This is a series inspired by the battles we see waged against censorship everyday. The menace of tyranny has been growing for years and by the time we recognize it for what it is, it will be too late.
The development of all new ideas and knowledge is greatly hindered by censorship of any kind. This includes philosophy, science, medicine, and art. Furthermore, America’s stride towards social progress around the world has been reduced to a wimpering stagger by censorship and manipulation of social media. We promise such great works around the world, but what does it say when the world can see we obviously can’t speak openly at home. If we pride ourselves on freedom to religion and freedom of speech, what does this say? And what kind of election is this?!
The first essay will discuss the effect censorship has on the development of knowledge in general. The second essay will cover specific strategies for censorship in social media, as well as how its implementation foments risk in the American economy by threatening to undermine trust in technology products and restricting available markets for our products. The third essay will combine ideas from the first two to discuss how social media censorship isolates individuals, divides people and creates more problems than it could solve.
The Legend of Wan Hu
Ahead of us, lay some important decisions that will decide the fate of the world. Not just America or Europe or the Western world. Censorship and the free availability of information lay at the center of this. What we decide in these next five years and how we react to specific trends will determine the fate of the world. We must decide: what kind of 21st century do we want to live in? What kind of 21st century do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit? What will they think of us?
These are crucial decisions that we must make and history will judge us from the 22nd century. Many of the destinations for these trends are inevitable and the forces that drive them are unstoppable! We must consider these trends and questions individually, as families, as communities, as nations AND AS ONE!
This is not a “dark” vision of the future! I am tired of being ignored and recessed as if I am something to be hidden away and swept under the rug! This is a realistic vision of things that will come to pass and it is because of the nature of information; it is inherently metaphysical! I am not going to get into the specifics of the prophecy, but there is nothing any person or group can do to stop the things I am talking about. You could destroy me and destroy every fragment of my memory and it would not matter! The truth is that I, as an individual, am irrelevant! And yet, I don’t think my job here is done. I feel like I have a lot to offer the world and that I’m just getting started.
In the end, there is one future and it cannot be denied. In the end, no matter how long it takes, we get to a future that is the same, at least for our corner of the universe. The only question is – how will we get there? Will we be together when we arrive? Or will we rip ourselves apart trying to fight our fate or profit from our destiny?
So, instead, we have to determine not where we are going, but how we are going to get there! Do we want the path towards this future to be violent? Or do we want it to be peaceful? Do we want this future to include everyone and all cultures? Of course we do! And we have to determine whether we want to reach this future after decades of bloody conflict! Do we want that?! HELL NO WE DON’T! If global warfare breaks out, we will be incapable of responding to environmental threats! Formerly prosperous regions will be burdened by economic stagnation.
So, assuming our destination is a foregone conclusion and understanding that we are accelerating towards it, it would be wise to take a look at how we’ve arrived to our current position thus far. How did humanity get here? How is it that we developed all the technology that we have today? Why is that relevant to censorship?
Also, please do note that the communication infrastructure of the future completely circumvents censorship: at the level of the infrastructure! It will be completely decentralized. So, not only would it be unwise to implement widespread censorship, this is the last point in history in which it is even possible to destroy an idea! Thus, we get what we have right here: what is basically a last ditch effort for widespread censorship – because guess what: it’s the last chance to do it.
Two different paths for the 21st century with regard to availability of information. Again, these separate paths lead to the same place: in several decades, we’ll have a communication infrastructure where it’s impossible to control the desemination of information. Therefore, we’ll reach a world where it’s not possible to censor information, but in the meantime, we will transition through a period of time where governments and corporations have strong incentives to censor and attack ideas. So, we can either decide to embrace a controlled transition towards this destined future world where ideas cannot be censored or we can trudge painfully through this intermediate world where governments and corporations try their hardest to censor information.
The real danger is that many of the legitimate reasons to censor specific information will be used to implement generalized censorship. Restriction of some technologies and ideas is necessary because they are inherently dangerous. Specific algorithms might be dangerous, especially with regard to artificial intelligence. Genetic technology is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. So how do we fairly block access to those who would do harm with those technologies while preventing abuse of this system by those who would make themselves gatekeepers to this kind of knowledge?
In fact, if these dangerous technologies are dependencies of almost all further technological progress, then we will reach a point where anyone hoping to proceed further in science must be cleared in some way. That is, if real progress in science requires that you learn some technology that could be considered dangerous, then there must be some mechanism in society where people are approved to learn about these things. Those who fail to be approved cannot be taught specific pieces of knowledge. This significantly impairs their ability to make progress in science.
In some ways, our society already has these mechanisms in place to discover and clear intelligence. If you look in the right places, you will find them. There are institutions in our society which identify individuals with high IQ, so they can either be distracted or inducted into organizations which operate in secret. Sounds crazy, right? Those high-IQ savants will either have blinders placed on them or they will be so bound by NDA’s they won’t be able to speak openly. If you understand that one of the most valuable resources available to a superpower is a supply of high-intelligence individuals, then you would understand the need to identify them early on. These people are incredibly valuable, but simultaneously incredibly dangerous. The more intelligent, the more volatile. The wrong person discovering the wrong things could blow the lid on billions of dollars in research and/or secret programs…
Knowing some of the things I know, the stuff they don’t want you to know? It’s really not that hard! It’s really not! However, exposure to just one or two of the right pieces of information is enough for a high-IQ individual to extrapolate thousands of others. Again, the more intelligent, the more volatile! Why am I writing this? Because I am damn tired of how I was treated, personally! And I detest the idea of a society where your contributions and your potential mean nothing! We are marching towards a world just like that! Consumed by nihilism, your individuality will mean NOTHING! I was treated as though my life were worth nothing! I know how to fight this creeping nihilism. The answer is religion… That is part of the answer anyways.
My fear is that these mechanisms for information and intelligence control will be abused for censorship at large, especially once humanity has advanced to attain specific technologies. Dicussion on censoring dangerous technology is less relevant than censoring people, groups and current events in social media. When a nation blocks access to ideas or restricts dialogue on specific ideas or prevents people from learning and developing, every citizen in that nation suffers because their intellectual development as a culture stagnates.
I will present an epistemological argument for why censorship, either by blacklist or whitelist, damages a civilizations ability to progress. I will detail why the ruling class in any given civilization has the motive to censor and even destroy knowledge for its own benefit! I will present historical situations where this kind of knowledge hording has happened in the past. And hopefully we can prevent it from happening again.
The internet is modern man’s Library of Alexandria. This is a stellar metaphor for the internet’s position as both a repository of knowledge and a mechanism for propagating that knowledge. However, the internet can be inverted into just the opposite. It can become a destructive tool of the surveillance state that watches over ever piece of information ever dispensed. If all communication is via the internet and all education proceeds through it, then the internet can be used to measure the sum of knowledge in any given person. In this way, the internet can be used by tyrants to dispense knowledge to whomever they permit worthy of access to information. Already, we see social experiments whereby a splinternet or “Balkanized internet” permits access to information in a manner restricted by geography. A splinternet can shard information in other ways as well.
What made the library so special in the ancient world? Why did the Romans burn it? What advantage would they gain from this? Was this event unique? If not, how could we predict that an event like it would happen any time soon?
In the western world, Alexandria was a very special place, where scholars collected information from around the ancient world into an archive. There were some other libraries, but there was really nothing like Alexandria. Everything was gathered into one point, which was a boon that made Alexandria a Mecca for scholars, but it also made Alexandria a central point of failure for Western knowledge.
The internet is just like this in many ways. The telecom infrastructure is the central point of failure. If you control the telecom infrastructure in a nation, you control the internet in that nation. Simple as that. Look at what happened in the Arab Spring protests! What is the first thing the dictators did? They shut down the internet! How did they do that? They had centralized authority over the telecom industry in their nations. How did they fail to shut down Twitter, then? Because Twitter was designed to operate over cellular networks first! Google: Twitter and 40404 and you’ll see what I mean. They couldn’t shut down their own cellular networks because that would disrupt their own forces.
If you are concerned about tyrrany and disrupted internet service in America, then hopefully you caught the drift there. ENSURE THAT 40404 IS SET UP ON YOUR TWITTER ACCOUNT! You can even set this up on a backup account & burner phone, if you’re wise like that. It won’t be useful ‘til it’s useful.
So, why did the Romans burn the Library of Alexandria? Well it was the central beacon of knowledge in the Western world! So they understood that they could horde that knowledge for themselves and use it to more efficiently rule over Europe and the Middle East. This has happened time after time. In fact, I would say it’s one of those few unfortunate things that happens in every culture right around the time when that culture starts nailing it. Right around the time that cultures develop significant technology and knowledge, there is this force that motivates the ruling class to seal away that knowledge for itself! Also, the ruling classes, pre-industrial revolution despise technology! They know how to run the game before technology comes along and makes things complicated.
This is the extreme of the concept discussed in the Harnessing the Knowledge Differential section of Facets of Greatness: Meta and Epi. Basically, the ruling class determines that it is possible to create a hard divide between what they know and what the general population can know. And they destroy all remnants of knowledge except for fragments which they horde for themselves. It happened several times with the Library of Alexandria and it happened in China in the Qin dynasty with the Burning of Books and Burying of Scholars. The Han Dynasty recorded that the Qin dynasty destroyed the available knowledge and that scholars were buried alive with their work! See the Records of the Grand Historian for more info.
These knowledge-extinction events have happened in history time and time again. And I’m afraid that the centralized point of failure in the internet (I.E. control of telecom) means that this could happen again! Mark my words: the possibility is there; the motivation is there; it could happen again if we don’t fucking watch it! Do we all want to end up living in North Korea? In Libya?! Hell no!
And trust me, there are people who would rather watch the world burn to the ground than to have the layperson understand specific inner-workings of the world without initiation. They would rather the entire world burn to the ground and rebuild it from scratch. I know what you’re thinking: that sounds crazy. But I swear to God, it’s true! Beware these people. And seriously, these same people KNEW that the internet was going to lead to a situation where bits and pieces of esoteric knowledge would get out of hand! Beware: “THEY” have planned for this!
So, how did man reach the moon? How did we get the technology together to get to that point? Because of lost documentation, there was technology used in the Apollo missions that we can’t even recreate today!
I’m going to put forward a euro-centric argument. Yes, I have very large balls. They are massive, just ask around. Please understand, in making this argument, that in no way am I saying there is some innate European genetic superiority! That is absolutely false! Instead, for some reason, European culture developed a cultural peculiarity, along with a mixture of geopolitical & economic advantages. Arabians and Indians developed superior math well before europeans. There was superior technology available in the far east. Marco Polo didn’t even know how to make ice cream!
IMO, it was this cultural peculiarity of sharing knowledge, coupled with shared economic incentives and withstanding widespread cultural invasion. basically, Christianity established a cultural foundation that both unified Europe and propagated a system of values, while withstanding invasion long enough to reach the Industrial Revolution.
That’s it! If we ask: what “thing” distinguished European culture and development from the rest of the world? Why did we end up developing? It was the simple fact that Europeans achieved enough cultural stability, for whatever reason, to get to the Industrial Revolution first. That’s it, plain and simple. If any other culture had managed to reach the Industrial Revolution first, they probably would have lead humanity in a race to the moon. And, again, please keep in mind that I am in no way arguing that either European genetics or European culture is superior. The former is absolutely false! And the latter is as well: we are all superior when we retain our cultural diversity and we learn from each other!
While being unified through Christianity, Europe was also fairly decentralized, so when we achieved technological innovations, they could never be horded into one place. In China, there were times when philosophy and technology were horded by a tiny ruling classes and this knowledge disappeared entirely from the rest of society. The same kind of event happened when the Library of Alexandria burned to the ground. This destroyed the extent of knowledge available to western society, while allowing some of it to be preserved by the ruling class. After the Dark Ages, this never again happened in Europe!
We Landed on the Moon, but Will We Make It to Mars?!
Again, if we don’t watch it, we’re going to see another knowledge-extinction event happen with the internet. Just as such events stagnated regional development in the past, THIS WILL STAGNATE OUR DEVELOPMENT! Except, this time, it will occur on a global scale!
Next: Philosophy of Censorship
Next in this series, I’ll present an epistemological view of censorship and how it limits our thinking by limiting the scope of ideas. This kind of censorship has never occured on a global scale with totality. If it occurs today, we risk inheriting a world where we can’t develop beyond a certain point.