We need a term for things that are centralized despite being decentralized but are made universal by mass conformity. Cities provide the archetypal example because everywhere humans go, they do roughly the same thing, which is to move everyone into boxes crammed together on top of each other for theoretical convenience.
Having lived in big cities, the “convenience” factor remains unconvincing to me. In the suburbs, you have fewer options, notably in restaurants, but you can get to any of them in ten minutes, where a city often requires ten minutes to go a half-mile through the traffic, electric gates, parking, and other mundane modern time-vampires.
Universalized experience means the end of what nature does well, which is to produce a varied landscape with infinite depth that translates to resilience and an open-mindedness that eventually finds all possibilities. Nature can produce natural selection; humans could never achieve that level of variability.
However when you get humans in a group, all individuals fear something not under their control, so they opt to homogenize the group and control it by limiting what methods — violence, self-interest, religious views — that it can use, intending to force it into considering only the remaining methods, thus changing its thinking.
As it turns out in reality, when you get everyone together, most people become passive because of the rules regulating interaction, and consequently a small group who really believes in the limited methods takes over. This produces regression to the mean which soon loses relevance for many people:
Remember having fun online? It meant stumbling onto a Web site you’d never imagined existed, receiving a meme you hadn’t already seen regurgitated a dozen times, and maybe even playing a little video game in your browser. These experiences don’t seem as readily available now as they were a decade ago. In large part, this is because a handful of giant social networks have taken over the open space of the Internet, centralizing and homogenizing our experiences through their own opaque and shifting content-sorting systems. When those platforms decay, as Twitter has under Elon Musk, there is no other comparable platform in the ecosystem to replace them.
The Internet today feels emptier, like an echoing hallway, even as it is filled with more content than ever. It also feels less casually informative. Twitter in its heyday was a source of real-time information, the first place to catch wind of developments that only later were reported in the press.
You may recall us around here talking about The MySpace Cycle where a group goes from edgy elite outsiders to mainstream normalcy and finally to the usual entropy caused when a group is tamed and made to behave along rigid lines.
When a social media site is new, it is ignored by most, which means that conversation can flow freely. Once it becomes well-known however its influence reaches far, and consequently, all of the special interest groups come out of the woodwork to demand censorship and propaganda to protect their special interest:
X, formerly known as Twitter, applied a “community note” warning to a post by conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who featured an image of a burnt Israeli baby to showcase the terrorist group’s crimes against Jews. Shapiro claims that the community note label was provided because X prematurely determined the image was “missing context” and AI-generated.
The platform has since removed the warning label, suggesting it validated the photowas not proven to be inauthentic. The grotesque image and several related photos of the atrocities performed by Hamas on infants were released by the Israeli government on Oct. 12 and first shared with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
China’s state media has also been accused of promoting anti-Israel propaganda, according to Newsweek. In since-deleted posts, China was said to have shared images of white phosphorus bombs being deployed that had been used during unrelated events in Syria in 2018 and 2016. Newsweek blames the Chinese government, an ally of the anti-Israeli Iran government, for deliberately sharing misleading photos that would suggest Israel was defying international chemical weapons law and harming civilians in response to Hamas.
If you have a diverse society, anything you allow will potentially offend a group. If you allow every group to block what they find objectionable, your conversation will be limited to how great diversity, equality, atomization, democracy, and socialism are.
Even more, if you create a platform where everyone receives their instructions, it will become a propaganda organ in itself, as happened to social media, which was used by the US government as a propaganda machine on topics regarding diversity, COVID-19, and elections:
The case represents one of numerous legal battles underway pitting free speech against content moderation on the internet, with many Democrats and liberals warning of platforms’ amplification of misinformation and disinformation about public health, vaccines and election fraud and conservatives and Republicans accusing platforms of censoring their views.
Louisiana-based U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty issued a preliminary injunction in July. Doughty found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that the administration helped suppress “disfavored conservative speech” by suppressing views on masking, lockdowns and vaccines intended as public health measures during the pandemic or that questioned the validity of the 2020 election in which Biden, a Democrat, defeated Donald Trump, a Republican.
Every human group goes through this cycle. At first, they break free; next, they become devoted to unity; finally, they seek to manage that unity through bureaucracy or an equivalent, forcing conformity. In order to buy unity, they must become universally accepting, at which point they have to use propaganda and censorship to manage the results.
This happens to societies. At first, people work together; eventually, they become dependent on each other; finally, they make that dependency into law and enforce it on each other, at which point people are afraid to speak out lest the Crowd turn on them.
That accelerates the native human tendency toward solipsism and makes us think that the world is a mirror image of ourselves, both as individuals and societies, which turns the world into a uniform reality where all things become standardized and conformist.
At that point, the groupthink turns into a willful oblivion to the varied nature of reality itself, possibly as a means of controlling it by making it into an extension of the solipsistic individual in his mind. This mirror-imaging disconnects people from common sense and reality:
“Mirror-imaging” plagues all countries, indeed all humans: We find it hard to imagine that someone else’s definition of rationality may be different from our own.
What happens with mirror-imaging? First, people become bigoted against realistic thinking. Next, they start to suffer from uniformity. Finally, because getting ahead in the system is a matter of procedure and not mental competence, the society staggers into repetition and chaos as incompetence swarms it.
Whatever becomes universalized quickly loses its value. It had value because it was not the same old thing; as soon as everyone can participate, it adapts to the audience and quickly becomes the same old thing. At that point, it loses value much like a college education just massively lost value:
According to Fox News, IBM, Bank of America, Google, and Walmart are dropping college education requirements from multiple job listings to encourage people to apply.
State governments have been reducing college degree requirements for a variety of vacant positions. Fox News reported Virginia became the 13th state to do so in recent years.
In 2022, CBS News reported that early retirement was fueling the worker shortage with more aged employees leaving the workforce.
This alone is not the only factor contributing to the issue, but the U.S. birth rate has been “flatlining” for years, per Forbes.
Like early social media, college was a proxy for those who could think independently of the herd. Once it became widely accepted, however, it no longer had value as a proxy, but people still used it as such. With grants, grade inflation, loans, and affirmative action, the college degree soon became worthless and the audience left.
The same has occurred in the West. What was once a breakaway from the failures of the rest of humanity has adopted those methods instead of its previous successful ones, and in the name of unity subjects its citizens to constant surveillance, propaganda, and censorship.
Social media clearly shows the signs of its age, but like the Roman Empire, it will linger on in a reduced fashion. The same may be true of the West. If it wants to break free from its decay, however, it needs to stop forcing universal notions and behaviors on its citizens, and let people connect to reality instead.