All men contain several men inside them, and most of us bounce from one self to another without ever knowing who we are. - Paul Auster

Extremes in Politics

Ease of access to information is generally good but the folks that take it for granted don't seem to realize having access to information and being able to effectively utilize it are two different things. For example, I can certainly find out how toilets work but having access to that information won't make me an effective plumber. It's the same with politics. Just because I can follow political discussions doesn't mean I have anything worthwhile to contribute to it.

People seem to think that gossip on Twitter (and other social media platforms) makes them informed enough to meaningfully contribute to political discussions but all they really end up doing is weaving conspiracy theories devoid of facts mixed in with some of their own personal past trauma. The amplification algorithms then turn these conspiratorial/trauma narratives into social contagions, e.g. Epstein suicide/murder, vaccine microchips, imminent civil war, illuminati plots, UFOs, etc. So it should not be surprising that most political discourse is in incoherent shambles, not everyone has worthwhile information to contribute to the political discourse and even when they do their viewpoint is colored by their own information/filter bubble (imposed on them by another set of algorithms). In short, the algorithms and UI affordances on social media platforms don't optimize for meaningful or coherent discourse, they optimize for social contagions which in practice ends up being equivalent to spreading and amplifying conspiracy theories (and other dubious models/narratives of reality).

It's a little surreal seeing this happen in real time. Nothing (good) is going to come out of any discussion happening on Twitter (and other algorithmically mediated discussion platforms) because the moderate voices are going to get drowned out by incoherent hysterics and conspiracy theories (simply because this is what the algorithms are designed to amplify). To actually come up with an effective political strategy would require a whole bunch of (very different) people to get organized and present a unified front. This is impossible on social media platforms because the platforms are not designed for organizing political activity, they're designed for disconnecting and atomizing individuals (basically the exact opposite of what is required to create and enact effective political strategies).

This is a legitimate problem and the longer it goes unaddressed the more politics turns into a spectacle that moderates will opt out of. The flight of the moderates from political discussions is again basically the opposite of what makes democracies effective, if people are opting out then only the extreme positions get airtime and make it seem like those are the only viable political positions when in fact there are a whole bunch of positions in the middle which consist of compromises and effective ways to address real problems. Collective problems require coordination and collective action, telling your followers you, as an individual, are upset is more than likely less than useless and is just fodder for the engagement algorithms to generate ad revenue instead of meaningful political discussions and stratagems.

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving. - Lao Tzu