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the commanding heights of the reputation war
seeking once more to put a thumb on the scale of an economy
i have spoken a great deal about the impending reputation economy where mere “information” becomes insufficient or outright harmful amidst the tumult and tinsel of modern media in the age of AI and aggregation algos.
the new gold shall become one’s demonstrated bone fides.
and not everyone likes this. because reputation must be earned and sustained and you cannot do this by lying all the time.
such a trend poses grave threat to the manner in which many have done things. do not expect them to go quietly.
even among the discerning, there are nasty tricks that can be played and the discovery and weaponization of these cognitive hacks is coming. fields like behavioral economics that have long studied such subjects have devolved many keen and effective insights into how to “nudge” humans by preying upon their inconsistent, inaccurate, or inherently biased thought processes.
some early pioneers recently won a nobel in economics for it.
corporations have been using it for decades.
but when you put this in the hands of government capable of wielding coercive power, you enter into a new, more dangerous area and nudges rapidly become shoves and psyops.
the key to doing this effectively is the intersection of
and preying upon the inherent irrationality that pervades human cognition
remember these 3. there is going to be a quiz.
a classic example is that if a human wins a dollar then loses a dollar, they will, despite being in the same place they were before, feel worse off than if nothing had happened. we just hate having things taken from us more than we like getting them in the first place.
there are 100 clever ways to prey upon this not least of which is the classic “franklin close” sales technique where you act as though the customer has already said yes. you get them thinking through the sale, imagining it as though it had occurred. this then causes them to experience a sense of loss when they consider not buying what you are selling. ask any sales guy. they’ve known about this one since “the wheel” was the hot new product.
and there are 1000 hacks like this. maybe a million. and they are coming. so let’s take a look:
“fact checking” has become a much derided practice. it’s all stupid, captured, and tends to blow up like a novelty cigar in the face of those trying to push it as somehow definitive. it does not scale well and it’s easy to streisand effect.
and this is why the fact checkers want to go a layer deeper and the oddly omnipresent stanford university center for applied totalitarianism studies (who did the work on some truly awful stuff like MK ULTRA “mind control” back in the 60’s) seems once more to be at the fore. because you are more likely to see a leopard change his spots than this gang change their aims and activities.
and the “Journal of Online Trust and Safety” is basically the purpose created how-to manual for manipulation.
and what busy little bees they have been.
The journal was launched nearly two years ago by the Stanford Internet Observatory, a leader in the public-private Election Integrity Partnership that mass-reported alleged election misinformation to Big Tech and Virality Project that sought to throttle admittedly true COVID-19 content.
Its stated purpose is to study "how people abuse the internet to cause real human harm, often using products the way they are designed to work," the editors wrote in the inaugural issue, which included a paper on the intersection of hate speech and misinformation about "the role of the Chinese government in the origin and spread of COVID-19."
and the latest output of this group of aspiring arch-manipulators is a doozy. (read HERE)
one of the authors, in time honored buck passing fashion, even went so far as to opine that well, “once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? that’s not my department, said werner von braun.” (lyrics borrowed from tom lehrer)
sure, you could use it for evil. but just because we want to give it to a group of people with an unblemished track record of doing nothing but that is no reason to blame us!
the upshot here is that these trust ratings are a form of cognitive hack. there is just nothing to really argue with, no “fact check” to refute. it’s just subtle, ubiquitous, preying upon a mental flaw where you just tend to see the number of stars and your views change. where they came from seems immaterial.
subtle embedding, reinforcement, prey upon irrationality.
(see, told you there’d be a quiz)
these ratings determine spread. you see the 5’s far more than 1’s because “hey, we’re just making sure the credible sources get more views.” who made the number up and how just vanishes from consideration.
they change the nature of each impression by adding a subtle signal, but not one you can argue with on any factual basis. it’s just one long, slow smear campaign of character assassination. and it works because your mind is just wired to trust these sort of ratings and assume they tie to something.
it works even if you know it’s being done.
it just piles up on you and builds a sort of cumulative cognitive weight that slowly bends you and even if you manage to condition yourself to invert this and only trust 1’s and never 5’s, it still gets you by sheer weight of repetition because you never see 1’s and always see 5’s so you get a relentless sense of being a small, marginalized minority as you are gaslit into a form of abeline paradox whereby even when a whole group thinks “A” it professes “B” because each group member perceives all the others as believing B and fears to stand alone.
it’s a form of asch conformity outcome by suppression and tinseling.
it’s a game where merely to play is to lose.
so the answer is to turn over the gameboard.
social media is going to fragment. some will gleefully adopt this. and we must abandon them.
i made this joke last year.
and it’s about to get A LOT less funny and a great deal more weaponized.
and so, you’re not going to be able to trust any social media system that uses these trust ratings. it’s polemical polonium. there is no safe dose, no safe way to handle it. that’s the point.
the essence of the reputation economy lies in discernment and we’re playing against an opponent that knows this.
they cannot compete on being trusted, so they are going to move the fight up a level to the determination of that which may be discerned and look to slant and slander, nudge and shove.
decline the invitation to play on their home field.
this is not a game you want to lose.