Your reality, the way you look at the world and read its signs, is something
you acquire over the course of your life, from the people you listen to, the
movies and television you watch, the books and newspapers you read, the parts
of the Internet you frequent. When a new piece of information challenges your
reality, you look at it sceptically and usually reject it.
Hey did you just nearly stop reading? Got you there.
Rarely you accept it and with some discomfort, the reality that ought to be
moves towards the one that is, and not the other way round.
Not always have the Internet, television, movies, newspapers, and books been
around. Not even language was, initially. In the beginning, reality was direct
and you could be fairly sure that the reality you carried around with yourself
was yours and yours alone. With language, it became oral as well. Ways of
looking at the world, beliefs about what the world ought to look like, and with
them realities started to become imparted on you. Some were more successful
than others. Ideologies and religions formed and arguably, the meme was born.
With the advent of each new medium, the memes adapted and those that were
fitter in the new medium survived their ancestors. So important were the media
that whole cultures formed around them, literate cultures displacing oral ones,
those that were quicker at transmitting information outcompeting slower ones.
Runners replaced by horse messengers, replaced by semaphores, replaced by
telegraphs, replaced by the Internet. Clay tablets replaced by handwritten
books as mass media (preacher included), replaced by printed books and
newspapers, later competing with movies and television, all being subsumed by
the Internet. The realities adapted to the new media, even when increasing
access to mass media made the shared mindspace rather crowded. Realities are
jealous, territorial creatures, rarely does more than one live in one mind and
occupy the same space. Competition became tough, ideological wars erupted,
fights for both economical resources and mindspace.
Then the Internet came and with it the promise of a global consciousness and
repository of knowledge. The realities were all thrown into a giant melting
pot. Old foes like Culture and Counterculture, Creationism and Evolution
extended their battlefields, new consensus realities emerged like those of
Wikipedia and the great search engines. Bitcoin and its children attempt to
create its own monetary reality, to replace the consensual illusion of fiat
money with that of cryptocurrency.
But does it look to you like there will ever be one consensus reality, one and
one alone? Do you ever look at discussions about religion and go away thinking
that they'll eventually sort out their disagreements and found the one
ecumenical church (atheist inclusive version)? Take Gamergate. I watched it
grow from regular chan drama to mainstream issue, and the rage these people
felt initially came from that their reality, one dominated by videogames,
suddenly wasn't like it ought to be anymore. Another reality, that of people
working at the intersection of feminism and art, had stepped in and asserted
itself. Right now, it's going into another round with the Hugo Awards (a
relatively prestigious SciFi award). This sort of thing is going to become more
common and more global as well. With more people being ever more networked,
there are more people to offend and more issues to contend. The friction
surfaces between the realities are only becoming larger.
Wait, says an industrious entrepreneur who has read more than 1000 pages of
Atlas Shrugged and understands the necessity of capitalism for its own
virtue, this doesn't have to happen! (He snorts a line of coke before he comes
back to you) These people, they do not want truth, they do not even want to be
right, they just want their peace of mind. You can't argue with reality you
say? Betcha I can! I'm just going to bend reality a little to give these people
their peace. As long as their money is real, why should I care about what else
they think is real? Here, sit down with me, I've hired these experts who've
worked on the Chinese Firewall and kid-safe Internet solutions. They're going
to filter out whatever offends my customers and replace it with something
agreeable. Wikipedia not being quite accurate about Nikola Tesla's nationality?
Abortion not described as sufficiently sinful? Change the content of Tesla's
article by just that little bit, blend in Conservapedia entries with Wikipedia
where appropriate. Of course, on a large scale this is going to be difficult,
but what do we have angel investors and this huge market of machine learning
experts for? Nothing will remind these people of disagreement at all, nothing
will offend them anymore, they will live in a perfect world! The premium
package will include a guarantee, games edited to be like in the golden age
(transparently!), and access to forums where people will disagree but only just
hard enough to lose the argument. Potential customers include worried parents,
state-backed ISPs, internet bullying victims, ethical gamers, I can already see
the business plan in my mind the investors are gonna love this oh I'm going to
And he swoons. After recovering he marches off and indeed becomes fabulously
rich and famous as the man who successfully sold reality. As a service.
published: Apr 09 2015.
epistemic status: comment.