Author Topic: Information Threat  (Read 3528 times)

Jasper

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Information Threat
« on: June 05, 2011, 01:55:20 am »
The name commonly given to our times is The Information Age. This is to denote that the main
characteristic of this period of history is the way in which networks and data manipulation have shaped
the world we live in. This is a fair assessment, but the name suggests a sort of benevolence and
renaissance that is somewhat unwarranted.

The contemporary age is something akin to, or perhaps the opposite of, the Dark Ages of the medieval era, where information on any subject was nearly impossible to acquire except by word of mouth or personal observation. Society hasn't lost any knowledge, and we have no difficulty in acquiring information. On the contrary, in recent decades humanity has created so much, so quickly, that it has outpaced itself. In academia, art, philosophy, music, and technology, we have created more than the sum of all mankind's advances up until now in the last century alone, and all of it is available for next to free, except all of the very newest material. Even then, media of any kind is cheaper than it ever has been.

Data consumption in industry, academia, and the private sector has increased by leaps and bounds. There is so much raw data in our environment right now that we can never comprehend it all, and any amount of verification in the data we do use is nearly impossible. If a person wants information on a subject , their challenge is to be able to critically select the most trustworthy source, but the nature of the beast is that it will always be a leap of faith, since the proliferation of sources, combined with the lack of authoritativeness in such an impersonal and anonymous environment is so difficult. Even if a person's name or a reputable publisher's logo is on an internet source, there is still no verification that it is legitimate, since anyone could misrepresent themselves. All we can do is trust to the goodwill of anonymous sources.

It's not dark anymore, it's so bright that you can't see a thing. The internet is not a light that illuminates, but a glare that blinds. And it's always getting brighter. We're in The Glare Ages.

Aside from the merely conceptual noise of the internet and mass media, actual noises are a
constant companion due to our technology. Highways can be heard miles away, even indoors.
Machines clamor and groan. Computers and phones whir and beep and jingle. Fluorescent bulbs
whisper endlessly. Clockwork ticks. Every item wears the sigil of it's licensed manufacturer. Humans
have created a world where they are hounded day and night by gibbering, howling, and moaning
machines, and have put up with it for so long that they've stopped noticing it altogether.

The Flobots said there is a war going on for your mind, but they're wrong. The war is already lost, and the enemy
has granted no quarter. Every consumer product is stamped with logos, every telephone pole is riddled
with flyers, every piece of food has stickers, and every email and web page is littered with
advertisements and propaganda, and there is no expression left that has not been co-opted, whether
poetic or prosaic. The information has won, and quiet has been abolished. We're addicted to noise, and
we've lost the ability, collectively, to survive without it. So is the problem to do with all of our
technology? What would we do without the the networks, the broadcast system, and data satellites?

Some will hasten to add that we'd return to an agrarian society. No we couldn't, bless their hearts.
Some would certainly try, but there are far too many people for the entire US population to subsistence
farm on what arable land there is. According to numbers taken from the CIA world fact-book and
an internet source on sustenance farming that I quickly checked on, the US has barely more than half of the arable land
needed for each person to subsist on the fruits of their own labor. Make no mistake, as long as we have
the population level of a developed nation, we're stuck with the economic trappings of one. And the
population is increasing.

The law of supply and demand states that the value and availability of any commodity in a free
market are inversely proportional. As a commodity becomes rarefied, it's value will rise due to
increased demand between competing . Even intangibles, such as services, can be treated in this way,
as shown by labor markets in action, most notably during the time after the Black Plague, when a
shortage of labor due to population decrease caused laborers to prosper. Attention is another thing that
can be treated by the law of supply and demand.

As our attention spans decrease, therefore, market forces will shape events so that attention is more fiercely sought-after by businesses and institutions who need your attention to get your money. Commercials and propaganda will become increasingly engineered to stick in the mind. Ever since the advent of psychological science, this has been an increasing trend. Advertisements are fine tuned and clinically tested to have the greatest impact on human behavior possible, with or without active awareness. Computers and cell phones demand more and more attention by simply being addictive. Facebook, YouTube, and legions of other time wasting websites that derive their income from advertisements are under pressure from their own bottom line to get as many advertisement clicks as possible, and therefore as much of your attention share as possible.

Our ability to pay attention since the so-called Information Age has dwindled to comical proportions
due to constant distraction and entertainment. Humans aren't suited to the environment they have
created. Denizens of this world have free access to unbearable amounts of information on every topic,
imaginable or otherwise. Access is elective, meaning that to find information, you must decide what is
wanted. Readers are free to select information that agrees with their worldview. There is a
scientifically documented behavioral trait of humans, relevant to the mass of information available to
us, that skews the ability to take into account evidence.

The findings show that if a person with strong opinions is shown evidence regarding those opinions, that person will tend to become more sure of their viewpoint regardless of what the evidence actually said. This factors into the Information Age in a profound way; Are beliefs going to continually polarize due to the proliferation of evidence? Such a phenomenon will tend to have terrible and systematic effects on any political climate. Essentially, it ensures that only the most immoderate voices are heard. And this will only add to the difficulty of
finding authoritative information.

When the chainsaw juggler misses a beat, his problems have only just begun. The way things
are going, it doesn't look like humanity will be able to deal with what it's done. We can't fight or eat
our way out of this problem. We can't legislate it away, and we can't protest it in front of columnized
buildings, demanding the plagues and woes be put back in the box. We can only push the envelope like
we always do. It is too complex and vast of a problem for your or I or any group of people to do
anything useful. Will exabytes be our epitaph? What does the endgame look like? All that can be said
for certain is that this will continue to be a problem that few see.

People don't talk about these problems because they don't have the words for it. It is a nebulous sense of things being wrong in some way that many feel but few understand. It isn't anomie, and it isn't a “kids these days” problem. The problem's source is economic and intellectual forces that have been at play for a very long time, and are only now becoming problematic. It's not that the system has failed, which might be a mercy. No, the system works better than ever. It's simply stopped doing what we need it to.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2011, 01:22:10 am by Jasper »

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2011, 11:59:10 pm »
So, what's wrong with it? 

Salty

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #2 on: June 06, 2011, 12:36:08 am »
Nothing wrong in substance. It's great. I liked this part very much of course.

Quote
It's not the dark anymore, it's so bright that you can't see a thing. The internet is not a light that illuminates, but a glare that blinds. And it's always getting brighter. We're in The Glare Ages.

I think you are absolutely right and the trends you're talking about, in regard to the addictive and attention robbing nature of the devices used to access and manipulate this information is especially interesting to me.

However the format, lack of breaks, made it a little hard to read.


The world is a car and you're the crash test dummy.

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2011, 12:45:33 am »
Yeah, wall of text is a bad habit of mine when I write more than brief comments.  Fixed it a bit, but it has these weird breaks in it that make reformatting it a chore. 

Salty

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2011, 12:48:42 am »
Nah that's just fine now.

Is good rant.
The world is a car and you're the crash test dummy.

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2011, 01:00:39 am »
Thanks Alty.  I was getting worried that I was totally out of my head on this one.  It was a real fucker to write too.  Ranting doesn't come naturally to me.  I tend to be about as saucy as engineering grade desiccant giving a lecture on comedy theory.

Salty

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2011, 01:08:09 am »
Quote
People don't talk about these problems because they don't have the words for it. It is a nebulous sense of things being wrong in some way that many feel but few understand. It isn't anomie, and it isn't a “kids these days” problem. The problem's source is economic and intellectual forces that have been at play for a very long time, and are only now becoming problematic. It's not that the system has failed, which might be a mercy. No, the system works better than ever. It's simply stopped doing what we want it to.

I also liked this, especially the bolder part since it's true and you were able to do just that in the rant.

However on the last line: I would say need instead of want only because part of the problem is that the things we need, the things that can help us are not being provided. Or at least not being accessed because of The Glare. Instead we have an overabundance of what we want. Or at least what we are convinced to want.
The world is a car and you're the crash test dummy.

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2011, 01:21:00 am »
That's an excellent point, and I think I'll amend it. 

Salty

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2011, 01:30:32 am »
 :awesome:
The world is a car and you're the crash test dummy.

Mesozoic Mister Nigel

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2011, 07:18:39 am »
I want my older two kids to read this and tell me what they think of it.
“I’m guessing it was January 2007, a meeting in Bethesda, we got a bag of bees and just started smashing them on the desk,” Charles Wick said. “It was very complicated.”


Rumckle

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2011, 12:19:54 pm »
This is the second time recently that I've seen someone equating advertising and technology. I mean, there is definitely some link between advertising and technology, maybe you can't really have one without the other, but even if that is true, I feel that you should deal with them in different ways. Anyway, that is more of an aside to what I was going to talk about.

The thing with being bombarded with information, is that as technology feeds us with more information, it also provides us with new ways to deal with information. We can take as an example mobile phones, pretty much everyone carries around a mobile phone these days, and as a consequence, yes we are getting more information fed to us. But mobile phones also give us a new way to deal with information, in this case phone numbers, we no longer have to remember peoples phone numbers (obviously before we weren't remembering the number of everyone we know, but we still remembered some important ones).

This is not a new phenomena either, eg humans invented writing, and no longer did people have to remember the best way to (ie) build shelter, it can be written down and shared. (Writing may only be available to the "important" people of the village/tribe/whatever at the time, but the availability of new tech is not dissimilar today.)

As far as advertising goes, well, for every advertisement online, there is an ad-block extension for your browser. I'm not saying this is a solution for all advertising, merely an example. We have forces marketing to us (through technology), and we also have ways to ignore them (through technology). If you want to ignore the noise in the city, go buy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and then play your music, or just listen to silence. And it is not if the world used to be completely silent, either, animals can be rather noisy when they want to be, and you can't stop trees from rustling, or waves from crashing.

The overall point is, that technology is not all evil, it bombards us with information, but it also gives us ways to escape or filter that information. As humans, we just have to adapt, and humans are usually good at adapting (through use of technology in a lot of cases).
It's not trolling, it's just satire.

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #11 on: June 06, 2011, 03:33:59 pm »
Even if you can block ads and information you don't want, you will actively seek to be inundated with information you think you want, and inevitably, that's somebody's bottom line. 

Jasper

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2011, 03:35:37 pm »
I want my older two kids to read this and tell me what they think of it.

Cool.  Let me know?  I'm probably the youngest person who's read it so far.

Rumckle

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #13 on: June 06, 2011, 04:17:59 pm »
Even if you can block ads and information you don't want, you will actively seek to be inundated with information you think you want, and inevitably, that's somebody's bottom line. 

Not always, but I get your point, however, it's been that way ever since language was invented and people sat around a fire hearing stories about the serpent god or whoever. These days, yes it is on a bigger scale, but you need to use technology to combat fire with fire.

Or, you can just go become a hermit.
It's not trolling, it's just satire.

Salty

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Re: Information Threat
« Reply #14 on: June 06, 2011, 06:37:22 pm »
While I agree that technology should also be used to combat what some of us view as negative affects, technology is not all evil, and that becoming a hermit should be avoided...

It's not a simple matter of advertising finding its way into our tiny miraculous devices.

Let's take for example, the iPhone. Yeah.

That thing is designed to control (record, track, calculate, etc.) ALL the information that goes in and out. It's not even a matter of ads vs no ads. The way people listen to music (to a lesser degree the actual music they listen to), the way they buy it, store it, share it. This is all controlled. The way people talk to one another.

Now, I use it often to talk to you spags. And I exert as much of my own control while minimizing The Man's as much as possible. And there you are 169% correct, we use technology to combat THEIR grip. However, people who give a damn are the minority, and most people just go with the flow. The bulk of this technology is designed to have you go with the flow. It is well beyond the scope of advertising.

There is a giant river of information, and the boat we're all riding is being steered with intent. From the very bottom, these things are being designed with control in mind. And just like language, having started as a natural progression and later being manipulated for control, we can take it back and use it RIGHTEOUSLY. But we see how well that's worked overall in our history. If we are gonna fight this thing we better get cracking.
The world is a car and you're the crash test dummy.