Digital Idealism

In the past, when we looked back on historical events, we were able to decipher correlation from causation after the fact…but those with military, political, or social power controlled the interpretation that became widely known.

This power to determine history, in the short or even longer term, was made weaker by the invention of the printing press and later newspapers.

Now that we have digital media and any one of us can voice an opinion for others to hear, perhaps we will get closer to an ideal world where something approaching truth will emerge for our collective interpretation of past events.

A cynic might say that the masses will be more easily swayed by sentiment or the power of manipulative rhetoric, but it has been my experience that most people are smarter than we give them credit for and often they are limited by their linguistic training.

As our tools of digital interaction, translation and sharing continue to increase, I am excited about the potential for us to enter a more truly democratic world, where we learn from our past through a process of sharing, interpretation and learning through increasingly rapid cycles of feedback.

Perhaps through this process we will not only learn more about our past, but we might even be able to learn more about each other and eliminate some of the fears and misunderstandings that drive much of the negativity and violence that still unfortunately plagues our world.

2 thoughts on “Digital Idealism

  1. Kevin

    Hey Dave,

    Nice post. The best example I can think of (for me personally, at least) that exemplifies your last two articles is reddit. I spend a lot of time on that site, and 90% of that time is spent discussing things with the other users via comments.
    I’ve learned several things:

    1. There are a lot of smart people out there. And I mean a LOT. It’s absolutely humbling to think you’re hot stuff with top grades from a good engineering school, but then you run into a crowd of people who collectively know pretty much everything about anything you could ever ask. This covers arcane topics from European history and sociology to algebraic topology, quantum field theory, theoretical computer science, economics, and every other field of study there is. Makes you realize that your little S.B. in Computer Science is just that, and nothing more.
    2. A cogent, objective, and well thought-out argument will win always triumph over ad hominem. (while perhaps not true in everyday life, it certainly works with the right people)
    3. People respect those who admit their faults and learn from mistakes.

    Most importantly, though, reddit has broken down cultural stereotypes I’ve had of people. These are shallow stereotypes forged from my very limited experiences and biased extrapolations of what people “ought” to be like. Time and again, I am humbled when I read intelligent posts by not only mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and philosophers, but also secretaries, janitors, ganja-smokers, ex-cons, LOTS of foreigners, day laborers, construction workers, … well you get the picture.
    To be fair, you do run across people that make you go ??, but they’re always overshadowed by the ones that impress you.

    So, to back what you said, the most important thing reddit has done for me is break down preconceived notions of foreign cultures and teach me to respect my fellow men.

    On a side note, I’m afraid my twittering is starting to catch up to your frenetic pace =P


  2. Dave Post author

    Thanks Kevin.

    I’ve had similar experiences on Pownce and to some extent on Twitter.

    I think it boils down to the fact that the filters our society uses to move us through the system are necessarily imprecise, and people are smart in many different ways.

    Keep Twittering!


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