Remember Trump? … It hasn’t been that long since he stepped out from office, but we already seem to have forgotten about him, even though he managed to single handedly monopolize the world’s focus on his person and his actions for so long. This thing, our collective ability to shift focus from one thing to another, like the first never existed, will never cease to amaze me. Maybe we’re easily distracted, or maybe it’s salutary, maybe it’s some genetic aspect we inherited from our ancestors who needed to keep their wits about them and quickly change focus to new information/danger, or is it the undeniable importance of forgetfulness for self-preservation? We’ll never know. This rather seems like a common desire to quickly forget a 4-year long nightmare and move on in search of healing. I digress… The most precious thing we salvaged with his departure, is Truth, at least to some extent. Not that he’s the first to bend the truth to serve his agenda, and thus invented politics (he’s good, but not that good), but he took the practice to extreme lengths, to the brink of no return. With the help of this team and followers, he introduced “alternative facts”, things that, despite not relying on any proof, logic or scientific basis, were still popular because they were compatible with certain beliefs or political agendas. Targeted information is the new normal: Accuracy is irrelevant, as it stands. Every piece has a price tag, an objective attached to it: A rumor, a disclaimer, that’s two pieces of »news », with their respective lots of ad placements, clicks, and reach. Ka-ching!!! A popular belief, serving some skewed agenda, irreverent of facts or reality, and here you are storming government institutions trying to overthrow democracies… That is Orwellian, or rather Goebbelsian: ‘‘A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.
What is truth, then? Is it pure logic? What if that luxury isn’t available? What if logic does not really apply, like in human behavior, or politics? Is it empiric, restricted to things we directly witness? What about when it’s happening at the other end of the world? Is the empiricism then derived from the different instances of “truth” that are the accounts of the people/bots who supposedly did witness it firsthand, weighted by their ill/well-earned credibility, their different biases and motives? it seems that, of late, truth is whatever you choose it to be. You’re sure to find, on the internet, a swarm of people with the same idea who in some cases will even provide data or theories supporting your belief : Twitter, Facebook, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Signal, Twitch…Take your pick, you’ll undoubtedly find an echo to your ideas.
This uninterrupted stream does also not give us a moment’s respite to catch our breath and regroup; and a digital detox, even temporary, is a utopia for which most of us abandoned any hope. This creates in us classic addicts’ behavior, where we’re constantly after a quick fix, rather than the delayed gratification that reading a lengthy well documented article would provide. With a readership that is fickle at best, the motivation (thus resources) for serious journalistic efforts is quickly dwindling, truth is lost, and we’re left with a myriad of biased nonfactual interpretations to quench our thirst. These are our oracles, our references, and their demise is ours, truth-wise., This, in turn, leads to apathy in the general public, as we lose confidence in anything that anyone says, and keep to our preconceived beliefs, too lazy to allow them to be challenged. People believed Covid was a conspiracy, all the way to the grave for some. This sets a dangerous precedent; It is possible, today, to fabricate something as big as a global pandemic from naught and have lots of people believe it without a shred of physical evidence, as everything happens online. Truth, and reality as a whole, can now be totally manufactured, as the frontier between real and virtual is continuously blurred with our spending absurd amounts of time online. Just try to remember the last time you went two waking hours without looking at your phone, and if you did, the eagerness with which you unlocked it, enthralled by the expectation of the sea of notifications, messages, and apps awaiting you. God knows what’ll happen to us when Zuckerberg’s metaverse gets to its cruising speed, when other GAFA giants jump on the bandwagon, and it becomes the new normal. Are we condemned, by our current addiction, to become larva-like beings, solely existing by our bodily functions and living virtually otherwise?
Another aspect of the never-ending stimulation of our minds with information, is the impact on our memory. The other day, erasing old emails, I found conversations I don’t have the slightest recollection of having, from many years ago. Then it dawned on me: if we don’t remember as accurately as we should, the past isn’t safe either from manipulation. This is textbook Orwellian: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past”. Our minds are becoming more and more lazy, dependent on technology to function. Instead of trying to remember something, we systematically try to Google it, to save time and effort, or have the last word in some inane conversation. Our brains are thus dulled because they’re not stimulated enough, and as the adage goes: “Use it, or lose it”. With unreliable memories, the past is changeable, almost at will, by the powers that be, and we become easy prey to do with us what they will, as they shape our thoughts, and our minds are basically open books that they no longer need to read, but get to directly input what they will in. Musk, the other villain, is now working on Neuralink, a device that grants direct access to our brains to read signals and allow control of other devices by the power of sheer thought. That, in theory, is mind blowing, and the medical uses for the physically challenged, among others, are limitless. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder about the other uses it could have, that will inevitably follow: The brain is the last boundary, the holy monastery whose sanctity needs to remain safe, the last refuge of the self, veiled in the unknown shadows of the mind, safeguarding free thought and free will. To relinquish it is to surrender to utter and total submission: Up until now, the controlling power, by whoever is trying to manipulate people, has been suggestive, by submitting them to experiences or stimuli to try and induce this idea or that. It was never physical, direct, and that for me, is where the danger lies. Yes, moving a chair by pure thought is cool, but does it warrant giving direct access to our brains? In doing so, we’d potentially become programmable, subservient subjects, only there to consume and procreate, with a kill switch in place, just in case…This may not be the objective, but it’s definitely a possible outcome. With our minds depleted and unable to function by themselves, we can even imagine a “BAAS” feature that could be marketed to us, Brains As A Service, facilitated by the installed chip, and that would allow us to acquire memory and computing capabilities by the purchase of a monthly subscription. That looks like something out of a Sci-fi thriller from Netflix, but if today’s reality is any indication, this scenario is perfectly plausible.
I know I am painting a rather bleak picture of the state of things now, with no hope whatsoever. Truth is, I am struggling to find a conclusion to this, as I myself don’t see a way out of it that doesn’t involve apocalyptic events. Ironically, the thought even traversed my mind to look up ‘‘How to conclude an article about truth’’ or something of the sort. So I’ll leave you with this : always fact check, and lay off Google a little bit, if you can…