Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Everything falls apart

These social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and yes, even Reddit, are all artificial, in the sense that someone's online identity can be constructed to form whatever identity the person wants. More importantly, though, these things are useful as a way to exclude others.

Do you want to see a real, organic, exclusive social network in action? Here's a list of the top three law firms in New Zealand. You'd be amazed by how many people in those firms know each other personally or went to school together.

Computers have turned from dream machines into glorified fax machines. "Teh social" is all anyone talks about these days - perhaps because it doesn't require any specialised knowledge. The great Cambrian explosion of possibilities has made way for Twitter updates about puking cats.

In the long run, the internet is going to reflect human civilization and culture the way every other medium has. The net's early adopters were smart, innovative people posting on forums and those people have been spoiled by a web skewed heavily to their tastes. The huddled masses had not yet begun to create their own content en masse. But now that they have and, well, the internet looks like everything else.

This is a true "long tail" story of the internet - for any individual, only a tiny part will be important and worthwhile, while the vast majority is viewed as uninteresting. The fact that the corporations are looking to the mass appeal digital products such as Facebook should come as no surprise either - look how quickly corporations embraced television and filled it with noise.

If you want better content or a more utopian internet, educating and raising future users to want better content is crucial. You need to want the future generations to desire utopia in every aspect of their lives. People have to want freedom along with its attendant chaos more than they want the comfort and security which comes with ceding control to others.

What Lanier represented in the 1990's was the possibility of a utopian future actually coming to pass, at least online. You can't blame him for trying, or dreaming.

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