet in this random internet signature. If you're reading this, let the world know tha

tyrannosaurus vex

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Re: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2017, 06:19:30 pm »
This is awesome. I'm glad to have been part of its inspiration.

A lot of variables go into making attention span evaporation a reality. As often as not, the person trying to convey a complex idea is doomed from the outset because probably more than half of the communication taking place on social media isn't intended to convey information in the first place, but to declare allegiance to or campaign for the acceptance of an established group. That's partly why the factuality of memes has practically no value -- it doesn't matter whether your information is true, it matters that you're on one side or another.

When you tear apart a factually incorrect meme, the only positive impact you can really have is to deter undecided people from being swayed by that information. But in that case, it isn't the exposition of the misinformation that has that effect, but how you look when delivering it. In the near future, everyone will assume all information is, or at least potentially is, false. If that's the case, then veracity has no bearing on "rightness", and the only measure of whether or not a particular side is "right" will be whether or not it seems like they're winning. There are already plenty of people in this state of mind and openly admitting it, even boasting about it.

This is partly what drives social media toward ever-shorter, less informationally dense forms of communication. Since the information you could deliver in five paragraphs is secondary to the purpose of interacting, you might as well just use clever one-liners and memes instead. It increases your exposure, gaining numbers of "readers" that long-form writing never could.

Of course, there is still a lot of long-form writing around. Print journalism, magazines both online and off, blogs, and novels are still there. The biggest difference between these and social media, besides convenience, is that people are unlikely to encounter views that diverge from their own in long-form mediums. People actually do have longer attention spans when they can be relatively sure they're not going to be challenged. Maybe the strictly curtailed attention spans we see on social media is a kind of proactive defense mechanism?

Anyway thanks for your post, it gives me something to ponder about.
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Re: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2017, 07:10:47 pm »
This is awesome. I'm glad to have been part of its inspiration.

Thanks!

A lot of variables go into making attention span evaporation a reality. As often as not, the person trying to convey a complex idea is doomed from the outset because probably more than half of the communication taking place on social media isn't intended to convey information in the first place, but to declare allegiance to or campaign for the acceptance of an established group. That's partly why the factuality of memes has practically no value -- it doesn't matter whether your information is true, it matters that you're on one side or another.

I never really thought of it this way. That would explain why most of the discussions taking place on social media is just heel-digging.

When you tear apart a factually incorrect meme, the only positive impact you can really have is to deter undecided people from being swayed by that information. But in that case, it isn't the exposition of the misinformation that has that effect, but how you look when delivering it. In the near future, everyone will assume all information is, or at least potentially is, false. If that's the case, then veracity has no bearing on "rightness", and the only measure of whether or not a particular side is "right" will be whether or not it seems like they're winning. There are already plenty of people in this state of mind and openly admitting it, even boasting about it.

This is partly what drives social media toward ever-shorter, less informationally dense forms of communication. Since the information you could deliver in five paragraphs is secondary to the purpose of interacting, you might as well just use clever one-liners and memes instead. It increases your exposure, gaining numbers of "readers" that long-form writing never could.

It's funny, while I was writing that part of my response on Facebook (Where this stuff was originally posted), I found myself questioning whether or not I should even bother with refuting memes at all in the future, and mostly for reasons similar to the ones you've provided. It's actually a lot more clear now that you've put my nagging worry into writing. I think you've got a point here, for sure, and I'll probably avoid wasting my time on that sorta thing in the future. Although, I may only follow that rule if I'm finding myself attempting to refute something that's incredibly simple that I've refuted a million times. This is simply because I have had a few cases where my attempts at refutation caused me to come up with completely new ways of looking at the arguments at hand. It may not have had an effect on the people viewing the Facebook post I was refuting, but I know I can use those new arguments later on on people who I know are on the fence, or at least willing to look at other views.

Of course, there is still a lot of long-form writing around. Print journalism, magazines both online and off, blogs, and novels are still there. The biggest difference between these and social media, besides convenience, is that people are unlikely to encounter views that diverge from their own in long-form mediums. People actually do have longer attention spans when they can be relatively sure they're not going to be challenged. Maybe the strictly curtailed attention spans we see on social media is a kind of proactive defense mechanism?

Anyway thanks for your post, it gives me something to ponder about.

Looking at it from a psychological perspective, with the added preface you provided above, I think you're exactly write about it being a defense mechanism. Due to the general population's closed off attitude in regards to politics, world affairs, science, and social issues before the explosion of Social Media, long-form expression of incorrect or over-simplified information would lead to blatant conflict with academics and experts. If you experience averse psychological reactions to the rejection of your ideas, which took a decent amount of effort to express, you will be less likely to exert that level of effort in further attempts at expression. Then Social Media comes along and allows (And encourages) you to share simple and doctored forms of expression with the ability to keep such information private or closed off to everyone but small (Targeted) populations. Throw in the fact that you get a reward boost every time someone likes a photo or meaningless, one-sentence post, and you will start to build a strong reward association with ideological and expressive laziness, and you'll avoid the real debates with the rest of the world on the WWW. And the fact that this applies to most people, since most people aren't familiar with rigorous debate and the academic marketplace of ideas, means that this association will be reaffirmed by social interactions within your Social Media community. Then, add in the emotionally disconnected nature of internet interactions, and you have the perfect recipe for the crazy shit we see happening today.

And no problem! I now have more to ponder about, myself.
Listen carefully. I don't have much time, and I only have 462 characters left. I'm a scientist from Area 52 (Area 51 was used to draw attention from Area 52, where the aliens were ACTUALLY stored) who was working on neural interfacing with networked devices. In an experiment gone wrong, I accidentally uploaded my mind to the internet. In the 2 seconds I had before my mind scrambled itself with the world's network traffic, I was able to store this snippet in this random internet signature. If you're reading this, let the world know tha

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Re: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2017, 03:04:18 pm »
I think you've hit something, here.

So the premise, above, is that we are getting collectively dumber because we communicate via a medium which rejects complexity. And the solution is to become individual processing units which can handle complexity. Kinda like calling for a return to the longform post.

You're right in that you're looking at the right spot, the individual, and how it functions poorly as a micro-component of a larger processing routine. Like Foucault says -- the (french/american) revolution decentralized power. Now we're in a mode of power where authority is distributed to individuals, evenly spread, and that makes society ridiculously hard to change. Because you can't just go shake up the leaders, they are merely channels for the public will. The fabric of society isn't dictated from above anymore, but from below. And a lot of those people are either stupid or evil, enough of them to be a powerful voting bloc.


However I don't think the longform post is coming back. I think the social-media medium inherently boils ideas down to haiku form, that's just a feature of information traveling through an attention economy. It's like a river gradually moving rocks. The tiny stones move, the heavy stones sink.

But the silver lining is that brevity does not mean simplicity! A complex idea can be boiled down to dense symbols. This compression is lossy, of course. As compression/density increases, you lose resolution.

The trick, in my mind, is how to communicate complexity in simple terms. How do you signal a complex argument in a soundbyte?


Like, take the term "problematic" - it's a short hand, it indicates the presence of complexity without unpacking it.

Or describing an argument as "reductive" indicates that the compression is too lossy.

I also think about Wilson's "sumbunall" / "mosbunall"- it's just a contraction of some-but-not-all / most-but-not-all - but aims to sidestep a super common argument pattern. You criticize men's behavior, a man will take it personally and go "Not all men!" and then you have to unpack that. But if you started with "Some but not all men do XYZ", then the listener is less likely to parse the criticism as a personal judgment and get all defensive about it.

So maybe there are other linguistic tools and shorthand that can help us discuss complex topics without getting pulled into the typical blue/green loops.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2017, 03:08:19 pm by Cramulus »

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Re: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2017, 07:39:52 pm »
I don't have much to add here at this point in time, but I did want to pop in to say THANK YOU to those contributing to this conversation, which strikes me as critical in light of the current zeitgeist. Excellent, excellent food for thought here.

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Re: Snippets From My Talks On "De Facto Attacks on Free Speech"
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2017, 08:43:51 pm »
Men are trash.
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