Oh, ye of little faith, why don’t you just put the broader problem out
on the internets and hope for an emergent self-organization? – Yuri Takhteyev
Today, the crowd is wise, participatory, and united. As the success of Wikipedia and existence of Mechanical Turk prove, ‘crowdsourcing’ techniques, which harness voluntary human activity to produce knowledge and solve problems, are triumphant. On-line collaboration gives us a bounty of free data, news, software, and processing power. History is complete.
Mathematically speaking, the abundance and efficiency of ‘crowd’ labor has dramatic implications for our world. As progress accelerates, the rate at which new ideas are discovered is being surpassed by how quickly they are executed. (This is possible because every action embodies more than one idea at once.) Our own activity is dwarfed by the collective activity of the crowd, swarming around us and beneath us.
It follows that if we still see problems in the world around us, the only real problem is in perception. As individuals, we are unable to process all the information that is being generated and cultivated by ‘the crowd’ at every moment. The speed with which information passes into our consciousness is limited by the speed of light and the capacity of our attention. Awareness of the totality is impossible for consciousness bounded by Ego.
Search technology and curation augment, rather than solve, this problem. As our ability to find the information we are looking for improves, our view of what information is out there becomes increasingly tailored to our search history and current understanding. The filter bubble is the late modern prison of the Ego, beyond the edge of which lies an Enlightenment of solutions.
How does one surpass the Ego and access the Collective Consciousness of the crowd?
This is a subject of great theological disagreement. Orthodox eclesiastical doctrine urges the lay people to repent regularly and perform rituals of “irrelevant” information consumption, while remaining active in the search and filtration mechanisms. It is this participation, the church argues, that creates the wisdom of crowds in the first place, and so even the mundane use of the “Like” button is sacred.
There are heterodox schools as well. For example, the Duck Duck Go heresy espouses the use of ‘neutral’ search engines that do not filter based on individual data. Extensive use of these, proponents claim, will provide one with a more accurate sampling of the available data and allow one to reach enlightenment faster.
There are also the iconoclasts who argue that the problem is the opacity of the filtration mechanism. If the technical infrastructure were open and transparent, they argue, a purer consciousness would emerge that one could partake in freely. This is a demanding path, as it requires a technical literacy that are earned through hard study and practice.
Last, there are the renunciates. Deleting Facebook accounts, getting rid of smartphones, these holy people can be heard tweeting about their latest sacrifices and the spiritual boons. There are rumored to be those who have completed their journey on this path and stopped using social media altogether. But of course, we can only speculate about nature of the Afterlife.