Editorial Page, June 2024


Living with the New Capitalism

There’s a joke going around that, in 2004, you had to be a computer wizard to find what you wanted on the internet. In 2014, anybody could do it. In 2024, we’re back to only computer wizards finding what they want.

What happened? My list of culprits would include click farms, search engine rigging, and AI spam. Not to mention government- and corporate-sponsored teams placing and compromising information on Wikipedia and social media. They’re all working hard to degrade the information space, making the internet much less useful than it was a decade ago.

The late, great writer Jerry Pournelle noted that capitalism, unregulated, always ended up with murderers selling body parts. Left to itself, capitalism drifts downard into degradation and evil. All in the search for profits.

In the modern world, what beliefs you hold in your mind are the new golden coins of the realm. Each of those people and organizations degrading the internet are doing so to grab as many of these “coins” as they can. Just like Pournelle’s organ bootleggers, they’ll do absolutely anything in pursuit of their goal of controlling what you believe. Including ruining the internet – and here we are.

Regulators aren’t going to help you, because the forces in play are so powerful, they’ll just corrupt those regulators. More and more people are recognizing that this problem won’t be fixed for them; they must fix it for themselves. The phenomenon of how to deal with a compromised information world is being termed hypernovelty.

In the “classic” world of news, the New York Times tells you that Russia has a negligible army. The Washington Post assures you that inflation is almost non-existent. Fox tells you that Israel’s army adheres to the highest standards of behavior. And you believe one or more of these sources, because you live in a world of authorities.

In the world of hypernovelty, you always, for every source, look at what these sources tell you as what they want you to believe. You’re presented a shocking story of beheaded babies. In the hypernovelty world, you hold your emotional response at arm’s length. Who’s reporting it? Are different media sources using exactly the same language, suggesting a single source planted the story to each of them?

Who’s reporting that the story is fake, and how are they supporting their claims? If there’s a picture, has it been used before? Does the background you’re being shown match the reported location, or is it from somewhere else? Can you find the people in the photos in catalogs of stock photos?

People in military intelligence have always looked at the world in this fashion – in peace and in war. Hypernovelty is the approaching new normal where civilians now adopt these same techniques of skepticism, discernment, and analysis. You’re a military intelligence officer for your army of one.

Does it sound exhausting? It really isn’t in the long run. For instance, a very typical media behavior is to publish some highly emotional story that makes you sick with anger. It eventually turns out to be false, but as this becomes apparent, the news simply stops talking about it, moving on to something new and outrageous.

It may seem cold to respond to an emotional story with logic rather than anger. But remember: some of these stories will be false in whole or part. Rather than being lashed with outrage after outrage, you instead have a list of stories which, never being confirmed, fade away from your memory without ever having burned your emotional energy. This leaves you with more energy for the truly worthy stories.

Describing your role as an intelligence officer is so apt that you can literally use military intelligence techniques to help read and deconstruct news stories. During the cold war, the Soviets, with a fraction of the United State’s budget, maintained one of the most effective intelligence services in human history. A number of their documents have since been leaked and translated, and in a future article I hope to cover intelligence techniques, including many coming from the KGB.

In the meantime, read quickly, but believe slowly.

June 6, 2024

About Author

vandys Andy Valencia is a 20+ year islander, tech guy, father, writer