DIGITAL MAOISM: simulation contributes to the collective mind

Fascinating essay by Jaron Lanier on Digitel Edge, arguing that the collective process (wikis, aggregators, meta-search engines, etc) goes too far and produces a kind of impersonal, popularist dumbed-down intellectual world.

Simulation is a form of the collective intelligence hes talking about, because simulation uses existing assumptions to generate new knowledge. (Those who understand the process dont call it knowledge, but those who oversimplify it do.)

In particular Lanier worries that “The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, were devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.” Simulations are cases where the internet – well, the computers – have something to say – their own generated content that could not have been generated without them. Its essential to make that into valid content of course, but it is one way in which the aggregation of individual information genuinely generates new wisdom.

Perosnally Im surprised Laniers excellent essay doesnt mention marketing. The aggregation of results – the metasearch engine of metasearch engines – is immensely valuable to the marketer because it gives overall statistics about what people want to buy. Its also good for the politicain, looking for votes. Thats why so much VC funding goes into these things. But when it comes to surfacing good ideas, its not a good thing.

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