April ’22: Patterns and Pandoras
Note: cross posted from my monthly newsletter on hircinous
One of the more horrible side effects of the information age is the ability to see patterns. Not because these patterns never existed before. It’s just that now the evidence and data points are so easy to come by, we can ‘see’ these patterns in uncompromising charts and chibi-infographics.
For example: A situation is bad. A group of people coordinate their efforts and create an institution to fix it. The situation becomes good, even for those who didn’t work on fixing it. Now, people don’t believe the situation could ever be bad. The institution loses support and falls apart. And the situation becomes bad again.
In some sociology or psychology classes, this might be a case study or two. Heck, talk to enough Old Folk and they’ll give you examples of that situation. But, since it’s just hand-wavy, anecdotal stuff, you don’t have to take it as Fact.
But now? There’s the math to prove it and that makes it a measurable pattern and that makes it horrible because now we see the pothole, and we are fully aware that we are driving towards it.
Another example is our dear friend, global warming. Or climate change. Or whatever euphemism helps. (planet’s on fire, yo)
On the other hand, there was/is so much money on the table that none of the major players are willing to fold their hand. Even if they may not have a choice.
But the other side effect of the information age is proof of the last thing in Pandora’s box.
And as you groove on these posi vibes, remember it’s just one part of a larger pattern.
Even with the power of supercomputers running at the edge of imagination, we reinvent ‘the bus’. Instead of ‘stable misunderstandings’, we tend towards comforting echo chambers of monoculture. In these echo chambers, we become more aggressive, and inflict the sins of old (like eugenics) on the ones we love.
So, what’s a human to do? All this information is tearing down assumptions and building up others. All this information is still processed by fallible human brains. And the stable, simple world of the past is now some sort of non-Euclidean galaxy of potentials.
We might get lossless encrypted communication with a side of hyper-intrusive advertising.
But, we might finally overcome our own hubris. After all, evolution has resulted in creatures that manipulate and make use of the electromagnetics in ways it took us MILLENIA to discover, and that we still can’t use efficiently. If that doesn’t kneecap the hubris, I’m sure something else will.
So, what do we do? I have no idea. Too much information can be depressing, too little can be dangerous, and there’s no easy way to figure out the balance.
But I have hope.
In our species, in what we have done, and in what we will do. So my choice is to keep looking for patterns, to keep wading into the information, to keep looking for the next Great Thing, the next Oh God What Is That, and even the next …Huh?
Because the only way out is through and the past is already gone.