Who Will Control Reality?
The next technological wave will change the way we perceive reality. Here's a useful frame for understanding what is on the way and how to survive it.
Over the last seven years, with the advent of social networking, there’s been an online civil war over who controls our information flow and how they get to do it. It’s been a messy, confusing fight that has touched on the following:
What type of information is allowed amplification, and what should be de-amplified?
What is fact or fiction? Can truth be hate speech? Is fiction harmful (conspiracy theories or unapproved theories)? Should false information and ideas be censored?
What is disinformation (harmful fiction or spun facts designed to mislead), and how can it be suppressed (de-amplification, soft bans, hard bans, blacklists)?
Until late last year, it looked like the conflict was over, and we were on a worrisome trajectory toward disaster:
An open-source alliance of global corporations, online political networks (networked tribes held together by their opposition to some great evil), and struggling institutions (from academia to government) had won that fight.
This alliance had established a censorship and control system growing ever more constrictive by the day (that could, given time, rival the networked authoritarianism we have seen in China). It also used the system to control political outcomes in the US and beyond.
Worse, the system showed signs of non-linear behavior — we saw this when the networked monoculture created by this system rapidly escalated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine into a sprawling global war between the West and Russia (China, etc.).
Elon’s acquisition of Twitter and use of information warfare (the Twitter files) paused this trajectory. However, it won’t last long. One reason is that nothing was done to fundamentally change the nature of our information system (digital rights and ownership); another is that a new and much more disruptive wave of technological change is on the way.
The Means of Reality Production
This new technological wave is for higher stakes, and it won’t just impact the flow of information between billions of people but also how they perceive reality. Let’s dig in, starting with something simple and building from there.