The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet

“Imagine a dark forest at night. It’s deathly quiet. Nothing moves. Nothing stirs. This could lead one to assume that the forest is devoid of life. But of course, it’s not. The dark forest is full of life. It’s quiet because night is when the predators come out. To survive, the animals stay silent…

…In response to the ads, the tracking, the trolling, the hype, and other predatory behaviors, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet, and away from the mainstream…

…[Dark forests] are all spaces where depressurized conversation is possible because of their non-indexed, non-optimized, and non-gamified environments. The cultures of those spaces have more in common with the physical world than the internet.”

—Yancey Strickler, “The Dark Forest Theory of the Internet.” May 20, 2019.

One quibble with the thrust of this article is that you do not solve the problems of media by broadening engagement with it. Television is not improved by increasing its reach. Nor will the mainstream Internet by fixed by having more people engaged with it. Fragmentation allows people to vote with their feet, or attention, and eventually, trash will be left to the pig pen and the garbage bin. Trash is not turned into something else by enshrining it in pride of place on the mantle.

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