2023 Should Be the Year We Admit the Internet Is a Failure
With Hate, Rage, Bigotry, and Ignorance, the Internet’s Destroying Our Ability to Be a Civilization — When We Need it Most
It’s 2023, and there’s something that’s gone badly wrong with human civilization. No, I don’t just mean the obvious — climate change, inequality, mass extinction, the list of Existential Threats I discuss and we all, sane and thoughtful people, know by now. I mean in the consciousness of human civilization. I’ll come back to that abstraction, but for now, let me give you an example.
Right about now, if I was go to out — and I’ve done this — the average person I meet at the bar, cafe, club, at a party, restaurant, wherever, will be able to tell me, in great detail, who Andrew Tate is, who the Kardashians are, what the latest scandal du jour is. They’ll hold bizarre and outlandish and fanatical “opinions,” chances are, that they’ll equate with fact and science and reason and truth, about everything from why some people (men, certain groups, ethnicities, “races”) are superior to others, to why some people don’t deserve to live, to why the world is run by an evil cabal of liberati who drink kids’ blood in Satanic rituals to professing their love for billionaires and authoritarians who are the only ones that really care for them. If you want, you can discuss — or argue — about this stuff with perfect strangers, right out there, in the real world, forever, every day.
What the average person won’t be able to tell me is…any of the following. What are climate change’s great tipping points — there are about a dozen, depending on how you count — and how many are we already hitting? Or, say, how do we rescue economies from the trap of stagnation and falling real incomes they’re in and have been in for decades now? This is a lesson that was discovered a century ago, during the Great Depression. Or, say, any set of facts about the modern world, really. What’s our civilization’s level of investment? How much more should we invest so that we have basics like water and food and energy and clean air in, oh, a decade or two, or else everything just…runs out? Or even basic facts abut socioeconomic history: what’s the most successful form of political economy in human history (hint, it’s social democracy, not my opinion, empirical fact.)