Thought Balloon: On the Internet, Wrong

thought balloon small asterisk

*It’s not that someone on the Internet is wrong. It’s that we’re all wrong, cracked, crazy, and the Internet is a relentless mirror.

The Internet doesn’t make us crazy, we were already crazy. The Internet makes the crazy public, persistent, and ubiquitous. It provides, as long as the res technica survives, a permanent record of the crazy, and unavoidable evidence that friends, neighbors, co-workers, celebrities, and random strangers who once were cloaked in presumed sanity by the relative privacy of meat to meat communication routinely engage in delusional, crazy thinking, and cling to cognitive errors that we execrate (Someone on the Internet is wrong!) mostly because it creates an uneasy suspicion that we ourselves appear, and are, as crazy and as wrong. The Internet doesn’t make us more tribal, either, it makes vanishingly clear how tribal we are…or rather, how crazy those other tribes are. The Internet makes us aware that the crazy is communal, multivalent and contagious. Crazy upon crazy, tribe upon tribe, wherever one is gathered, two are crazy. Royally, We-ly crazy.

The Tragedy of the Commons posits that individuals following their own, “rational” self interest act against the interest of the whole, depleting common resources. The tragedy of the Internet commons is that we’re pooling our irrational interests, repleting human irrationality: too many idiots, not enough villages. The village isn’t missing its idiot, the idiots are massing their villages. Hedges and pales are trampled down. The Internet jumbles the villages, breaks the symmetry of tribal “sanity,” the consensus reality by which the subsets of human society maintain their integrity, i.e., the illusion that we all agree what is sane and right. The Internet makes sanity hopeless. It doesn’t make us, as in the Orwellian zombie exhortation, go outside the envelope, it tears up all the envelopes into which we sort our various allegiances and flings the bits into the air, into the clouds, into the global cloud of panpoptic eyes. Everyware makes crazyware.

 

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