People claim today that there’s more controversy than ever, and that might be true. If pressed to say why, maybe they’d point to all the protests going on around the world, twitter flame wars, and the general feeling that there’s just a lot of people online who seem like they want to be angry about something.
You could talk about the psychology of the issue, and you wouldn’t be off track, but if I had to put my finger on what really changed, I’d point to the abundance of information.
We’re drowning in the stuff. Worse, we don’t really know what to do with most of it. I google “is trump bad?” and veritable firehose of data soaks me with 686,000,000 results in just under a second. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?
There’s a fuckton of information out there, a lot of it contradictory, a lot of it with an agenda. People may be aware of the general concept of misinformation, but they’re largely ignorant of how to recognize it. It’s a mess.
Truth be told, it’s not all bad. If I had to dilute why people seem angrier today, I’d say something along the lines of “the world has always been unjust, people are just now figuring out how prevalent it is”.
Twenty two years ago Google was born from the idea that there was a sea of information out there, but it was hard to find the good stuff. They went on to change the world, largely for the better, in solving that problem. I myself can credit my whole academic success largely from self study, all of it starting with a google query.
To some degree, they’ve almost been too useful. I don’t have time to read 700 million hot takes on the latest controversy. I can’t be up to date on all the nuances. Rest assured, if something is controversial, then there’s subtlety to the issue, and it’s not as simple as “why can’t those other idiots see that they’re wrong”.
If Google was born from information retrieval, the next information giant will be born of information synthesis. We have oceans of textual data, the algorithms to understand it, the cloud compute to scale it, and a culture of truth seeking that would use it. I would love to be able to be able to query a topic and have a page show me how much it’s been in the news recently, how people are feeling about the topic, and various summaries from conflicting positions.
I’d call it “Pulse”, and on the page banner would read “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. - Oscar Wilde”.