Monday, August 07, 2017

Cathedralist Political Narrative: Trump Is An Internet-Enabled Troll

theatlantic |  The president’s disruption engine is powered by three paradoxes. Each was made possible by technological innovations. All will endure long after this ringmaster moves his circus to another town.

Paradox #1: More information, less credibility
Trump’s cries about fake news get receptive audiences in part because we live in the most complex information age in human history. The volume of data is exploding, and yet credible information is harder to find. The scale of this information universe is staggering. In 2010, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, noted that every two days, we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up to 2003. Today Google processes 61,000 search queries a second. That’s 5.2 billion queries a day.

Meanwhile, attitudes toward traditional information sources like the mainstream media and universities are souring, particularly among Republicans. Confidence in newspapers has declined by more than 20 points since 1977. Last month, a Pew survey found that for the first time, a majority of Republicans had a negative view of American universities.

Paradox #2: More connectivity, less civility
Today nearly half the world is online. By 2020 more people are expected to have cell phones than running water. But civility has not accelerated in tandem. In earlier times, it took some effort to deliver hurtful messages. In the U.K.’s Parliament building, seating in the House of Commons is designed to space the opposition at least two sword lengths apart from the ruling party—just in case.  Distance has its benefits. 

Paradox #3: The wisdom of crowds, the duplicity of crowds
Technology has unleashed the wisdom of crowds. Now you can find an app harnessing the experiences and ratings of likeminded users for just about anything. The best taco truck in Los Angeles? Yelp. The highest rated puppy crate? Amazon. Youth hostels in Barcelona? TripAdvisor. Researchers are even using the wisdom of crowds to better predict which internet users may have pancreatic cancer and not even know it yet—based on the search histories of other cancer patients.
But the 2016 presidential election revealed that not all crowds are wise, or even real. The wisdom of crowds can be transformed into the duplicity of crowds. Deception is going viral.