The Post-Information Age?

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Steve3007
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The Post-Information Age?

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 6:07 am

As Information Technology advances we are more and more in touch with each other. The cacophony of viewpoints gets louder and louder. We megaphone our views to our "opponents" and retreat to our echo chambers when we want to re-enforce our agreements with our "allies".

Footage of a chemical weapons attack in Syria? Fake. Actors. Footage of a Russian rocket launcher travelling to and from the site where it allegedly shot down a Dutch airliner over Syria? Photoshopped. Fake. How's the economy doing? Terribly or wonderfully. Take your pick depending on your partisan position. Has the US President committed a high crime, or maybe a misdemeanor? "Yes, he's a danger to the world", "No it's a BS witch-hunt". Take your pick depending on your partisan position.

We also appear to be approaching the point where a simulation of a person saying or doing a particular thing which they didn't say or do is indistinguishable from the real thing. If that point is reached, anybody can be portrayed as having done or said pretty much anything. At that point, anybody can be accused of anything and, conversely, anybody can deny having done or said anything, to anybody who didn't personally see them do it. And there will be no means to tell whether those accusations and denials have any basis in fact. So they will all be just more ignored noise.

Is the end point of all this a state of affairs in which we only believe that which we directly experience ourselves and that which we already wanted to believe? Is that state of affairs really any different to the way that it's always been? The cynical aphorisms "The first casualty of war is the truth" and "There are lies, damned lies and statistics" do, after all, pre-date the internet.

Any thoughts?

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 7:05 am

Typo: The Dutch airliner came down over Ukraine not Syria.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 12th, 2020, 7:43 am

I don't think this is something new, really. I think what's new is that it's more difficult now to be culturally insular, so the illusion that everyone agrees on anything is more difficult to maintain.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 7:54 am

Yes, you're probably right.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Greta » February 12th, 2020, 8:01 am

People are inflamed with resentment and hatred, switching off their critical faculties. This appears to be the result of having higher population density than a culture is accustomed to handling.

With this many people there was always going to be a hard landing at some stage ("truth being the first casualty" etc). Some of us hoped to cushion that landing somewhat, but that is not possible.

On the plus side, it's just nature in action.

After all, the advent of humanity was hardly a joyous transition for other species but we can see the value brought by the additional sophistication of humans (at least until we started regressing into brain-dead ideologues). Whatever the multinationals are brewing - cyborgs, AI, themselves as city states - it is a new transition that will be vastly more sophisticated than today's societies. And, let's face, we simple humans are already being supplanted (notice what's happened to wages?). Now there are companies with ever higher levels of automation buying majority stakes in themselves and, of course, they are already decoupling from the mainstream economy by evading tax.

So a minority will advance, surrounded (or infused by) technology, while others are left to devolve or die. Just as happened to the apes.

A little food for thought: https://www.quora.com/Has-an-animal-eve ... to-survive
A professor once told our class about an experiment with flies. These flies were somehow manipulated to have larger brains and were placed into a closed environment with non-manipulated flies. For the first part of the experiment there was an abundance of food, and the smarter flies grew in population faster than the ordinary flies. In the second part of the experiment the researchers limited the amount of food available to the flies. During this phase nearly all of the enhanced flies dies, while the dumber flies proliferated.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by chewybrian » February 12th, 2020, 9:42 am

I believe we all have the power within us to understand things more rationally, to be less susceptible to manipulation, to be happy with less, and more able and willing to contribute to the greater good. What we need is to make philosophy and psychology part of everyone's education from an early age. We give information and indoctrination instead, and leave people in a much worse state after they are 'educated' as a result. They would function much better if they were emotionally educated in addition to getting raw information.

Why don't we do this? I think it is a combination of people wanting to protect their private views of morality, and the fact that the powers that be don't really want people who can think for themselves, but rather people who they can exploit and manage. Further, mental illness had such a stigma in the past that we were deep in denial about its reach. Now we accept it, but treat it with pills, or the parlor tricks of cognitive behavioral therapy, seldom acknowledging existential causes. As a result, we allow it to proliferate even more, and treat the symptoms while seldom curing anything.

If instead we educated people about philosophy and psychology all along, we could create a Wikipedia-like environment in politics and other public discussions. People would get closer and closer to truth, and less inclined or able to spread propaganda, as others would both see through it and call it out for what it is. Instead, we have constant war between A Brave New World and 1984, and no matter who wins, we lose.
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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Wossname » February 12th, 2020, 2:29 pm

chewybrian wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:42 am
by chewybrian » Today, 1:42 pm

I believe we all have the power within us to understand things more rationally, to be less susceptible to manipulation, to be happy with less, and more able and willing to contribute to the greater good. What we need is to make philosophy and psychology part of everyone's education from an early age. We give information and indoctrination instead, and leave people in a much worse state after they are 'educated' as a result. They would function much better if they were emotionally educated in addition to getting raw information.

Why don't we do this? I think it is a combination of people wanting to protect their private views of morality, and the fact that the powers that be don't really want people who can think for themselves, but rather people who they can exploit and manage. Further, mental illness had such a stigma in the past that we were deep in denial about its reach. Now we accept it, but treat it with pills, or the parlor tricks of cognitive behavioral therapy, seldom acknowledging existential causes. As a result, we allow it to proliferate even more, and treat the symptoms while seldom curing anything.

If instead we educated people about philosophy and psychology all along, we could create a Wikipedia-like environment in politics and other public discussions. People would get closer and closer to truth, and less inclined or able to spread propaganda, as others would both see through it and call it out for what it is. Instead, we have constant war between A Brave New World and 1984, and no matter who wins, we lose.
I like this answer.
The question Steve3007 poses is an important one. Assuredly people must be encouraged and taught how to evaluate information and think for themselves. This should be one of the prime functions (perhaps the prime function) of an education system. The widespread availability of information is both a blessing and a curse. Information has never been so freely available. I think that is a very good thing. But, as you say, what is true and what is fake? Worse, clever people try to manipulate our opinions in clever ways without us even suspecting they are doing so.

For myself, I think people must be encouraged to question what they hear and seek alternative views. That is tough. People do often, as mentioned, like to retreat to the comfort of echo chambers. People don’t like to look at stuff that suggests they are wrong. It is important for people to understand that it is OK to be wrong. We are all wrong sometimes. No-one knows everything and has a monopoly on “the truth” and just about every story has at least two sides. Education has an important role here too.

I believe we should be suspicious of any attempts to monopolise the media or shut down alternative viewpoints. Those with power should be scrutinised most carefully of all. Power is often self-seeking. The cacophony of competing voices gets louder. I don’t think the answer is to stop people talking. I have no easy solutions, and what I do have is trite, but earnest. We must listen to each other. We must demand we are allowed to listen to each other. We must be willing to learn to evaluate what we hear, and encourage others to do the same.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Papus79 » February 13th, 2020, 12:26 am

We'd have to get an upper-hand on the game theory in some public way to do much about it. That could be the next wave of corporate and governmental consulting being around game theory, managing cluster B personality disorders in the workplace and in clients, etc.. As far as the click-bait model of posting the most inflammatory information for clicks to cash I don't know if there's much of a way to fix that, some kind of filter could be placed on a lot of the major social media services I'm sure but they'd be losing revenue to do that.

I don't think most people can be bothered though to look outside their echo chambers, and it's pretty depressing. Just to post any sort of long-form interview on politics, mathematics, anything MIT related, or any panel discussion on places like Facebook, Minds, etc. has been a great recipe for 0 likes / 0 replies. For at least the most visible people online anything longer than a meme or motion gif seems like it's too much time or effort. The only political or philosophic things they'll respond to are things that either fully agree with them or disagree in a way that they're clear with, anything that lands somewhere between or broaches any viewpoint different than what they're used to generally just causes uncomfortable silence. It's tough to tell whether people are just overstimulated and overworked, whether they've always naturally been a bit parochial, and if both which to what degree.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by allegoring » February 13th, 2020, 2:45 am

I generally agree with what's already been written here, but there are a few points that are probably worth repeating:

Our society suffers from a grotesque information overload. Every day, we're pumping out quintillions of bytes of data, and that quantity is accelerating rapidly. It's estimated that more data was generated in the last two years than in all the rest of human history combined.

There's simply too much information out there for anyone to begin processing it all. The sudden explosion of data creates strong Darwinian selection pressures, with more successful ways of transmitting data driving less successful ways to extinction. If you look at the media in the 1980s and before, it was a noble, painstaking, and respected institution. Now, most media outlets focus on whatever will quickly draw in the most viewers, and that too frequently means tabloid news that panders to people's greatest fears and desires. Loud, hyper-emotional, low-quality info more often wins out over calmer, reasoned, high-quality info.

The thing is, most people have the mental and technological tools to separate good info from bad info. But we're so bombarded with data and so distracted with other concerns that we don't bother to employ them. Out of laziness or indifference, we generally just rely on other people to do our fact-sorting and thinking for us.

I wouldn't worry too much about deepfakes, such as hackers manipulating footage of world leaders to make it look like they're declaring nuclear war, because software exists that can easily tell us if a video has been tampered with (Adobe and others have created similar tools that can tell us if a picture has been photoshopped). But different ideologies do seem to create massive blindspots in their adherents' minds -- a point that Thomas Kuhn popularized in his _Structure of Scientific Revolutions_. People who live within a conservative paradigm, which is all about preserving themselves and their way of life, will be more skeptical, cautious, and fearful of new ideas. People of a more liberal bent, on the other hand, will behave in a more risk-taking and open-minded way. One and the same datum will produce quite opposite reactions in their minds, because they have such different emotional wiring. There have even been scientific studies that show differences in ideology stem from deep neural processing differences in people's brains. It's possible to judge a person's political ideology with high (>95%) accuracy just by showing them a few gross photos and measuring with an fMRI the amount of disgust and fear those photos evoke in them. (Citation for those interested since links aren't allowed: Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology Woo-Young Ahn, Kenneth T. Kishida, Xiaosi Gu, Terry Lohrenz, Ann Harvey, John R. Alford, Kevin B. Smith, Gideon Yaffe, John R. Hibbing, Peter Dayan, P. Read Montague Curr Biol. 2014 Nov 17; 24(22): 2693–2699. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.050.)

There'll always be skeptics and conspiracy theorists who believe the moon landing was faked or that the Earth is really flat, because there'll always be a lot of variation in types of brains and levels of intelligence. Some people just have more active adrenal glands that make them more cagey and skeptical, which is useful to our species in some circumstances, while others have less powerful adrenals, which is useful in other circumstances. What's more concerning, though, are attempts to censor or stamp out opposing views altogether, however wrongheaded or unpleasant they may be. Right now, it seems like the so-called cancel culture has gone berserk, to such an extent that a public figure can't even speak the truth lest it hurt someone's delicate sensibilities. (The most recent example is Michael Bloomberg and his statement, which DOJ statistics fully corroborate, that minority enclaves are associated with disproportionately higher crime rates). If carried to its logical conclusion, pretty soon people will not be able to say the sky is blue lest it offend color blind people, or that 1+1=2 lest it offend the innumerate.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 13th, 2020, 11:38 am

chewybrian wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:42 am
I believe we all have the power within us to understand things more rationally...
So often, on philosophy forums, we see posts lamenting our lack of rationality, and asserting that we should improve this, and act more rationally. But simple observations, including historical ones, confirm that humans only behave rationally sometimes. We behave irrationally, for all kinds of reasons. But it does seem reasonable to conclude that humans are only partly rational, and there is no support (that I know of) for the idea that we can become more rational. Surely more rational humans would outpwrform the less rational ones, via evolution? As this hasn't happened, I'm jumping to the conclusion that it probably won't. That might be irrational, though.... 😉
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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Papus79 » February 13th, 2020, 11:57 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 11:38 am
Surely more rational humans would outpwrform the less rational ones, via evolution? As this hasn't happened, I'm jumping to the conclusion that it probably won't. That might be irrational, though.... 😉
Reason actually comes with all kinds of handicaps. For example self-preservation and foresight are only useful if you're dealing with an unforgiving environment where the difference between having them or not having them is life or death. When that's no longer the case then there's no evidence of it's necessity, you end up passing on certain behaviors simply because you'd rather not engage in them, and anyone who would do what you wouldn't do, or doesn't have the internal clockwork to be made miserable by broader vision when engaging in certain reckless but lucrative behaviors (where costs get externalized or where chance of dying is now much lower), will beat the person whose restrained by logic or reason in that new landscape.

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by chewybrian » February 13th, 2020, 12:33 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 11:38 am
chewybrian wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 9:42 am
I believe we all have the power within us to understand things more rationally...
So often, on philosophy forums, we see posts lamenting our lack of rationality, and asserting that we should improve this, and act more rationally. But simple observations, including historical ones, confirm that humans only behave rationally sometimes. We behave irrationally, for all kinds of reasons. But it does seem reasonable to conclude that humans are only partly rational, and there is no support (that I know of) for the idea that we can become more rational. Surely more rational humans would outpwrform the less rational ones, via evolution? As this hasn't happened, I'm jumping to the conclusion that it probably won't. That might be irrational, though.... 😉
There is plenty of evidence that we can become more rational, and benefit from the change. Take a look at cognitive behavioral therapy. It is all about understanding how irrational beliefs interrupt the rational chain of thought and cause us to make false conclusions and suffer as a result. When we are aware of this, and looking for cognitive biases and cognitive distortions, we can replace the irrational beliefs with rational ones to become happier and more productive, reducing anxiety and depression along the way. There are mountains of evidence that this works.

Any time you think the world is against you or that others are unfair to you, stop and look for a thought you had that the world or others must conform to your understanding, your beliefs, your morals. The other guy can only do what seems best to him, but if you expect him instead to do what seems best to you, you will find 'injustice' at every turn. The world does not care about your beliefs about how it should operate. If you think it should operate on the basis you think makes sense, then you may see misfortune where others see normal, predictable events.

Does the world reward rationality? That is another subject, and a slippery one. You might be rewarded for kissing your boss' behind, or simply for being good-looking, or for being devious or a big phony. Rationality would likely tend to be rewarded in a world filled with very rational people, but this one is not that way.
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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 14th, 2020, 10:18 am

chewybrian wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 12:33 pm
There is plenty of evidence that we can become more rational, and benefit from the change. Take a look at cognitive behavioral therapy. It is all about understanding how irrational beliefs interrupt the rational chain of thought and cause us to make false conclusions and suffer as a result. When we are aware of this, and looking for cognitive biases and cognitive distortions, we can replace the irrational beliefs with rational ones to become happier and more productive, reducing anxiety and depression along the way. There are mountains of evidence that this works.
Isn't CBT usually employed for abberrant conditions, not 'normal' ones? And irrationality is normal, for humans, so it isn't included in that. CBT is simple suggestion/hypnosis. You brainwash yourself into doing or believing something you don't really believe, because social pressure requires that you do. It is a coercive technique, no matter how well it is disguised. And I don't think it's as universal or successful as you imply. 🤔

CBT can also be used to train or enforce irrational behaviour....
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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by chewybrian » February 14th, 2020, 1:50 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 10:18 am
chewybrian wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 12:33 pm
There is plenty of evidence that we can become more rational, and benefit from the change. Take a look at cognitive behavioral therapy. It is all about understanding how irrational beliefs interrupt the rational chain of thought and cause us to make false conclusions and suffer as a result. When we are aware of this, and looking for cognitive biases and cognitive distortions, we can replace the irrational beliefs with rational ones to become happier and more productive, reducing anxiety and depression along the way. There are mountains of evidence that this works.
Isn't CBT usually employed for abberrant conditions, not 'normal' ones? And irrationality is normal, for humans, so it isn't included in that. CBT is simple suggestion/hypnosis. You brainwash yourself into doing or believing something you don't really believe, because social pressure requires that you do. It is a coercive technique, no matter how well it is disguised. And I don't think it's as universal or successful as you imply. 🤔

CBT can also be used to train or enforce irrational behaviour....
Hmmm...Kinda like asking if chili is spicy, or what is in chili. The answer varies. Rational emotive behavioral therapy, cognitive therapy and other methods are mixed and bundled and labeled cognitive behavioral therapy. There are two different types of irrational thought patterns to be targeted. First is cognitive biases, which we ALL have. For example, consider the cognitive bias of availability. We tend to easily recall options most often, or most recently presented to us. So, if you are thirsty, perhaps you decide you want a Pepsi. But, did you consider milk, water, tea, etc? Maybe... But, as much as we think we are making a choice from all available options, advertisers are well aware of this cognitive bias. The more severe and less common problem is a cognitive distortion, which is something like "nobody likes me" or "I can't do anything right". These are obviously very damaging but not as common. In between are tendencies many of us have, like a transparency problem, assuming that we can know what others are thinking, or vice versa. Anger is a common result of this type of thinking, when we assume that others should know why we are mad.

CBT is no doubt the most tested form of therapy ever. Cognitive therapy in particular was designed from the outset to be tested and refined and always ready to be retested so that results could be improved. If you simply search; "is cognitive behavioral therapy effective?", you will see that the answer is yes. It is very effective against anxiety, pretty strong against depression, and better than most other choices against addiction. And, of course, you can avoid the side effects of medicine.

There is no hint of 'brainwashing' at all in these methods, and I don't know what you are thinking of. Let me try and example of REBT.

A=the activating event (the gardner next door woke me up with the mower)
B=the irrational belief (He should know that people would be sleeping at this hour!)
C=the consequence (I am angry!)

The therapist knows that the belief, not the event is the cause of the trouble....

D=disputing the belief (the man has a right to mow at certain hours, he has a lot of jobs to get done, it might rain later, etc.)
E=effective new strategy (realize that he has a legal right to be there at that time, and remember that he does what seems right to him, not to you)
F=positive feelings going forward (I am awake, but I am not angry)

That's really how it goes. It is about interrupting the chain of thought where an irrational belief is directing you to a false or unhelpful conclusion. There is no element of brainwashing that I can see to it, and I have to assume you are confusing it with something else(?). Maybe you could give an example of what element of this seems like brainwashing. To me, it is all about identifying the irrational element in your thought pattern and making you aware of it so that you can replace it with something more rational. I don't know how it would be used to train someone to think irrationally, outside of a Chinese prison camp, maybe.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: The Post-Information Age?

Post by Pattern-chaser » February 14th, 2020, 2:33 pm

chewybrian wrote:
February 14th, 2020, 1:50 pm
There is no hint of 'brainwashing' at all in these methods, and I don't know what you are thinking of.
CBT is used to make autists pretend to be neurotypical, so that 'normal' people will find them less offensive. The result is severe stress and trauma for the autists, but neurotypicals are a little less offended by the weirdos. 😢
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