Why The Internet Is Destroying Civilization
The combination of human mental hardwiring with modern technologies ensures our doom
When biologists want to study the mechanisms of evolution, they necessarily select model species that are short-lived. Only in this way can a sufficient number of generations be born, live, mate, and die within the span of an RO1 grant. Fruit flies and nematode worms consequently star in a great many research papers that elucidate how adaptations arise and spread across populations.
With the advent of powerful cheap computing technologies, some biologists — as well as physicists and mathematicians — have made efforts to study fundamental evolutionary mechanisms by means of creating simplified virtual species that, in addition to being able to move around and reproduce, also interact in basic ways with their environment. In this way, rather than being constrained by the lifespans of real living creatures, models can run millions of generations in a matter of hours. Such models have, from time to time, revealed quite unexpected results.
Far less commented upon, however, is the fact that we are running a second sort of evolutionary study thanks to ubiquitous computing and telecommunications technologies. Arguably one of the largest ecosystems in the world is now the Internet, and specifically its social media aspects which include, in one form or another, the productions of the traditional media organizations.
Just as in the natural world, the currency of the Internet is reproduction. The crude economics of the attention economy favor simple soundbites, memes, and other short-form productions over lengthy complex offerings because these appeal to more people and are more easily reproduced, modified, and adapted to be more appealing. With half the world now addicted to constantly-active shiny screens of various sizes, the attention economy ruthlessly filters out all but the most accessible content, which is spread at nearly the speed of light around the globe and directly into the heads of billions of people, the vast majority of whom absorb without any resistance whatever happens to be presented to them.
Just as with the spread of television more than half a century ago, producers quickly learn that abstruse…