I’ve been using the World Wide Web since around 1994. I would say in the period from 1994 until 2012 I was learning new information on a daily basis online. The Internet was intellectually stimulating me during this time period.
Starting around 2013 something began changing. I increasingly was somehow running into the same information over and over again. At first I didn’t even notice it, I didn’t even start to realize this until 2015. By 2016 I knew something was wrong but I hadn’t get figured out what.
It’s now 2019. I took Windows 10 off my computer and installed a version of Linux that I consider to be pretty secure. I installed lots of browser plug ins that disable my web traffic from being monitored or tracked. I got off of Facebook and Google.
The result? I’m seeing a whole new Internet again. I’m learning again. After years of running into the same information over and over again I’m finding new challenging data. So what happened?
Algorithms. Quietly in the background Facebook, Google and god only knows who else, have been laying a framework that you can’t see that monitors your web activity, processes it and then very insidiously leads you down a trail based on some logic only known to the silicon valley elite. The result of this is that you end up feeling increasingly justified in your opinions on things, you see less and less information that challenges your world view and you feel more and more like you already have come across all the data that there is for your mind to process on pretty much every topic that interests you.
More than this though you somehow end up in chat rooms and Internet forums full of people with the same perspective as you that creates the now well known echo chamber effect of groupthink which can lead to some totally psychotic real world behaviors. People are now hanging out online with people all over the world with the same way of thinking as them, and this was never possible in the world before the Internet and these echo chambers create subcultures that would otherwise never have existed if you had to actually walk outside and meet at a potluck with your neighbors.
So people are increasingly divorced from the perspective of those in close physical proximity to them and connected to some warped world view that should never have existed in the natural world and is probably very distorted in many ways.
The result is the world of bizarre politics that we see today. Yes, the Internet is making people lose the ability to communicate with their neighbors and may actually be driving people insane. Humans were never meant to be connected to a global hive mind 24/7, we simply didn’t evolve like this and this is a very recent development. Perhaps in the long run this will all balance out and will cause humans to evolve into a new place but for now what we have is the currently established political systems and governments of the world being strangely warped by technology that is both far ahead of them evolutionarily and able to exert considerable influence on them and the result is that these things are no longer functioning at all in any way as intended and things are getting really, really weird.
Weird and scary really. Violence is breaking out over things that seem to me to be downright irrational and bizarre. In fact people can’t even seem to agree on the definition of some basic things anymore such as what qualifies as scientific data. This is very problematic and the problems that result from it will only continue to be highlighted in the news as time goes on.
Of course we aren’t even capable of agreeing on what the news is at this point as all these different subcultures continue to disagree with eachother about the nature of reality and what events are real and what events are entirely made up by the Internet communities themselves.
Things are getting really, really strange and I don’t know where this is going. But I do know what started it. Tracking cookies and algorithms were invented to sell products. The free services that we take for granted on the Internet such as Facebook, Twitter and Gmail are not truly free, because nothing is. Someone has to write the paychecks for the developers of this technology and pay the fees involved with keeping millions of Internet servers and their air conditioning on 24/7/365 and these fees and paychecks are paid by the Internet equivalent of commercials. Yes, your Internet activity is tracked and to a certain extent influenced in order to get you to buy things. And a percentage of what you are buying is paying for all these free services that you take for granted. And it’s a result of this underlying capitalist system that led us to the battleground we call reality in 2019.