Google broke civilization

Have you ever asked a friend if you were acting odd, because you feel like you might have been?

I used to be somewhat obsessed with how I looked to other people.  I did this in a weird way, self-destructive way: I wouldn't actually try to improve how I looked to other people, but I would think that they were always judging me to be inferior, and I would, in retaliation, lower my opinion of them.


Yeah, it wasn't great.  I still have these tendencies but I think I've learned to keep them in check.

However, that check with friends was important.  If you had an opinion, you would first float it up as a trial balloon within your friend group and see what happened.  In that way, there was a filter on ideas: ones that didn't pass the friend group test were quickly squelched.

For particularly "odd" beliefs, there were cults.  For socially-acceptably-odd beliefs, there were religions.  And then there were conspiracy theorists, but they were by their nature somewhat sealed off.

That was before we had the ability to instantly ask a computer to find other people who share in our fringe beliefs.

Now consider what happens if you have a fringe idea, like "there's a pedophile conspiracy in a pizzeria" or "the world is a simulation" (note that I am making no judgment on the veracity of either of these statements, just using them as examples of beliefs that probably wouldn't make it out of the friend-group test).  You might still ask a friend if they've heard about the idea, but let's say they reject it.

The whole reason you floated the idea in the first place was to get social validation for it, so you haven't got what you wanted.  So you ask the internet, and voila, all of a sudden you've got a bunch of social validation, plus a sense of superiority over others ("I'm not one of the sheeple!"), plus a thriving community around this fringe idea.

So we've got a fitness function for an idea, pre-Google, that says that any idea must be validated by at least one person in your small friend group for it to survive and multiply.

And the fitness function post-Google is that an idea must exist somewhere else on the web, that is, it must be published by any person on Earth.  If that's true, the idea can survive and multiply.

Clearly, we're going to have a lot more ideas passing through the second filter, and therefore the world will become more chaotic as it tries to integrate all of these ideas.

Incidentally, I'm not even sure if this change is good or bad yet.  So far it's looking bad, but the jury is still out.  And I'm not recommending that we change any laws to deal with this; I don't even think that a legal remedy is possible without curtailing free speech in absolutely unimaginable ways.  I don't want us to have Goodthink and Badthink.

But we're going to have to change our relationship with ideas.  Namely, we're going to have to adopt the mantra "don't believe everything that you think".  Tune your own personal belief filters.  Toy around with ideas before adopting them, and don't hesitate to throw out beliefs that are obviously wrong.

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