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.

The Communal Mind by Patricia Lockwood

“To future historians, nothing will explain our behaviour, except a mass outbreak of ergotism caused by contaminated rye?…

The Unabomber had been right about everything! Well, not all of it. The Unabomber stuff he had gotten wrong. But that stuff about the Industrial Revolution had been right on the money.”

—Patricia Lockwood, “The Communal Mind.” London Review of Books. February 21, 2019.

With the talk of ergot and the Unabomber, Patricia Lockwood’s is starting to make me wonder if my mind isn’t just a bad reflection of the communal mind. A strange and disturbing revelation. Putting her Priestdaddy at the top of my reading queue.

Havocscope Black Market

“Havocscope provides information and threat intelligence on the global black market. Due to the ability of transnational threats to cause financial losses and social harms, key statistics and data about the illegal economy is provided to help mitigate this risk. The information about the black market has been collected from government agencies, academic studies, media reports, and reported data from our sources.”

The Case Against Google – The New York Times

“In other words, it’s very likely you love Google, or are at least fond of Google, or hardly think about Google, the same way you hardly think about water systems or traffic lights or any of the other things you rely on every day. Therefore you might have been surprised when headlines began appearing last year suggesting that Google and its fellow tech giants were threatening everything from our economy to democracy itself. Lawmakers have accused Google of creating an automated advertising system so vast and subtle that hardly anyone noticed when Russian saboteurs co-opted it in the last election. Critics say Facebook exploits our addictive impulses and silos us in ideological echo chambers. Amazon’s reach is blamed for spurring a retail meltdown; Apple’s economic impact is so profound it can cause market-wide gyrations. These controversies point to the growing anxiety that a small number of technology companies are now such powerful entities that they can destroy entire industries or social norms with just a few lines of computer code. Those four companies, plus Microsoft, make up America’s largest sources of aggregated news, advertising, online shopping, digital entertainment and the tools of business and communication.”

—Charles Duhigg, “The Case Against Google.” The New York Times. February 20, 2018.

This is the best description of the feudal internet I’ve seen. It then discusses real life implications.

“As the years passed, Shivaun and Adam got into the habit of visiting message boards where people obsessively discussed Google’s many peculiarities. They began to notice an interesting pattern among companies complaining about the search giant: Often, the aggrieved parties had, in some way, posed some kind of threat to Google’s business. And they seemed to have suffered dire consequences…

… “All of the money spent online is going to just a few companies now,” says Reback (who disdains the New Brandeis label). “They don’t need dynamite or Pinkertons to club their competitors anymore. They just need algorithms and data.”