Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Gossip Trap

I posted before on Erik Hoel reviewing The Dawn of Everything at ACX*, but having just heard him on Razib's podcast I went back and read that review again. I was again taken by his discussion of Twitter:

Which means that, with the advent of social media, and the resultant triumph of the spread of gossip over Dunbar’s number, we might have just inadvertently performed the equivalent of summoning an Elder God. The ability to organize society through raw social power given back to a species that had to climb out of the trap of raw social power by inventing civilization. The Gossip Trap is our first Eldritch Mother, the Garrulous Gorgon With a Thousand Heads, The Beast Made Only of Sound.

And if the Gossip Trap was humanity’s first form of government, and via technology it’s been resurrected once more into the world, how long until it swallows up the entire globe?

If the medium is the message, then Elon Musk may not be able to change much. We can also look at the Twitter cancelations and deplatforming under previous management as some recognition that a powerful spirit has been untethered and attempting to contain that by surgically removing the parts of the beast they like least. There's no evidence yet whether that works or not, it's too soon. But it is already apparent that this has new costs of its own as well.

*Though Hoel was still anonymous at the time. Hoel thinks the book has virtues, but overclaims due to modern political slants.  Freddie DeBoer doesn't even grant that much.

8 comments:

Grim said...

There is reason to be hopeful about Twitter.

https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/11/08/1062886/heres-how-a-twitter-engineer-says-it-will-break-in-the-coming-weeks/

David Foster said...

It's not just a matter of how many people they laid off, it's a matter of *who* they laid off. Seems unlikely that prior management were highly astute about who to hire, who to keep, who to promote, how to organize the work, etc.

james said...

And if the manager wants to cut headcount, he can fire an engineer or himself...
Decisions, decisions.

I wonder what sort of architecture they have. I think I see how making something manual rather than automatic might, in some architectures, help slow down the writing while the cloud catches up. But if that sort of thing shows up this fast, the whole edifice must be fairly delicate. Maybe some departing engineers left things with a little extra disorder?

Christopher B said...

Things might fall apart next week is a pretty unfalsifiable prediction.

David Foster said...

Relevant:

https://compactmag.com/article/the-email-caste-s-last-stand

David Foster said...

re Gossip, see my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet:

https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/58551.html

David Foster said...

also Conformity, Cruelty, and Political Activism, especially the Faust excerpt:

https://chicagoboyz.net/archives/57600.html

I suspect that Gossip tends to draw people who are not really cruel people into cruel behavior...as with Goethe's Gretchen...and that this effect is even stronger on social media than in the face-to-face world.

PenGun said...

Yeah, there is nothing like broadband to completely screw up the old ways of dealing with each other.

Now its all little and larger groups banding together and identifying others as the enemy. Makes my days more interesting, but I do play apocalyptic games for fun.

This is a real problem and is changing how humanity converses. Hopefully we will work it out soon as the "Crazy Years", although a bit late, are in full play now. If we don't, it will become a nastier world and that is very bad indeed.