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False Awakening

Being “Woke” in popular parlance may be defined as realising that one is being lied to by the forces of Evil (for want of a better word), and then deliberately refusing to accept their narrative anymore. Hence the “Woke” person is in a position to criticise those who persist in old-fashioned belief systems as being contrary to their own enlightened-perspective.

Except that it doesn’t work like that.

Recently, I looked at my news-feed and realised I was being lied to. The items which came up were meant to sedate me into not realising that I wasn’t seeing any stories which might actually inform, enlighten or challenge me. Filled with righteous anger, I went in search of whoever it was who had subjected me to mental slavery, and soon realised it was someone called “Alex Sumner.”

Yes! Far from the Google/Facebook/etc Algorithm being to solely to blame, I realised that by specifying my favourite news sources, my favourite topics, what I liked browsing, etc, I had turned the internet into a mirror – reflecting what I expected to see. And then I realised:

Because the Algorithm comes up with a result tailored to the individual, Everyone Is Seeing A Different Internet To Everyone Else.

Hence, the right wing people constantly receive a feed of right wing stories because they set their preferences to sites like Breitbart, altright.com and The Daily Mail. However, the Woke people constantly receive a feed from their own preferred i.e. “woke” outlets.

Everyone is being told what they want to hear – woke and unwoke.

There can be no dialogue on the internet between people of divergent points-of-view, because none of them are engaging with the same internet. Moreover, people argue assuming they are talking about the same thing whilst in reality each is speaking a different language to the other.

Becoming Woke is therefore not exchanging illusion for Truth, but one illusion for a different illusion.

It gets worse. In Philosophy, a debate between rival Philosophers could take centuries – literally, because the proponents lived in different time-zones. Likewise, in the Sciences, a scientific theory could hold sway for many years, e.g. it took over two hundred years to demonstrate Newton’s laws of motion are not true in every circumstance.

However: the Algorithm(s) are heavily biased in favour of novelty, to such an extent that to have an in-depth discussion on anything, even if it is not a great philosophical or scientific debate, requires an attention-span longer than that allowed for by the Algorithm. The internet may be a mirror, but we are only “seeing through a glass darkly” because it is not conducive to self-examination. It reflects, but does not allow self-reflection.

Personally I’ve started by deliberately altering my news preferences to read sources I would never read otherwise, although I think this might be the beginning of a plot for a dystopian science fiction series.

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