Friday, July 15, 2005

Closer Together = Further Apart

Man, did I ever eat that burger too fast. Oh man, I'll have to do something really geeky to distract myself from the horrible discomfort. Like talk a bit more about Shadow Barriers

The basic concept is one we, as geeks, are all familiar with. Everything is becoming more accessable to everyone everywhere. As we hit the '4th generation' of communication, all the difficulties in communication go away.

In theory, this brings us all closer together! I can talk to someone from Japan! Someone from Russia can read this post and think, "Hey! I'm someone from Russia! He's talking about me!"

Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

Because, you see, people tend to hang out with people they agree with. When we relied on actual geography for our social interactions, we are faced with people we disagree with, but still have to get along with... urgh... like the contents of my stomach.

With that limitation largely gone, our interactions will be fully based around our interests. If I'm a liberal, I'll read liberal cartoons and liberal blogs and liberal news. If I'm a republican, I'll do just the opposite. I'll never have to worry about accidentally being exposed to other opinions and other facts, except on the rare occasion that someone I hang with in a different interest suddenly starts ranting about this interest.

This is what the 'shadow geography' is made of: the preferential boundaries people will never cross. Like a child allowed to choose between cookies and ham, they will choose what they like.

Is this bad? Well, it does lend to a kind of landless factioning. Nichefying on the internet. People will become so insulated in their little shadow islands that they will become as opinionated and provincial as a person can be.

For example: many of the people who use the internet are essentially socialist, although they usually call themselves liberals. Now, socialism has failed every time it has ever been implemented - even partially - ever. Socialism is so flawed that nobody who studies sociology, economy, or politics could ever think of it as a valid long-term solution.

Yet it lives on. Why do hundreds of thousands - tens of millions - of people think that this kind of economic restriction is a good idea? Hell, it's more popular today here in America than ever before, despite the fact that America has watched from the front lines as unbeatable giants of countries fell at the touch of socialism and similar economic methods.

These millions of people can't be swayed. They are fully insulated. Every day, they revel in the little pocket world they and their like-minded friends have created. Their "shadow island", which operates on such a tiny subset of reality that it can mean whatever it wants.

But at some point, their tiny subset of reality will BECOME reality. The third-generation nationalities and corporations will be cast aside and replaced by fourth-generation versions, specific to those subsets. I can't predict how these new systems would work or interact, but I can tell you one thing: they will be dictatorships. They will consist of dozens or hundreds or thousands of people following one particular leader in one particular activity. The level of organization and defense required will be low enough that it will take centuries before red tape re-emerges.

The specifics vary heavily on what technologies come around. A breakthrough in energy, AI, space habitation, or immortality will accelerate the birth of the fourth age and radically affect its development. Which of those breakthroughs will come - if any of them come - is a toss of the coin to me.

Fwaaaah... okay, I feel a little better. I guess I'll stop talking.

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