Wow, the hottest meme of the moment is Digital Maoism. It’s an essay by Jaron Lanier. Here are some reactions. This will take a while for me to digest, but there’s a lot of meat here. Here’s a preview:
There’s a frantic race taking place online to become the most “Meta” site, to be the highest level aggregator, subsuming the identity of all other sites.
The race began innocently enough with the notion of creating directories of online destinations, such as the early incarnations of Yahoo. Then came AltaVista, where one could search using an inverted database of the content of the whole Web. Then came Google, which added page rank algorithms. Then came the blogs, which varied greatly in terms of quality and importance. This lead to Meta-blogs such as Boing Boing, run by identified humans, which served to aggregate blogs. In all of these formulations, real people were still in charge. An individual or individuals were presenting a personality and taking responsibility.
These Web-based designs assumed that value would flow from people. It was still clear, in all such designs, that the Web was made of people, and that ultimately value always came from connecting with real humans.
Even Google by itself (as it stands today) isn’t Meta enough to be a problem. One layer of page ranking is hardly a threat to authorship, but an accumulation of many layers can create a meaningless murk, and that is another matter.
In the last year or two the trend has been to remove the scent of people, so as to come as close as possible to simulating the appearance of content emerging out of the Web as if it were speaking to us as a supernatural oracle. This is where the use of the Internet crosses the line into delusion.