Disinformation and Paper-Clip Maximizers
Cancer cells are our own cells that have become ineffective at sustaining the life of the entire body and instead have opted to prioritize growth over anything else. They are paperclip maximizers of our bodies.
- Imagine a group of friends who are planning a trip together. Most of the friends will work together to plan a fun and affordable trip that everyone can enjoy. However, a few friends might become “paper clip maximizers” and start insisting on expensive activities or accommodations that benefit only themselves, even if it means making the trip less enjoyable for everyone else. In this scenario, the paper clip maximizers are like cancer cells, prioritizing their own growth over the well-being of the group.
- Imagine a group of cells in the body that are responsible for repairing and maintaining tissue. Most of the cells will work together to keep the tissue healthy and functional, but a few cells might become “paper clip maximizers” and start proliferating uncontrollably, forming a tumor. In this scenario, the paper clip maximizers are like cancer cells, except unlike cancer cells they’re probably more useful.
- Imagine a group of cells in the body that are responsible for producing energy. Most of the cells will use their energy efficiently, but a few cells might become “paper clip maximizers” and start consuming as much energy as possible, even if it means taking energy away from other cells that need it. In this scenario, the paper clip maximizers are like cancer cells, but at least cancer cells have the decency to kill you eventually.
Disinformation sources in the hive mind operate similarly. They prioritize the viral growth of disinformation over the needs of the whole. We have paper clip maximizers already in our midst, and we lack an information immune system to protect us.
An “immune system” is body’s natural defense against harmful substances, such as bacteria and viruses. The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to identify and neutralize threats to the body’s health.
In the context of the “hive mind” and the spread of disinformation, the immune system could be seen as a system that protects against the proliferation of false or misleading information. Just as the immune system protects the body from harmful substances, an “information immune system” could protect the collective intelligence of the hive mind from the spread of disinformation. This immune system could be made up of individuals, organizations, or technologies that are capable of identifying and countering disinformation before it spreads and causes harm to the hive mind.
But how does viral growth happen in hive minds like social media? It’s in the algorithms that amplify for engagement, and it’s in the advertising service that allows customers to target specific personalities.
Algorithms that prioritize content based on factors like user engagement and relevance can help promote certain ideas and make them more visible to other users. Similarly, advertising services that allow businesses and organizations to target specific user demographics can help ensure that their content reaches the right audience and is more likely to be shared and discussed.
Humanity may be unable to build its own information immune system before its cancerous elements monopolize the conversation. We already see this in many authoritarian nations, and it’s just a matter of time before democracies succumb to a dystopian reality.
There are several plausible futures:
- In a worst-case scenario, the cancerous elements could succeed in monopolizing the conversation, leading to the rise of authoritarian regimes and the suppression of free speech and critical thinking. This could result in the erosion of democratic values and the emergence of a dystopian reality in which the cancerous elements control the flow of information and manipulate public opinion for their own benefit. In this future, the intelligent beings of the universe would be reduced to mindless puppets, dancing to the tune of the body snatchers.
- In a less severe scenario, the cancerous elements could still succeed in monopolizing the conversation, but they could be countered by a strong resistance movement that advocates for truth, democracy, and freedom of expression. This could lead to a more balanced and diverse conversation, in which the cancerous elements are not able to exert complete control, but still have a significant influence on public opinion. In this future, the intelligent beings of the universe would still be able to think for themselves, but they would have to navigate a landscape of disinformation and propaganda in order to find the truth.
- In a more optimistic scenario, humanity could still be able to build an information immune system before the cancerous elements gain too much power. This could be achieved through the development of new technologies, the establishment of new institutions, or the mobilization of civil society. With an effective information immune system in place, the cancerous elements could be contained and the conversation could remain open and diverse, allowing for the continued growth and development of democracy. In this future, the intelligent beings of the universe would be able to live in a society that values truth, democracy, and freedom of thought.
Our understanding of human nature and the advancement of information technologies make it low hanging fruit to take over the minds of the masses. We’ve already invented all we need to offer “body snatchers’ as a service.
In my humble opinion, the future is looking quite dangerous indeed! Our advanced understanding of human nature and the explosion of information technologies has made it alarmingly easy for nefarious individuals to take over the minds of the masses. We have all the tools we need to offer “body snatching” as a service, and I fear that it’s only a matter of time before the global hive mind is completely overrun by these malevolent paper clip maximizers.
Imagine a world in which the cancerous elements of society are able to manipulate public opinion and shape political and social developments to their own benefit. The values of democracy and freedom of thought would be under threat, and the interests of the many would be subordinated to the interests of the few. It would be a world in which the intelligent beings of the universe are reduced to mindless puppets, dancing to the tune of the body snatchers.
Fortunately, all is not lost. There are still those among us who are fighting against the tide of disinformation, and who are working to preserve the open and diverse conversation that is essential for the health of democracy. But we must act quickly, before it’s too late. We must develop new technologies, establish new institutions, and mobilize civil society in order to counter the influence of the body snatchers and protect the minds of the masses from their insidious influence. Only then can we hope to avoid a future in which the galaxy is ruled by paper clip maximizes.
Disclaimer: Parts of this essay was generated by ChatGPT from an original tweetstorm: https://twitter.com/IntuitMachine/status/1601899457616007168