Monday, February 29, 2016

Distributed Thoughtware and the 2016 Election

When's the last time you formed an opinion in a vacuum?

The mere fact that you're reading this blog indicates to me that the answer is "before the internet existed, if not before that." The idea that anyone who isn't some sort of information junkie would end up on this site is laughable.

What's less laughable is this: you haven't had an independent thought since (at the latest) Web 1.0.  

Let's get this part out of the way: language and culture shape what thoughts we are capable of having and how we express them. No human being has had a 100% independent thought since the invention of language.

But 100% independent thoughts are not what I'm talking about, so let's skip the petty definition game.

What I mean by "an opinion in a vacuum" is "an opinion not subject to internet crowd-sourcing." An opinion that was not directly influenced by the briny churn of  ideas super-colliding on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/Reddit/Web 2.0.

Personally, I can't think of an opinion that I've had that wasn't eventually influenced by the internet hive-mind. I'm old enough to still read paper books, but even on the occasion that an initial thought is inspired by traditional media, I'm almost certain to post it to the internet hive-mind for comment. If an opinion doesn't make it to that stage, it's usually because I forgot about it. It literally wasn't important enough to remember.

Our minds no longer functions as individual computers processing away at individual programs. We don't swap data a little at a time, from one terminal to another via floppy-disks and punch-cards (books, newspapers, conversations). We're plugged in, distributing our thought-programs over the network. It's Distributed Thoughtware, and we're all a part of it.

Here's the bad news: you will never have another opinion of consequence that will not belong to the Distributed Thoughtware. If you were born after the invention of the internet, it is likely that you have never had an opinion independent of Distributed Thoughtware and never will.

This means that almost everyone voting in the upcoming election has had their current opinions formed by the internet. Not their underlying biases, mind you, but their knowledge of the current situation and how they interpret it. I'm not talking about Twitter comments displayed during the debates or Marco Rubio's Instagram account, I'm talking about the hive-mind formed by their Facebook friends, Twitter feed, and so on. The people who, to a certain extent, do your thinking for you (more accurately, with you).

At first glance, Distributed Thoughtware seems immune to control. How can you control billions of minds at the same time? How can you clamp down on the Truth when it can be uploaded from anywhere? As long as there's one person who can see through the lies, it will get uploaded and distributed. Game, Set, Match against tyranny, right?

You can't control billions of people by physically (electronically) restricting what they upload. Someone will always get through, again and again and again. This is what actual totalitarians do, and it's usually ineffective. There are always workarounds and holes to exploit. Maybe Chinese internet activists will never take down the Communist Party, but the Communist Party will never be able to truly take down internet activists.

You also don't control billions of people with Shadowbans (as Twitter may be doing) or bans for inflammatory material (as Facebook does). This is what soft totalitarians do, and it too is usually ineffective. If anything, half-measures that toy with algorithms behind the scenes explode more violently than full-on totalitarianism. You only have to resort to half-measures in societies that believe in freedom of speech, and societies that believe in freedom of speech will react violently to underhanded censorship when it is exposed.

 Whatever is suppressed by the ego or superego is redirected into the id. Whatever is suppressed by the conscious mind empowers the subconscious. Repressed speech festers and explodes.

So how do you control the billions of minds that make up our Distributed Thoughtware? You say something so big - whether because it is brilliant or ridiculous - that it crowds out everything else.

This is why Donald Trump runs the table. It's because he has set what program we will run since his "Mexicans are rapists and murderers" speech. Everything is a reaction to Trump, not an opinion in a vacuum. We are all, as terminals connected into Distributed Thoughtware, running the Donald Trump application whether we want to or not.

This, in combination with the libidinal energy pushed into the subconscious by soft totalitarianism, is what propels Trump to victory. We can't talk about anything else. Our software is too busy processing the Don.

It is probably impossible to prevent a Donald Trump presidency at this point. It is definitely impossible for any other Presidential candidate to stop Donald Trump at this point. But that doesn't mean that the Donald Trump presidency will mean anything. The hivemind will keep processing Trump, and will keep interpreting this processing loop as a win for Trump, as long as he is an outsider. That changes once he's elected.

Once Trump is elected (and barring a second Black Swan event, he will be elected), he will have to start taking definite actions instead of gaming the Distributed Thoughtware (more accurately, in addition to gaming the Distributed Thoughtware). People will support Trump as a middle finger to the establishment, but will they support him as President? I know plenty of people who backed Obama up until the inauguration.

I'm not alone in predicting that Trump will take the presidency, so let's talk about what happens next. That way, you can check to see if I'm just talking out of my ass in a few years. Falsifiable predictions, people!

Scenario #1 - Trump proves to be a completely ineffectual president. The backlash hits the Right hard and delivers the nation into 1,000 years of Socialism. Our Distributed Thoughtware rejects Capitalism and Right-ism in general as hard as Geocentrism. See also: Trump proves to be an actual Hitler, ushering in 1,000 years of Socialism.

You'll know I was right because Donald was a terrible president and the world moves noticeably to the Left for a generation.

Scenario #2 - Trump proves to be an amazing President. The political establishment and mainstream media are proven drastically, undeniably wrong. The Right makes major gains, but the largest change is a decentralization of opinion-making. Our Distributed Thoughtware has a whole new set of Administrators, almost all of which were not associated with the Old Media at the time of the election.

You'll know I was right because Donald becomes the most beloved president since Reagan and mainstream media viewership/readership drops off sharply (ie, faster than its current rate of slow death). 

Scenario #3 - Trump proves to be roughly as effective as Obama. He makes some gains for his side but fails to deliver on the promised Candyland utopia. The Right and the Left remain about as balanced as they are now (with a slight advantage to the Right). Our Distributed Thoughtware still moves towards decentralization, though not as sharply as in Scenario #2.

You'll know I was right because Trump has favorably ratings at the end of his presidency roughly equal to what Obama has now (roughly 48%) and the mainstream media dies out at a faster rate than it is now (though a quickly as in Scenario #2).

Interestingly, none of these scenarios retard the growing ubiquity of Distributed Thoughtware. In all cases, the inability of the political establishment/mainstream media to stop Trump moves us away from centralized opinion-making. When a cartoonist, a self-help guy, and a professional troll have more insight into the national mood than any given poli-sci PhD, journalist, or politician, our confidence in the system plummets.

Scenario #1 is the only one in which our Distributed Thoughtware fails to grow geometrically. If the Establishment can get one thing right - Trump would be a terrible President - then they retain a shred of dignity. There is a fig leaf: "We might not understand anything about the real world, but at least we understand the political world."

But even Trump becoming the worst president in history wouldn't slow the death of the Central Thought Systems. It only means the Center's death isn't as fast as it could possibly be.

Why? Because if you love Trump, you already hate the central media/government establishment and want him to smash them. Even if Trump fucks up the country, you're unlikely to start loving Big Brother. If you hate Trump, you already hate the central media/government establishment for failing to stop him. And that hate will grow stronger in November, and stronger still when the country goes in the toilet.

I suppose that if Trump fucks up the country (and the global economy by proxy) so badly that no one can afford to use the internet anymore, that might disrupt our Distributed Thoughtware. But you'll be too busy knifing another hobo over a can of beans to remember that some internet jackass' prediction failed.

Speaking of which, here's how you'll know I was wrong:

Scenario #1 - Donald Trump fails to become president because he loses the vote. This excludes an assassination or massive, documented voting fraud. If Trump is not elected, I was wrong. If there are accusations of voting fraud, but no real evidence, I am still wrong.

Scenario #2 - Donald Trump is a terrible president, and there is no backlash against the Right. Also, Trump is a terrible president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

Scenario #3 - Donald Trump is an excellent president, but the country still moves permanently to the Left. Also, Trump is an excellent president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

Scenario #4 - Donald Trump is a mediocre president (with an approval rate of ~48%) and the country takes a hard, hard turn to the Left or the Right. Also, Trump is a mediocre president and we become less dependent on Distributed Thoughtware (ie, there is a resurgence of the traditional media/trust in the establishment).

So there you go. Three ways I can be right and four ways I can be wrong. Now sit back and enjoy Super Tuesday.


  1. Wow, someone else has read Popper. Maybe there's hope for the world.

    1. Sir Karl Popper, Austro-British philosopher, author of The Logic of Scientific Discovery and Conjectures and Refutations. It was Popper who first pointed out the importance of asking what would disprove a scientific theory.

      Your "Speaking of which, here's how you'll know I was wrong:" made me think you must have read him. If not, even better! It suggests his ideas are finally becoming common knowledge.

    2. Huh! Yeah, I assumed that one was common knowledge, but it's interesting to see where it came from. I figure it only makes sense to track where you're right and where you're wrong to constantly up your game.