Contemplating anonymity

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against The Web?

Whole article is worth reading – and thinking about.

Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to social catastrophe.

if you say we’re creating the information economy, except that we’re making information free, then what we’re saying is we’re destroying the economy.

To my mind an overleveraged unsecured mortgage is exactly the same thing as a pirated music file. It’s somebody’s value that’s been copied many times to give benefit to some distant party. In the case of the music files, it’s to the benefit of an advertising spy like Google [which monetizes your search history], and in the case of the mortgage, it’s to the benefit of a fund manager somewhere. But in both cases all the risk and the cost is radiated out toward ordinary people and the middle classes — and even worse, the overall economy has shrunk in order to make a few people more.

As far back as the turn of the century, he singled out one standout aspect of the new web culture—the acceptance, the welcoming of anonymous commenters on websites — as a danger to political discourse and the polity itself. At the time, this objection seemed a bit extreme. But he saw anonymity as a poison seed. The way it didn’t hide, but, in fact, brandished the ugliness of human nature beneath the anonymous screen-name masks. An enabling and foreshadowing of mob rule, not a growth of democracy, but an accretion of tribalism.

It’s taken a while for this prophecy to come true, a while for this mode of communication to replace and degrade political conversation, to drive out any ambiguity. [] But it slowly is turning us into a nation of hate-filled trolls.

One of [my father’s] aunts was unable to speak because she had survived the pogrom by remaining absolutely mute while her sister was killed by sword in front of her [while she hid] under a bed. She was never able to speak again. It’s a haunting image of speechlessness. A pogrom is carried out by a “crowd,” the true horrific embodiment of the purported “wisdom of the crowd.”

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