Notebooks

Actually, "Dr. Internet" Is the Name of the Monsters' Creator

01 Apr 2024 10:22

I can't remember if Henry Farrell came up with this phrase, or I did, as the title for one of our slow-growing joint projects. (As always, I am the rate-limiting factor.) I also forget whether we originally meant Monster's, singular, or Monsters', plural; as time passes I lean towards the latter.

The thesis for the project, briefly stated and grossly over-simplified, is that all of us who had happy thoughts c. 1995--2015 about how the Internet could unleash human creativity were, in fact, completely right. It could, and in fact it did. But in our optimism we forgot that "to any rational mind, the greater part of the history of ideas is a history of freaks", i.e., that human creativity is mostly mad. Moreover: we were also right about how the Internet was going to facilitate certain kinds of collective action. But when you put all that together... In other words, a lot of what we have come to deplore about online life, and the way it has changed life-in-general, was more or less built in from the beginning.

At some point, I hope we will, in fact, write this all up properly. In the meanwhile, the first fruits is our piece in (of all places) the Communications of the ACM.


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