Reading a new book by Neal Stephenson: Fall, or Dodge in Hell. Themes developing around where the internet and social media might go, and a question about how to get the facts when there are so many trolls spamming the airwaves. Current bit set in about 2050 or so, and a young college woman asks an older character:
Sophia: “What was it like?”
Enoch: “What was it like when people agreed on facts, you mean?”
Sophia: “Yeah. Because they did, right?”
Enoch: “I would say that the ability of people to agree on matters of fact not immediately visible—states of affairs removed from them in space and time—ramped up from a baseline of approximately zero to a pretty high level around the time of the scientific revolution and all that, and stayed there and become more globally distributed up through the Cronkite era, and then dropped to zero incredibly quickly when the Internet came along. And I think that the main thing it conferred on people was social mobility, so that if you were a smart kid growing up on a farm in Kansas or a slum in India you had a chance to do something interesting with your life. Before it—before that three-hundred-year run when there was a way for people to agree on facts—we had kings and warlords and rigid social hierarchy. During it, a lot of brainpower got unlocked and things got a lot better materially. A lot better. Now we’re back in a situation where the people who have the power and the money can get what they want by dictating what the mass of people ought to believe.”
The ability to find facts in the garbage-dump of the internet might depend on the ability to think critically, and some kind of innate skepticism for information in general.
Authoritarians might be at a handicap here due to there tendency to invest (or perceive) authority in others….
I loved the analogy they used in Legion season 2 where what we see on our screens are the shadows on the cave wall and we think they represent how the world is.