How We Lost the Internet

Now what are we going to do about it?


  1. I'm not sure we ever won the Internet, except here in there, figuratively speaking, perhaps. So I'm not sure if we ever lost it.

    Acting like one is not a meme machine might be a possible strategy. With more humane voices, meme machines are easier to spot.

    This video is so 2011, btw:


  2. I have a vague fear that the Internet is fatal to optimizing some public policy outcomes, particularly those with high stakes and susceptible to interested organizers.

    My anxiety is related to knock-on effects of the dreaded "Dunning-Kruger" effect and related cognitive challenges, combined with the efficiency of the Internet as an "anger factory" and dispatcher of emotionally aroused people motivated to express themselves.

    For purposes of successful democratic participation in public policy the Internet is arguably a cognitive and logistical disaster.

    Research suggests that faced with an important decision, a crowd composed of people half of whom are ignorant of information necessary for a "good" decision with the other half sufficiently equipped for producing useful outcomes will yield a public policy preference reflective of 75% ignorance. More or less.

    The Internet is an almost ideal tool for assembling, agitating and then steering mobs. This can be demonstrated by following the progress of controversial newspaper articles sporting reader comment facilities. An article appears, a watchful member of an interest group spots the article, drags the issue back to a website of like minded individuals set up by a motivated participant, the crowd there generates outrage sufficient for many to be motivated to descend on the newspaper comment facility, likely with the overt or tacit encouragement of the site operator. Nothing useful ensues, except perhaps to terrify a news team into avoided the topic in question as though it were radioactive. The general quality of the speech produced as a result of mob activity doesn't rise to a useful level, doesn't lead to fruitful decisions.

    The same methods can be and are used with an electorate in steering votes and feedback to legislators and policy makers.

    There's formal research into some features of my fear, not enough to confirm it but certainly also insufficient to forget about it. Is the Internet a "net" (sorry!) positive or negative in public policy formulation? Is a tool with such a low damping factor safe?

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