27 February 2017

We were so blind

I started getting paid to do work on and around the Web in 1993 and my career became "the Web" in 1994. I remember the early days - I remember the excitement we all felt about how we were "changing the world."

Over the last five to ten years I've struggled to explain how painful it is to see what has become of the dreams that we all had back then for the Web. I've had a hard time explaining the deep, philosophical sadness that I feel when I look at what we've done.

This morning this piece was shared with me. And now I can explain my depression and my disillusionment. Finally I can explain why and how I have become an internet apostate.
And when you give the average person an infinite reservoir of human wisdom, they will not Google for the higher truth that contradicts their own convictions. They will not Google for what is true yet unpleasant. Instead, most of us will Google for what is pleasant but untrue.
We were irresponsibly idealistic and naive. We thought that, because we were so fucking smart, we understood how things work. Instead we broke everything and there doesn't seem to be a good way to fix it now.
Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this. Much of this education and advancement revolved around a respect for science, public debate, rational argument, putting multiple institutions in power to balance one another, and so on. We’ve barely even gotten it right the couple hundred years we’ve had it.
This piece is a long read, and I know that for many of you that means you won't read it. And sadly that might illustrate why I think this is important more effectively than anything I can say.
The problem is, as far as I can tell, the internet and its technologies don’t deliver us from tribalism. They don’t deliver us from our baser instincts. They do the opposite. They mainline tribalism into our eyeballs. And what we’re seeing is the beginning of that terrifying impact.
At least I'm old and don't have kids.


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