A MEGANETS Excerpt and Interview
...how computers and humans joined to form something bigger than the sum of their parts
Gizmodo has published an excerpt from my book Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities. I talk about my intentions in writing the book and how I came to write it in the first place.
This is the mission statement, as best I could put it:
This Is Why You Feel Existential Dread When You Open Instagram and TikTok
This book is addressed to those who feel lost—or at least perplexed. If you feel at home in the world today, comfortable with the size and scope of daily and global events, what I say will likely seem superfluous or irrelevant. Yet it is rare that I meet people, however happy they may be, that do feel at home in such a way. Even the most successful and contented bemoan a world that, in its complexity and its inseparability, leaves them only with the options of being trapped in engagement or else opting out completely and escaping.
We repeatedly point to one or another phenomenon that seems to have created this new world: computers, smartphones, social media, data more generally. No doubt, the injection of exponentially growing computing power set the stage for the loss of control we currently experience. This unprecedented growth has created an unprecedented situation, but that nonlinear sheer size does not point to a way out of this mess we are in, nor does it fully explain what has happened. The fundamental explanation lies in how humans and technology have combined to form unfamiliar, disruptive phenomena.
I also wanted to call attention to an interview with the Guardian’s Andrew Anthony, which I think captures a lot of my thinking very well in a small space.
Software engineer David Auerbach: ‘Big tech is in denial about not being in control’
You discuss the GameStop case in the book, in which Wall Street firms lost billions of dollars after a subreddit group dramatically drove up the stock price of the video game company. What does that show about the power of meganets?
The meganet enables decentralised forms of association that were never possible before. And that does devolve power to a greater extent than has ever happened before, but it does it in a disorganised way, so that you’re not dealing with rationality or a consciousness; you’re dealing with hive mind. It’s not the wisdom of crowds, it’s the chaos of crowds.
I hope you’ll consider reading Meganets and sharing your thoughts on it. Feedback so far has been amazing.
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