No alarms and no surprises, please.
This article should not be confused with Mind Field, a YouTube Red Show by Michel Stevens.
The War Never Changes
This is a title too cliche and too big to be fully discussed. As all of you know, that I do restrain myself from getting political. But I guess we could do some analyzes with some techniques learnt from the days in front of a glowing rectangle.
The war. War never changes. To put it in a more not intimidating way, the conflict between entities is unending. Disputes keep happening because of the innate tribalism which drives entities apart, forming an us-versus-them attitude.
However, collaboration, which is the foundation of society, is built upon the tribalism. Sacrificing self-interest for the greater good has to happen with a reason and the common reason is the requirement of collaboration.
War is an act of conflict, usually because of competing for resources, whether tangible or metaphorical. Human resource is no exception. Getting as many people as possible to join your tribe could help the tribe and, in return, help you survive and achieve more. But human resource is not unlimited and does not yield evenly on a person to person basis. Having a few \(3\sigma\) can produce a better yield than raking in a lot \(\sigma\). But before actually talking to a person, it is not possible to know exactly what interval does the given specimen land on. So the Nash equilibrium of the game is to get as many as possible to join the gang.
Now, I have no interest in discussing human reaping (!) strategies of specific entities since you all know my backgrounds. Any mention of any specific thing is asking for trouble, either from one side or the other. I have had enough of opening a comment section and greeted with the most obnoxious, hate-spilling words. So for anyone interested in how to start your own cult or government, please seek elsewhere.
A Dog Fight
Most disputes are triggered by rather minute things and the majority of the discord came from off-topic interactions. This closely resembles the behaviour of internet trolls, who derive entertainment by deliberately off-railing the discussion with intriguing and often-times, offending replies. The strategy of trolls is to get as much attention as possible, whether positive or not, to broadcast themselves for their personal interests. I would prevent myself from promoting conspiracy theories, which is another can of worms. So it would be too shady to say that some of these trolls are paid to post for or against certain concepts or ideologies. But they are not vindicated, either.
Trolling against a specific concept is a learned behaviour. It is cast by external influences. Especially the environment you live and interact with the most. From a troll-free environment, the act of trolling hardly occur. You don't say hurtful words to your family and friends in real life since you have learned to not to do so. You won't post trash on a forum where people helped each other -- at least, you know that the moderator will remove that post almost instantly.
However, as the internet grows as a melting pot of cultures, things will become interesting. The bigger the platform is, the more likely you will meet a person who doesn't live in a like-minded neighbourhood -- who is not one of you.
Humans are not good at accepting someone out of their tribe and I am no exception. I have to constantly remind myself that everyone is different and I am not entitled to force anyone to think or behave like me. That I should attribute to incompetency rather than malice. But it is hard to distinguish an outsider from a troll. It's even harder when I can't sit down with them at a table.
I have to remind you that anger is the lingua franca of the modern internet. As an innate feeling of human, anger is expressed the same regardless of culture or language. The idea that being spread far and wide is not the idea that can make you smile or learn something; but the idea that can provoke you and make you want to smash your phone.
So the war of mind field starts. On forums, on messaging services, anywhere you can see user-generated content that is "open", there will eventually be trolls. It's hard to not "feed the troll" since no matter what you throw at them, they have made their goal -- to get attention, to become something, even at the cost of being a prat or nazi. And the thing you throw at them will be thrown back with a caustic liquid coating as if they have passed the GI tract of the troll in a first-in-last-out style.
A common way to view this is to quote the New Yorker: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog". The anonymity of the internet provided a great chance for anyone who wants to release their inner evil. Because stress has to go somewhere, attacking with words on the internet seems to be the best choice.
But the moral might prevent us from doing so. I mean, you don't walk into the street and scold off strangers in sight. To make things "feel right", the victim must not be a living person. At least we can pretend that they are not.
To pretend a person is not a human is a process of dehumanizing them. A large part of insults in almost all cultures consists of denying the human identity or objectifying qualifier. [Citation needed.]
So, how do we dehumanize a person?
Clashes of Superstructures
I guess the best method would be using a grander structure and the complications since WWII. More relatable complications (to me) would be the Troubles since 1949.
Politics is not something with a clear line. Of course, there will be two main axes, but the view of a problem often needs to be described in a much higher dimension. When there are more dimensions, there is more possibility that things may become orthogonal in a certain projection.
The text above simply means: People will have different opinions and it's impossible to satisfy everyone when the group size is above a threshold. Everyone will have different say on an incident and making a decision will lead to compromises.
We live in a world full of compromises. That's nothing new. But the compromises made shape your opinion. You may have to live with it, or simply told that these compromises are a necessity for the current configuration. These nuances might be erased in A future, but it would be a task for the future.
It's a common practice to pick perks most suited for the contemporary situation, and no two groups are the same. They will inevitably pick different things. The persons belonging to different groups will thus hold different, sometimes polarized ideas about human affairs. It's not hard to predict what would happen if fire meets ice.
The clash on superstructures, in layman's term, the difference in beliefs, is the root cause of all conflicts. And it's really easy to alienate someone who does not share your belief: Look at these uncivilized bastards!
The internet is the best medium human have invented so far for transmission of mind virus -- Memes, to be not so tone-deaf in the middle of a pandemic.
Some memes became the shibboleth of a community. If you know it, welcome to the club. Of an increasing pace did these memes became symbols and symbols became idols. A concept that was meant just for fun (and sometimes morally questionable), became the identity of a group.
A meme is a concept by itself. Often time people would use it as a euphemism or an innuendo, which would extend the meaning of the meme. When it became a symbol of a group, it would be automatically associated with every single meaning related to the group, causing an Orwellian transmission. You don't have to describe a group by its properties; You can just use this figure or even acronym to say everything you need to trigger the tribe. It's astonishing that now we just need to use a single thing to express anger.
Naturally, not everyone would buy into the game of symbolism. It's a mild advantage if your group is accepted by the other group you are interacting with and a great disadvantage if they are not accepted.
Tagging, Untagging and Nihilism
We are in an age of fast pace. We consume information in a speed that cannot be imagined before. This all comes at a cost, a cost on cognition. We would need to sort all this information as fast as possible and the innate trick we have is tagging.
By tagging everything, they would fit into neat little boxes. Except they don't. Things are complicated when you look into the details like a fractal. But most of the time we don't have enough time or are not willing to look under the curtain. We consume what the media -- social media, authoritative news or wired tabloids, give us and hardly do any thinking other than reacting with mostly negative emotions.
The media made us think with a chopped down model that just simply do the tagging and activate certain emotion node. Heck, I might be able to train a model to do this for me. So what's the point?
Most of my colleagues have already asked the same question and I believe that many would also. We are tired of tagging. We need to untag ourselves.
You might be already one step ahead of this rant. Untagging movement is a long tradition since tribalism has started to influence human interactions. Declaring that "I am different from any other" is not an original concept. It's a cliche that itself become a tag -- the tag of "Being Different".
What if nothing even matter? Because we come online for fun, not for fuzz. Why so serious? We are just having fun, albeit in a morally questionable way, like exploitation of the underpowered, vulnerable or gullible.
This "Nothing matters" mindset is exactly what most of the online trolls have. They think that their actions have no consequences (while in fact, they do). Most of the harsh words posted online is purely an outburst of excessive negative emotions accumulated in everyday life, from the underbelly of the society. Since they are not treated well in real life, a virtual environment that appears no real consequence would happen is an ideal punchbag to let it all out.
So, maybe, on the internet, it doesn't matter, at all. This watered downed version of nihilism is pretty good on the surface. If we all have a light-hearted attitude when browsing online and wrap things up, making a bouncy castle for adults, then yeah, everything is permitted.
Except it's of course not. Bouncy castles are for children, so does the internet. There will be kids and we need to protect them. Age barrier won't do because you know how easy it could be circumvented by the kids. It's a new can of worms that we will not open for now. It could be saved for another rant.
The "Nothing even matters" attitude left us, the now young adults, with a new problem.
We live in a world where nothing happens. Nothing would give us an identity. We roam among thoughts of others and keep finding what defines the self.
Amongst the pieces of thoughts, incoherent words that was torn apart and pieced together by fast-food media, we lost ourselves. Defined by a multitude of labels that was approved by groups. The longing for belonging is, again, the fuel of human tribalism and we haven't escaped.
In a world where everyone is unique, no one is special. Yet everyone would feel special. The inner hero didn't get assigned to defeat a dragon but to defeat boredom, to find themself a goal to pursue.
The thought is not novel. In fact, hardly anything is novel now, even for the extreme ends. Unable to come up with our own model to describe the world, we reuse some of the others. Some would critique that the juniors would prefer to judge others based on the ideology they had while the seniors would judge them by more human-related personal criteria.
When originality is lost, we cannot declare independence, either. Our thoughts still fall on somewhere, in alignment with an ideology. But that doesn't mean it would build us the same superstructure. There are other influences at play. Even we think the same, we behave differently.
I doubt we can reach a conclusion. Human affairs are a mess. There are a lot of aspects not touched in this rather lengthy essay and honestly, it's just a rant by me. When the war on land settles, the war on mind begins.