A Crisis in Sensemaking

I recently posted my notes from an essay I read with the ominous title, “Online Psyops and Perception Management“. If you use the Internet, you must read it. It is an important immunisation jab to get.

There is a massive crisis of sense-making around the world. I believe this is largely because of the Internet. On one hand, the Internet has empowered millions of people around the world and created a grassroots, self-directed education to begin. But there are also very broken aspects of the Internet.

When I was a teenager I made a fake advert for a job position on Gumtree. I wanted to better imagine what an employer might think and act like. I wrote a few sentences offering an admin job in Manchester with a salary of £16k/year. I left an email address for people to send their application to. In less than 24 hours, I received 300+ CVs.

I was amazed how happily people were to send their CVs to a random person on the Internet. CVs that had everything from their full names, address, phone number, work history, education, hobbies, NI number and references. I’m pretty sure what I did must’ve been illegal – I don’t actually know. It was a junk email address and I’m not sure if I still have access to those CVs anymore. If you are law enforcement I hope you’ll go for bigger criminals!

Anyway, I bring that up because it was so easy to create a fake job ad. In fact, on the internet it is so easy to create a fake anything. Fake narratives. Fake ideas. Fake science. Fake news. Fake profiles. Fake people. Fake holidays. Fake clicks. Fake stories. These things can also be scaled up very easily. Click farms. Reddit voting bots. Paid shills/trolls pretending to be 100+ different users.

Memetic Warfare

Everybody knows what a meme is. But the word meme simply means idea. And memes are created to propagate ideas rapidly through the Internet. Ideas are powerful. In Buddhism there are ten non-virtues highlighted. It includes typical things like not killing and not stealing. The tenth non-virtue is ‘wrong view’, and it is said to be the worst of them all. Wrong view – wrong ideas, wrong memes. It’s the worst because wrong views have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.

Ideas spread like viruses. It is not too dissimilar from kleshas, translated as mental afflictions. When hatred arises, that is a form of klesha. Many kleshas come from emotions, but not all. Laxity for example is a klesha, but not an emotion. Kleshas warp and distort the way a person views reality. Kleshas are extremely contagious. Not just physically. They spread over the Internet.

So 1) creating fake things on the Internet is super easy. 2) Wrong views are a most pernicious evil. And 3), wrong views can spread like a virus via the Internet. Together these have destroyed humanity’s information ecology, and thus capacity for sense-making.

Sybil Attack

The Internet has been suffering from a massive sustained sybil attack.

In a Sybil attack, the attacker subverts the reputation system of a peer-to-peer network by creating a large number of pseudonymous identities and uses them to gain a disproportionately large influence.

Relative to the upside, it is cheap to carry out a sybil attack. Think: political agendas. Add to that evidence of corporations like Google manipulating search results (see the testimony of Robert Epstein and this video) and we have a very, very serious problem.

The Immunisation Jab

To close, I wanted to share this graphic:

Misinformation, disinformation and malinformation. Tactics like taking a complicated subject (for example BitCoin) and creating a deliberate false assumption. Then building an entire new narrative with that false assumption – a new narrative that could take as long as a three year degree to study and unpack. It’s a form of censorship via information overwhelm.

From what I have researched, I believe there is a full-blown information warfare happening right now. At a scale most cannot imagine. Some basic game theory reasoning and you’ll see the chance this is not happening is close to zero. It is happening in politics, in the food industry, in healthcare, in education.

I take this idea further in a later post titled Profit is Altruism at Scale

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