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    For most of human history, information was scarce.

    For a brief moment in the early 2000s, the combined effect of centuries of curated news gathering (think NYT) with great reputations, and the online access of content created a Golden Age - information was cheap, plentiful, and correct.

    Now we’re back in a situation where no-one really “knows” anything, just like a peasant in 14th century France had no idea on what was going on in Paris. Except when there was a dearth of information, filled with rumor and legend, there’s now a glut.

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      I don’t agree with your historical analysis.

      For most of human history, information was scarce.

      Why do you think this?

      Except [where] there was a dearth of information, filled with rumor and legend, there’s now a glut.

      Sounds very Vernor Vinge “The Net of a Million Lies,” which was based off ’90s Usenet.

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        I define “information” in this case as objective facts, not rumor, demagougic lies, or religious statements.

        Why do you think this?

        Prior to the 16th century, the written word was incredibly expensive to reproduce.

        Prior to the late 19th century, most people could not read.

        Sounds very Vernor Vinge “The Net of a Million Lies,”

        I haven’t read that particular story, but Vinge is prescient about a lot of stuff.

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          Prior to the 16th century, the written word was incredibly expensive to reproduce.

          I think you severely underestimate pre-Gutenberg oral tradition.

          Prior to the late 19th century, most people could not read.

          I think you severely underestimate the pre-industrial education literary culture.

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            Earlier you wrote

            I don’t agree with your historical analysis.

            I’d prefer if you articulated your objections to my thesis with more than one-liners.

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              For most of human history, information was scarce.

              Objective facts were scarce for most of human history? We’ve had cities since at least 4000BC and Göbekli Tepe dates back to the 10th millennium BCE. Complex societies don’t exist in nor produce a scarcity of “information.”

              But, in your thesis, pre-Enlightenment or even pre-mass education doesn’t seem to count. Information was scarce… before the 1800s? The history of bureaucracy, let alone education, newspapers, or even world trade all belie this assertion.

              For a brief moment in the early 2000s, the combined effect of centuries of curated news gathering (think NYT) with great reputations, and the online access of content created a Golden Age - information was cheap, plentiful, and correct.

              I answered this here.

              I’d prefer if you articulated your objections to my thesis with more than one-liners.

              I don’t care about your hypocritical preference.

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                I won’t be continuing this discussion with you as I don’t think you are arguing in good faith. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

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            I agree, it used to be expensive to distribute media (as in a newspaper) in physical form, so you had to be at least credible to be profitable and stay afloat. Now anyone can distribute media cheaply, there is no longer that credibility filter.

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              Yellow journalism.

              More to the point, newspapers from the beginning have been tools of influence and would be what we now call propaganda. Profitable newspapers, either via ads or subscriptions, is a recent phenomenon.

              I am unaware of any evidence for a time period in which newspapers were credible.

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          I’d actually say that it doesn’t matter whether newspapers/the media were ever correct. What has changed is that the public no longer agrees on a set of generally reputable sources to get their “facts” from. 70 years ago the New York Times tells you what to think about WW2 and everyone agrees. Even if you don’t read it, the people who do set political discourse and agree.

          Now you have 20% of the population that thinks the NYT is trustworthy, 20% on Fox/equivalent, 20% on MSNBC/equivalent, and the rest who don’t care but are bombarded with oneliners from various influencing platforms like Facebook. Now everyone thinks they are en expert and can point to a source to back them up, no matter how outlandish their position.

          Too many sources of information arising to serve the market, catering to each customer’s preconceived notions of reality. No wonder we can’t agree on policy.

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            Thanks for expanding on this, this was essentially my point.

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          My favourite prediction/warning over this comes from Hideo Kojima and the iconic Metal Gear Solid 2 (potentially the first postmodern AAA game) back in 2001; nobody I know heeded the warning. Here’s a link to the relevant conversation.

          I think an AI that decides whether content is true or false is better than letting the people “decide for themselves”. At least an AI would keep everyone’s truths consistent.

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            That came out in 2001?! Daaang that’s an impressive reading of the first 5-6 years of the world wide web existing and prediction of where it was taking us.

            Being a bit philosophical for a moment, I think many would agree that while humans are very imperfect it’s the struggle through these problems that defines us and lets us grow. It’s a bit hard to make that argument now as we’re literally running our planet (and therefore our ability to live) into the ground.. but even still I think many would prefer to go down with the ship feeling that they had free will..

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            I see a positive side to this, but I may be alone on that. Over the past thirty years with the internet, we’ve virtualized a lot of our interactions with the world. Sure, television, radio, and newspapers had the same effect, but it was to a lesser degree.

            If we are entering an era now where we can’t really believe or trust images, video or even text communication (because it can be hacked and impersonated), then maybe we move toward more IRL interaction among smaller groups of people. This makes large scale coordination much harder, but it can also lead to tight bonds in small communities.

            I don’t think this is hypothetical. We already see the tendency to opt out of the big spaces in the digital world. People don’t share as much as they used to on the large social media sites, opting instead for mastodon, Slacks, or just group message conversations that never end.

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              Nassim Taleb talks about this a lot under the name “localism” (opposite of globalism, which he is a big critic of).

              I’m having trouble finding many references outside Twitter, but these are fairly lucid:

              https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1071379121865932800.html

              https://twitter.com/nntaleb/status/1038934453974790144?lang=en

              It’s basically old-fashioned common sense: good fences make good neighbors. Values are local and relative, and that’s OK. Not everybody has to agree on everything.

              It makes sense for some people to be “isolated” within a subculture and for other people to be bridges between subcultures. I think humans naturally work that way. The Internet has unfortunately mixed everyone together, which creates a lot of conflict.

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                Yes, I’ve thought about that aspect of systems a lot and I agree with him on this. It’s good to see him taking it up. Most problems in social systems are problems aggravated by scale. We shouldn’t be surprised; the same thing is true of software.

                Another thing to notice: In security, monocultures are risky. Instead of having one big system, it’s better to have many with less protected by each. Having a lot of local variation in human culture and governance is robust in the same way.

                You might like this on locality too.

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                  Yes interesting, you’re both saying many of the same things. Policies for punishment are a great example of things that may work better locally (relatively speaking, of course).

                  And that brings to mind that my experience with policies for hiring changing from global to local at Google, as the company scaled. Without going into too much detail, about 15 years ago, there was the myth that “we hire the best” (which seems to have infected a lot of the valley). There was a meme that “the founder looks at every candidate hired”.

                  But that of course ignores the obvious problem that people who are experts in search may not be the best people to judge people who build usable GUIs, or build phone hardware, etc. Expertise, and judgement of expertise, is very much local / cultural.

                  They were trying to avoid the “local corruption” problem which is admirable. That is, the problem where a boss hires his buddy, and that buddy is useless to the rest of the company. But as the company scaled (by a couple orders of magnitude), the tradeoff changed. They allow for more local judgement when determining who to hire.


                  Another article I read this morning is about the opposite problem: extreme localism and a lack of genetic diversity causing serious diseases.

                  https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21666705

                  Although really they’re not opposites. It’s just that extreme localism and extreme globalism both suffer from a lack of diversity (at different scales). Although I would also add that diversity is a paradox – if every part of a system is diverse with respect to a particular dimension, then the system isn’t not diverse. Having a bunch of groups, some of which are homogeneous and some of which are heterogeneous, is more diverse. So you need both diversity and “meta-diversity” :)

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                    Yes, I agree. More and more my frame for systems design is ecology.

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                Indeed. The trend I see is a move back towards more historical modes of being, which allow us to navigate the modern world in a way that aligns with our evolved natures. As we are becoming comfortable with them, we’re starting to bend the tools of modernity to fit us.

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                Why should a reputable news outlet mess with cryptography to confirm a video to be “legitimate” when they can simply republish it on their website?