We’ve become obese with information. The critical facility to shed the useless information that only adds lard, slowing down the brain, until it is only able to receive raw, unfiltered information. Consumerism has absorbed our privacy, and instead has given us spectacle and brands and celebrities. Information retrieval, noble in principle, has become a machine tailor made to reinforce positions, prejudices, and attitudes. No one’s mind is changed in the new world. The Internet has become a place where like mind forges alliances to sell a bill of goods. They troll for buyers. It is a great place for cultist, bigots, shoot from the lip experts, and like the borg, pulls the user into the collective community.
The Internet has freed people from thinking. And instead has created a new commons for drive by shouters and crackpots, the Internet as their weapon of choice to machine-gun their opponents. Unfortunately we accept that their rants and screams as information. There is premise that every voice is equal; that every view deserves respect and discussion.
Our culture of reflection and critique is stalling. That much is clear no matter where you look, who is in power, whose economy is crashing, or who is spinning. We have the equivalent of a machine that is all spin, the wash cycle broken. Passion is easy to spin. It requires no hard numbers, no complex ideas, no reflection drawn from the hardscrabble lessons found in history.
“The problem of the Internet, according to Weizenbaum, is that it invites us to see it as a Delphic oracle. The Internet will provide the answer to all our questions and problems. But the Internet is not a vending machine in which you throw a coin and then get what you want. The key, here, is the acquisition of a proper education in order to formulate the right query. It’s all about how one gets to pose the right question. For this one needs education and expertise. Higher standards of education are not attained by making it easier to publish. Weizenbaum: “The fact that anyone can put anything online does not mean a great deal. Randomly throwing something in achieves just as little as randomly fishing something out.” Communication alone will not lead to useful and sustainable knowledge.”
A tribute to Joseph Weizenbaum, by Geert Lovink
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