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Is the Internet a big Trap?

– can it be the internet is a deadly trap comparable to a Dyson sphere?

When I was much younger I got into contact with two science fiction novels that were variations of a famous idea of the not less famous physicist Freeman Dyson. The first was Larry Nivens Ringworld, a story about a ring of 150 million kilometres radius around a star, where a space ship from earth lands and the crew experiences a lot of adventures when traveling alongside the tangential direction on the inner, star facing side of the big ribbon or band. The other story was not as half as entertaining but much more philosophical: it was Bob Shaws Orbitsville. Here the crew of a space ship from earth enters a sphere around a star with 150 million kilometres radius. The area of the inner sphere is 500 million times bigger than the area of planet earth. It seems to be the solution for the problem of overpopulation on Earth and any other inhabited planet of the galaxy as well. And it seems to be the ultimate paradise of nature with it’s giant, practically endless landscapes, built by a mystic, ancient civilization. The sphere of the story has only one entrance: a tiny hole on one side, where spaceships can fly into it.


A cut-open hypothetical Dyson Sphere in our solar system, 500 million times the area of planet earth to settle, a paradise? Fig.: Wikipedia

The crew of our space ship never finds the architects  of the Dyson sphere, they are exploring during the story, or remainings artifacts of them and all ends with an unexpected ending: degeneration and backward development into stone age! The moral of the story is, that the size of the artificial world is so big, that any civilization that enters the entrance and spreads on the inner wall in every direction will rapidly thin out and never reach the opposite pole, nor even the equator of the hollow sphere, because they will long before start to degenerate and backward develop to stone age. When spreading out, the area to prospect and settle rapidly grows. When moving on, the area grows faster than an increase of the population ever can and the civilization thins out until they start loosing industry, then loosing cities and culture, later even villages, until they become stone men again. Any civilization, even of trillions of individuals will end in small tribes without any contact to each other because of the huge size of the cosmic artifact. The Dyson sphere is a cosmic trap, built to whipe out completely any civilization that enters it. What a sad story, isn’t it?

Today I thought for the first time, if such a phenomenon of inbalance of growth of size versus growth of another quantity can occur at other ideas or other existing things in the world, too? I had a short talk with my wife, before, about the TV program of former times and todays internet in opposition to it. That brought me to the idea and my wife was astonished about so much crazyness, she said. Anyway she admited that my idea was interesting.

There are some differences of the information media TV and internet to explain, before. In former times there was a TV program, planed by human experts. There were the news and news specials to certain actual themes. There were regular educational broadcastings to learn for a school degree at home. There were regular TV shows with special topics like science or nature or culture or traveling. There were entertainment shows, mostly where people had to show their knowledge when answering complicated questions. Experts for any of the themes and topics were preparing and aranging the TV broadcastings and any time we saw it, we had learned a lot of intersting things from them or had at least a lot of more or less intelligent fun. And the next morning or at lunch break we were talking about the show with our school friends or collegues at work. TV had an educational mission, once.

Then came the fast growth of the internet and any person who owned his own computer started to plan and arrange her own private ‚TV program‘ in the internet. First this sounded like paradise, like the ultimate freedom of information access. But it came different. We call it now ’surfing‘ and any of us knows it is nothing but wasting time. The information you can get in the internet is strictly limited to accepted topics, mostly consuming. Most of the other free information in the web is treated as exotic, perverted  or criminal and very hard to get. Anyone is controlled, what he is looking for. But I don’t want to talk about total observation and control in the internet. I want to talk about the growing distance between us.

Because we are mostly no experts of the fields we want to have some information of, we are reading all the badly investigated articles from anywhere, today. It is very difficult to differentiate if it is well investigated high quality information or bad information that is not true at all, because mostly it is something in between. Even the big newspapers are writing more and more unscientific nonsense, because their journalists have lost their own basic knowledge basis with the years. We understand not so much about all the topics and no moderator or interviewed scientists explains them to us anymore. And if you ask a scientist of today, what is the truth, he normally tells you a slightly embellished version of the truth, that he tells anyone and brings him the research contracts he urgently needs for his work. So we are mixing more and more unscientific nonsense with reality because we are not able to distinguish and the people who are have often other problems.

The layman in former times had a big advantage: he had some basic information from newspapers and TV shows he could rely on, because it was verified and backed by the reputation of experts. The internet user does not have this basic information level. He is not even able to discuss in a pub with someone else about something. Quickly the argumentation stops and anyone has to look into his smartphone for arguments and mostly anyone finds instantly different and contradictory information. Do you know this situation? The internet user has no broad common basic information level anymore. So he has to investigate information by his own and to find out which quality and verity it has. The latter is very difficult.

But does it make sense to get our knowledge from the internet? Is it possible for most people to become their own critical journalists? Can a studious person become an expert by using the internet? The truth is: even if we try to become experts of some topics we are interested in, even if we learn and read and do this day and night, the information growth in the internet is already faster than we are and ever will be. Any expert of today will soon loose contact with the state of the art knowledge and later loose the contemporary relevance of his knowledge at all. He cannot do nothing against it, even if he is reading day and night: no chance. Anyone who steps into the endless information universe of the internet will become an complete relative idiot, soon. Rarely educated people sooner and University professors later, of course, but any of them will become more and more relatively stupid and relatively uninformed as faster the internet grows.

Our connections, our relationships to each other will become more and more loose as more people we know. The latter is the well known Facebook phenomenon and it can also be explained with the Dyson sphere phenomenon of degeneration due to superabundance.

We might once all loose contact to each other in the continuating endless anonymous information growth of the internet, in the endless worlds of network games and postings, in the endless amounts of  publications and the continuous firing of daily news even from the smallest villages in the world: 24 hours 7 days a week. No moderator and expert can help us anymore, because now he suffers exactly the same problems than we do: the exponential input data growth without a chance of reading, listening or watching, nor even a minimum of asessment of relevance.

So it seems, the internet is able to transform us to complete nerdy idiots because of the imbalance of individual learning speed and the growth speed of newly available information offerings. We will loose connection to each other because the relative educational distances between us will rapidly become quite far, even with people from the same educational level, even with people with exactly the same profession.

We have completely lost the classification of knowledge levels: some common levels that you know exactly which basis of knowledge the other person has. Today most people are complete idiots and great experts in their field at the same time! They know a little her and a little there. They quickly have a look on their smartphones and correct the 40 year experienced professional because of a wrong decimal place. We have become nerds for certain problems and have lost the basics and overview of our fields we are working in completely. And no one knows what the other knows in any of the fields at all, because there is no common basic knowledge level, and you have to explain anything from scratch, if you ever want to discuss or work together with someone else.

Some people have been calling this ’specializing in a field‘, once. But it is not the classic specialization after one knows all the basics, anymore. It is a kind of deeply specializing without even knowing common basics, while using automated expert systems and search engines to fill the gaps, because we have no time to learn all the neccessary things to deeply understand what we are doing. Therefore our education has become complete intellectual nonsense. This is not a catastrophe, I have no problem to know I’m only a stupid jerk. But much worser: there is a rapidly growing educational distance between us. Even if we learn the same profession and specialize in the same topic it can occur today, that the other does absolutely not understand what we are talking about, because we have become complete nerds and know only anything about exactly the things we are doing and nothing more. We nerds are no minority anymore, in between, during the last decade, we have become the majority. And we will always answer, if asked for reading something else: no time! People are not becoming nerds today, because they are too stupid or arrogant to be interested in other things. They are driven. They are driven by the progress itself, that is manifesting in the high speed of change of knowledge in the net. But is it a progress or is it a trap?

If the educational distance between people achieves a certain level, they are not able, anymore, to communicate with each other, completely. This has nothing to do with intelligence or empathy. It is the raw problem of common information basis and context knowledge. We are developing to a world where anyone is a highly specialiced expert only for his own problems and is not able to communicate with others. And this will accelerate when further using computers as expert systems and the internet and search engines as information medium.

There is growing danger that we will loose private and professional social contacts by the dissolving of the quality of those contacts. There is the danger that we will loose completely our common information basis and therefor discussion basis, because the information distances between us will become more distant, day by day. We becoming a kind of living information islands with less contact to each other as more we try. Anyone is becoming a specialized, highly individual information micro-universe that only he himself, who knows the context, can understand and no one else. Communication between us is therefor becoming more and more difficult. One day it might have become impossible to communicate at all and we are all poor Kaspar Hauser’s dying spitting image.

Can it be that any information network similar to the internet is a natural trap for intelligent species? Is the internet a mechanism for the extermination of mind?

Über monstermaschine

Blogger, Diplom-Ingenieur, TU, Raumfahrttechnik, Embedded Systems, Mitglied VDI, DGLR

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