KaseyKlimes considers the ramping up of a Hobbesian war of all against all online, from a GameTheory perspective.
He's good on identifying that the rise of incivility, the actual degree of "CancelCulture", and the scaremongering about it, are not things that just happened, but are the natural result of the rise of the internet (and SocialMediaThought, TheEndOfConsensus etc.)
This immediately puts him ahead of all those people who worry about this stuff without recognising the connection to the internet.
His breakdown of "the tribes" is too simplified. I think there's more groups that are important and contributing to the overall dynamic. (Especially in other countries, where things like Brexit in the UK etc. create further tribal divisions. He misses the important fissures I can see opening up on the left (and which I sometimes find myself trying unsuccessfully to straddle)).
His game model isn't bad. Sees the positive feedback loops reinforcing tribal loyalties, TheToxoplasmaOfRage dynamic of different groups feeding off their hate and fear of each other. It's compatible with AGroupIsItsOwnWorstEnemy.
He's good on recognising that there's no guarantee that in a free-market of ideas and FreedomOfSpeech the "best" ideas necessarily win out. In fact the evidence is pointing the other way.
He has a good analogy that the internet "wormholes" has allowed ideas from elsewhere that are kind of like "invasive species" suddenly arriving in a memetic EcoSystem and disrupting its stability.
He claims : There is no (and perhaps can be no) formal recourse for the introduction of an invasive thought-species.
I wonder why.
But this is good :
So emerges the "cancel culture" of the Left; a networked attempt at preventing the spread of right-wing invasive thought-species with which formal legal structures cannot reckon. In other words, extralegal mob justice.
Extralegal mob justice is a crude and imprecise tool. There is no due process, no precedent, no carefully articulated legal boundaries. In its desperation to stop the social contagion of right-wing extremism by striking earlier in the game loop, it hunts down milder and milder cases until wholly innocent people join the list of casualties.
(See also : ConversationAsCommons)
He talks about a psychological rush people get through cancelling. I'd like to see more evidence that this is a real, significant phenomenon rather than a right-wing talking point. But yeah, maybe.
This is then a good para :
Now we have right-wing extremists and extralegal mobs to worry about, warring against the backdrop of perfectly-unblemished castles of structural injustice (meanwhile, the liberals are off somewhere penning another open letter).
Now we get to the important bit :
The result of the game loop and the 21st century environment is a new Hobbesian state of nature: a "war of all men against all men." The formal structures and institutions of the 20th century–perhaps the pinnacle of human progress–are impotent in this new world. Where do we go from here?
OK. He is going to admit that tech decisions have brought us this world, and therefore tech. can and should still have a role in fixing it.
These technologists are the most consequential architects the world has ever known. While their intentions may be pure, intentions matter very little at the scale of civilization. The consequences of a few seemingly small decisions born on a whiteboard in California have threatened centuries of human progress.
I think I'm just going to quote wholesale his solutions. (CategoryCopyrightRisk)
The fitness function of today's internet–the environmental rule set to which our discourse is adapted–leads us in ever-more extreme directions. By looking upstream, however, we can begin redesigning the mechanisms of the game loop and end the gamification of political discourse.
- Unplug The Scoreboard. We can improve the quality of our online discourse by attenuating the role of quantity in the design of social media interfaces. In other words; to end the game, unplug the scoreboard. Today’s online experience is a flurry of numbers at the expense of real communication. The DemetrificationOfSocialMedia - the elimination of "points" in the form of likes and retweets - can create space for emphasis on the content of messages rather than their “performance”. While a 'Like' button may seem inconsequential, it is precisely where the game loop begins.
- Let Users Design Their Algorithm. We can reassess the need for algorithmic ranking of social media content–which boosts the sensational at the expense of the nuanced and accurate–or, reimagine the design of those algorithms. Why not allow users to determine the criteria by which their content is sorted? The current behavioralist approach assumes that because I click on outraging content that I must want outraging content. Instead, platforms could give users an opportunity to stop and consciously articulate what they want from their social media experience.
- End Engagement-Based Business Models. We can acknowledge that Silicon Valley's technologists are merely a middle-layer in a Russian nesting doll of warped incentives; the designers of these systems are themselves a subsystem. Tech firms are players in a shareholder-based economy that demands maximized returns. Social media platforms are designed as games to be won because games are highly profitable. The game loop that drives tribal extremism is the same one that drives engagement overall, so change won't come voluntarily. The tech-sector regulation of the 21st century must realign these incentives so that the aforementioned redesigns (and others we have yet to imagine) might be possible.
- Rebuild The World Beyond The Screen. We can work to rebuild our social support structures back in the real world so that the human need for social connection needn't be found in the welcoming arms of online extremists. We can regenerate community in neighborhood spaces, local support structures in civic organizations, and opportunities for connection in both new and time-tested forms of social infrastructure. Physical, human connection remains the strongest antidote to our social challenges even as they manifest in virtual spaces.
The ecosystem of our collective meaning-making apparatus has been knocked into chaos, threatening the basis of global liberal democracy. This isn’t the world that anyone meant to create, but through a series of accidents and unintended consequences it is indeed where we have found ourselves: a digital war of all men against all men. We’ve navigated our way out of a state of nature once before. Do we have the fortitude to do it again?
I think these suggestions are all fine, as far as they go.
I'd also suggest MicroPenaltiesForMicroInfractions.