Is the Internet Destroying Cohesion?

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According to the author Harari we made a huge jump forward with a Cognitive Revolution; a change in the brains of Homo sapiens that enabled us to believe in fictions. Those fictions were things such as Gods, Kings, Country and money. Their power only exists in the imagination of men but it enabled us to band together in large numbers, to trade, to work on projects and to be unified in the face of adversity. That simple change enabled us to more from a population 13000 years ago of 4-6 million to a population approaching 8 billion.


It worked very well. People could be pacified and unified around a set of fictional beliefs - God, King, Country and Money. We could join to fight in wars, to built massive temples and cathedrals, to conquer new lands, to evangelically convert the infidel and to trade between nations. Apart from the odd revolution, when people lost faith in a King or two, it all worked very well. People were united by faith and patriotism.


Then came the 1st World War and the onset of industrial slaughter. Bravery and patriotism lost their meaning. People no longer believed in the hierarchy. They thought their leaders were flawed - lions led by donkeys. They lost faith in King and Country. They saw the slaughter and lost faith in God.


As Wilfred Owen summed up:

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest  
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

The old lie; it is sweet and honorable to die for ones country.


With the Vietnam war people were losing faith in their leaders. The war seemed unjust. They rebelled.


There have always been a small number of people who did not believe in the mindless acceptance of God, King and Country. Some even rejected money and tried to live without it in a simple life.


The fictions no longer held true. They saw the hypocrisy and two-faced practice of the elite who paid lip-service to religion and were all pomp and ceremony with no substance; those who fought wars from their safe bunkers.


Now the internet has connected everyone and views are exchanged. The fictions of God/Gods, King, Leaders, Nations and even the Dollar are questioned and found wanting. Is the internet dismembering the cohesion?


People openly talk disparagingly of our leaders in a way that would have been treason a hundred years ago. Religions are castigated and examined but God can't be found, the atrocities carried out in his name by fundamentalists are considered insane, and it is manifestly obvious that they can't all be right. The believers of one religion claim they are the chosen and all the others are wrong. There is madness. But will the fiction continue to hold water in the face of such exposure? Even the Dollar is under pressure. Currencies fluctuate and the rich manipulate the system for their own end. Do we go back to gold and Carrie shells? It is a lottery.


The internet is exposing the fictions and myths.


What will happen if the fictions collapse and the cohesion breaks down? What happens when people no longer believe in Gods, Leaders, Nations and money?

Has the internet put us at a turning point? Can we invent new fictions to replace the archaic, outmoded ones?


Can we shift from Gods, Leaders and Nations to other beliefs?


I would suggest that beliefs in maintaining the ecosystem of the planet (nature), looking to a worldwide system of governance, a worldwide currency that does not fluctuate, and a faith in a coalition of leaders might be healthier fictions and more stable and sustaining.


I also thing that mankind needs goals and challenge to unite behind - space is the frontier that might just fulfill that.


opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 4:22am
My contention is that the world has moved. We no longer have blind faith in Gods, leaders and nations. It would be harder to get people together to fight a war against a common enemy - i.e. someone who believes in a different god, a different leader, a different nation. We have contact with people in those countries who believe those things and we now know that it isn't black and white; they are just like us.
A modern day crusade would be hard to bring together. We are suspicious. We doubt the motives. We see the hypocrisy. The myth has been pierced. We see the fiction showing through.
What happens when all our myths are exposed as insubstantial as Bitcoin?
We'll need new fictions to believe in.
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 4:48am
Don't make the mistake of trading one set of fictions for another. Here are words to live by:
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 4:51am
the internet has been and continues to be a vehicle for exposing myths, but it has been just as good at propagating myth.  Perhaps this cohesion is not to be lamented in it's passing, rather celebrated as a liberation. And you know there just must be something to that idea. Otherwise you would not have so may governments and parties who will go to such great lengths to gain CONTROL of the internet
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 4:52am
many, not may. Sorry. Arthritis :)
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 5:44am
Burger - I know you believe this myth of being a solitary person responsible for your own life, apart from the society but it is not something I believe. 
a. We are part of the society we live in whether we like it or not
b. That society has tendencies that need supporting or opposing depending on our views - ultimately we can influence what it is like
c. We cannot live outside any society now. The world of hunter gathering has gone
d. 8 Billion people changes everything
I prefer to buy into fictions that can make a difference to the planet and make things better for us and the creatures we share the planet with.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 5:47am
Burger - I agree. The internet has exposed myths and fictions and created others - hence all the conspiracy theories that people buy into.
We humans are genetically programmed to buy into fictions.
I think we are on a cusp now. The unity and cohesion that came from us all buying into these myths - of race, nature, leaders, religion - are breaking down.
Will we have destructive anarchy or new cohesive fictions?
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 5:49am
Burger - do you have arthritis? That is not good. The problems of getting old. Not good. I get repetitive strain injury in my finger from typing (one finger typist). Hopefully they'll come up with a cure soon!
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 6:21am
You are asking the right question my friend, which is if I may condense:  What would happen if this order were to implode and collapse?
You ask it as a would/if proposition, I see it as more of a will/when
It is the same question in either case. We surely will differ in our answers, yet we are both right. You would suggest that all descends into utter chaos. You are correct that there will be chaos and lots of it, in all it's many forms. But that would not be a universal condition.
I would suggest that those with the knowledge, skills and materials will happily fend for themselves and manage just fine. They would be selective as to who they would allow as part of their company and be armed and prepared to defend against "vandals". But that would not be a universal condition.
Neither of these would be the universal condition. 
Where peoples are uneducated, unskilled and unaccustomed to handling ALL of their problems on their OWN there will be chaos. When it begins it will be manifest in looting, assaults, probably a lot of people taking advantage of the chaos to settle old grudges. From there it descends into orders of competing gangs and those caught in the middle who either fend for themselves or cast their allegiance to whichever gang offers protection and sustenance. Actually a lot like things are now,just with a lot more blood and less reliable public services. Somewhere in there, across much of the globe I'm sure, states in their death throes will clutch desperately to retain control and power, inflicting even further abuses upon their people. This continues until it no longer remains possible for the state to command the loyalty required from the ranks of their military. 
Where peoples are educated, skilled, prepared and armed with both a willingness and requisite ordnance to defend their order against agents of mayhem there will be? A people content to just go about their business. And after all, Opher, isn't that what you and yours want us Americans to do anyway? Right? I can cite reams of your own statements to support this. Would we be left alone? Surely not. Would we be crushed and perish? Probably. Not because we are outnumbered. It will be a choice. We don't need a king or country or church to find something worth dying for.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 7:06am
Burger - I think that disintegration would be catastrophic for most people. It is basically what we have seen happening in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Yugoslavia used to be a very stable, pleasant place that was held stable under the myth of a strong leader. When that myth was broken and the spell dispersed it broke down into a series of myths. The people latched on to other myths of religion and nationalism. It resulted in horrendous cruelty and horrors. Babies were skewered and burnt alive, heads were sawn off with household saws, there was mass murder, genocide, torture and horrors galore. The bullies and callous populist leaders rallied support under their various sectarian fictions and terrorised. That beautiful country was torn apart.
I think if you talked to any of the ordinary people caught up in the mayhem they would have given anything to go back to how it was before. There is nothing glorious about it. It gave full vent to the racists and fascists among us.
I think we should be striving to prevent this kind of breakdown. As the old myths fall to replace them with better myths - fictions that are cohesive but not sectarian.
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 7:53am
Strive to prevent with one hand and prepare for the worst with your other. I don't have much confidence in this being repaired. 
It could ultimately be a good thing, you know. People will have to actually realize their ideals or discard them. You learn the real meaning of tolerance and diversity when your very survival may depend on maintaining an alliance of convenience with those you may have found to be deplorable in the prior order. Its not what you know,what you think or where you came from. It becomes a question of what can you do? What is your currency?
Dino Manalis Added Feb 5, 2018 - 8:33am
On the one hand, the Internet brings us together, but, on the other hand, there's so much information, people don't know what to believe, so they stay with familiar sources.
Leroy Added Feb 5, 2018 - 8:59am
The internet has been disruptive and will continue to be.  There was a time that all we knew and believed was what our forefathers and those around us believed.  The world is a bigger place now.  If you are a homosexual, transgender, pedophile, serial killer, a tooth fairy, elf, occultist, or whatever special interest you might have, you will find common cause with someone on the internet--not that there is anything wrong with that.   It has had a devastating effect on traditional religions.  But, people aren't less religious.  Some are turning to the occult.  Some are turning to the government as their religion.  Some cling to Climate Change.  People can now be different.  I never thought people I grew up with would ever be so bold as to proclaim that they were a socialist.  It's good and it's bad.  We can be whatever we want to be and find common cause with another.  That fragments us as a society; it unites us as individuals.
The government fragmented us by making us less dependent on family and community.  The internet is doing the same for society in general.  If I want to know how to do something, I just look it up on the internet then go to the local Home Cheapo to get what I need.  I don't need an expert (so I think).  The internet has made the individual more powerful.  I come to the opposite conclusion.  We need less government, less global control.
wsucram15 Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:00am
What the internet does Opher is interrupt the journey. While you can expand your mind by talking to people in other places, you dont go there to do so.
Get it?  
Life is a journey, to be much as you can take in good or bad. People dont do that anymore, they talk to Siri or Alexa and they hear all about life.
no one reads..they look at images with a couple of words and thats their news. Its cool, to have this kind of access...but you need to live a life.
Bill Kamps Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:20am
The internet can augment our life, or it  can replace our life, it is up to us how to use it.
To pick up on what wsu said, it can be used to enhance our experiences, or to replace them.  I can use the internet to find new places to travel to, find better places to stay, cheaper air fare.  Or I can play games in my bedroom and never go anywhere.  Up to me.
George N Romey Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:26am
The Internet expands the horizon and that might not always be a good thing. I truly wonder if we were better off naive and ignorant of what political forces have done. The old saying what one doesn’t know can’t hurt them.
wsucram15 Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:26am
Thats actually a good argument Bill..but you didnt always have the internet, nor did I.  So it is a take it or leave it type thing, an accessory to life.
But to younger people, its not...its a necessity. 
Bill Kamps Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:47am
Well, the internet is a necessity for me also.  My point was, what do we DO with the internet ?   Do we do something that enhances our lives and makes our experiences better and greater? or do we do something that isolates us, and reduces our experiences?  It can work both ways.  I travel a lot, and without the internet, it would be much less enjoyable.  Also, a lot of my income depends on the internet.
Neil Lock Added Feb 5, 2018 - 9:55am
Opher: I think losing faith in old fictions like gods, kings and countries is a good thing, not a bad. And if the Internet helps these things along, that’s good. But losing what you call “cohesion” is an unavoidable part of that. At least, if you’re talking about the social and political cohesion in a country, or cohesion among followers of a religion.
Yes, I think we can shift to other and better beliefs. I think one of these is likely to lead to a new force of cohesion; that is, the idea of shared humanity. (Otherwise put, if you behave as a human being, you are a human being, and vice versa. That should get rid of the racial, political and religious divisions, at least.)
I disagree with you about the ecosystem bit – I see it as part of our nature to make the planet into a home and garden fit for a civilized species! There’s nothing wrong with letting some areas run wild if the owners of those areas like the idea, but humans must come first.
Further, in my view, a monolithic “world government” is the very last thing we need. The future system of governance needs above all to be decentralized, and to fit in with local customs and systems of law. It also needs to be based on peace and objective justice for all, not on political ideology. In such a system, leaders become far less important.
As to money, it ought to represent real resources. But money that is issued at the whim of politicians and central bankers, and is not tied to a real measure of value (such as the gold standard), is indeed a fiction. So I agree with you that we do need a world currency that holds value – perhaps based on some kind of basket of commodities. And I agree, too, that space is a worthwhile frontier to be looking to explore.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:26am
Burger - I really don't think the breakdown of law and order works that way. It goes straight back to robber barons, warlords, summary executions, fighting for territory, torture, cruelty, rape and murder. Look what has happened in Libya for instance.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:27am
Dino - it brings us together but it breaks down the fictions that hold the cohesion that pulls us together. It creates cynicism.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:30am
Leroy - it is the cohesion that is disappearing. Without belief in the fictions that hold us together we are in a new business. Large groups of people cannot coexist without cohesion.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:33am
Jeanne - I would agree that the internet replaces experience, which is a loss. But the main point, as I see it, is that it undermines the fictions that hold us together - God, Leaders, nations and money. Without that cohesion I think things fall apart.
We'll see. But I sense it in the fragmentation and tribalism I can now see developing. There is a new level of distrust, a new anger and a new division.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:34am
Bill - I'm not really on about the way the internet has affected our lives in that way; it is more about how it is eroding belief in the fictions that hold society together - god, leaders, nations and money.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:37am
George - I think the loss of faith in our leaders, religion and nations might be a more accurate thing but may prove not to be good for us. That cohesion and belief in those things has kept us stable. When that is gone what holds the mess in place? We are ruled by fictions we believe in. That is the glue that binds us.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:39am
Bill - I think that is a different topic. I'm more concerned with how the internet undermines the belief in fictions such as religion, leaders and nation and takes away the glue that holds society together.
Once we lose our faith the cards all fall down.
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:42am
Duck! There goes one now!
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:48am
Neil - well we agree on some things. I think, like most things, it can be a good thing - if we can move on to more mature fictions - such as a belief in humanity. I'll go for that.
As a biologist I know that we are not apart from that ecosystem; we are part of it. We mess with it at our peril. One day it will turn round and bite us. The next virus is just round the corner. The things we are doing increase the risks.
We do not have any more right to live than any other species and I, and many others, value the wonders and diversity of other living creatures. 8 billion of us is too damaging and will prove our downfall. It is easy to see in population studies that it inevitably leads to a crash. We either use our intelligence, restrict our numbers and learn to live in harmony with the ecosystem or we will engineer our own downfall. That is simple biology.
A world government is inevitable. History shows a trend towards greater and greater amalgamations. There are blips along the way but the trend persists. The humanity fiction will accelerate that. A cursory look at all Sci-fi shows this trend. Earth is always represented by a world government. Sci-fi is the future, obviously.
A world currency would help stabilise things and take away all this ridiculous speculation. The sooner the better.
I'm glad you agree about space.
George N Romey Added Feb 5, 2018 - 10:51am
The Internet magnifies human behavior.  We as a species have always been cruel, greedy, petty, etc.  This takes it to a global scale and on.  The backyard rumor and gossip mill has gone global.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 11:47am
George - but we also have been kind, altruistic, compassionate and tolerant. I agree the backyard rumour mill has gone global.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 5, 2018 - 11:49am
Opher, Burghal, referring to your exchange a way back up the thread, Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian anarchist who in 1870ish warned Karl Marx (and was subsequently proved right,) that a communist government would quickly become as oppressive as the old aristocratic regimes of Europe, also wrote:
“The Liberty of man consists solely in this, that he obeys the Laws of Nature, because he has himself recognized them as such, and not because they have been imposed upon him externally by any foreign will whatsoever.”
I only became familiar with that passage a few years ago when researching an article on anarchism, but it refelects what I have always believed, which is why on maters of religion I refer to myself as a pagan.
Let me make it quite clear at this point I take part in no rituals and do not join any religious celebrations. Well OK, I may have run around naked under the full moon a few times and what came next could be described as an act of worship but it was not part of any organised event.
As for the collapse of belief in certain mythical concepts, gods, kings, money, which have held society together I'd say the role of those is exaggerated. With an aggressive form of dementia diagnosed and knowing he was approaching the end of his career Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series gave his comical creations in the city of Ankh Morpork a more philosophical turn. One particular trilogy deserves to be remembers and placed alongside the classics of modern literature. Going Postal, which deals with how the email system, designed, we were told, to make communications easier, cheaper and faster quickly became an obstruction to communications between individuals, Making Money deals with the creation of fiat currencies and how this subverted the true value of things (as Pratchett put it, the skill of a craftsman's hand, the healing touch of a nurse,) and Raising Steam dealt with the Discworld's transition from a place of weirdness, magic and chaos with the coming of rail transport.
In all these the central character Moist von Lipwig (who even has his own Wikipedia entry) is a small time con man who is hired by The Tyrant of Ankh Morpork, Lord Havelock Vetinari, to run various state enterprises, i.e. a revived postal service, the central bank and the state owned railways.
One of the things Vetinari understands that his critics at the Unseen University don't is that the more government intervenes in anything the less efficient it becomes. Or to put it another way, as Pratchett does in an earlier novel, The Thief Of Time, whenever anyone tried to impose order on chaos, chaos will win because it's better organised.
Thus we learn from the crazy happenings on The Discworld that human communities work best when people are left to sort things out for themselves.
The Burghal Hidage Added Feb 5, 2018 - 11:58am
Bill Kamps Added Feb 5, 2018 - 12:18pm
- I'm not really on about the way the internet has affected our lives in that way; it is more about how it is eroding belief in the fictions that hold society together - god, leaders, nations and money.
opher, the internet doesnt DO anything, we do it to ourselves.  We are the ones that read the articles, join the social groups etc.  If we dont join these groups, then the internet does not change our beliefs.  If we use the internet purely to access information, and make our lives better, then that is what it will do.
However, to your point more precisely.  The internet can exaggerate, or reinforce our beliefs or undermine them, depending on the groups we join.  If one joins a Christian group, then likely their belief system will be reinforced.  If one joins a group that doubts religion in general, then beliefs will be challenged and perhaps destroyed. 
Now you can say rightly that there is a trend away from organized religion.  In addition there has been a 50 year trend away from believing the nonsense our government says, and believing that they are some benevolent group of people with our best interest at hart.  I dont know that the internet has done this on its own, it may have made the inevitable happen more quickly. 
Unfortunately it seems you believe that the world is not a better place in general than it was 50-100 years ago, or any time before.  I believe otherwise.  I read the statistics on extreme poverty, life expectancy, food, literacy, and access to  medical care.  Without a doubt the world is a better place than it was before.  Is progress linear and evenly distributed, no of course not, but more people are living better than before.  This can be backed up any number of ways.  There are always problems in the world, and if we extrapolate these problems then yes, it looks like things will be much worse.  But things dont extrapolate that way, people change behaviors, and situations change.
People have been predicting doom, gloom and the end of the world as we know it, since I was a kid, and things just keep moving forward.  Not always progress every day, but on balance better.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 12:42pm
Ian - thank you for that set of comments. I do love Discworld. He has some great insights. But I wouldn't run a planet based on them, would you?
Unfortunately I do not believe that 8 billion people can work it out for themselves. We are far too needy and interconnected. We are also too destructive. That works well in small groups - such as we had before the cognitive revolution, but not in cities of millions.
George N Romey Added Feb 5, 2018 - 12:43pm
I’m not sure we can equate knowledge with happiness. Growing up in the 60s and 70s I met older people that refused all forms of modern communication yet were as happy as pigs in slop.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 12:48pm
Bill - I agree - but the internet enables. You outlined the way it exaggerates things well. Thank you.
No I'm not all doom and gloom. Far from it. I too think the world has got a lot better in many ways. My major gripe is that out colossal expansion in numbers is playing havoc with nature.
The other thing I am not happy about is that despite the massive strides we have made we shouldn't not have the massive inequality and people sill living in such dire conditions. Unlike in the past we now have the means to put this right.
I want it to be a lot better than it is.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 5, 2018 - 2:46pm
Opher, the problem here is you are thinking in terms of 8 billion people with one mind (like The Borg.). The only way to save the planet is if we break down the population into manageable units. 60 million 40 million, 25 million is too many, as we have seen in many European nations. The government becomes to remote from the people, abandons the people in favour of listening to 'experts' and 'entrepreneurs' who offer instant solutions. The people lose confidence in government. Chaos ensues.
The only global government that could work is a totalitarian cronyocracy that would turn non elite humans into a slave population.

You know, flogging dead horses is a pointless pastime, you will never bring the horse back to life and you wear out o lot of whips (and your shoulder eventually.)
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 5, 2018 - 3:00pm
Bill K,
" the internet doesnt DO anything, we do it to ourselves"
I think you are underestimating the way that since the turn of the century, the internet has come increasingly under the control of governments and a few corporations that have a very cosy relationship with governments.
TCPIP is a store and forward technology which means that at various points en route (routers) data packets are broken up, and reassembled into new packets according to which route they need. And whenever those packets are  brought up to application level, keywords can be intercepted and filtered.
Compare results for a search on a controversial topic from Google, Russian owned Duck Duck Go and the hackers favourite search tool Tor, oh but be warned, if you even look for information on Tor your search will be flagged. NSA don't like people knowing about this thorn in their side.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 3:23pm
Ian - no I thoroughly disagree. The world is being abused by multinationals who are operating outside any jurisdiction. They are behind the strip mining, deforestation, palm oil plantations, pollution and destruction. Unless we have a universal legislation they will continue to operate with impunity. And that is apart from their massive tax evasion and abuse of human rights.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 3:25pm
Bill/Ian - increasing the internet runs on algorithms to sell us things, direct us and consolidate our consumerism. We are commodities in their chain of business. Advertising and propaganda target us. It is not just how we use it; it is how it uses us.
opher goodwin Added Feb 5, 2018 - 3:25pm
George - knowledge often brings anxiety and unhappiness.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 5, 2018 - 4:29pm
Opher, it's globalisation that made such corporate piracy possible - I'll explain another time, it's getting late now.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 3:10am
Ian - that is true. Globalisation has given the means for multinationals to abuse the system with impunity. The trouble is that we have not responded with global responses and they have been allowed to do their business unchecked.
Johnny Fever Added Feb 6, 2018 - 3:56am
“Those fictions were things such as Gods, Kings, Country and money.”
In my wallet is physical proof one of those things not being a fiction, this suggest the others may be real too.  I know this because simultaneously while I’m typing prose on the internet it’s still in my back pocket.  Furthermore, in a free market economy currency will fluctuate in value.  Even in a government controlled currency market, a currency’s value will fluctuate on the black market. 
So are you saying that money that doesn’t fluctuate in value is real and a money that does is fictitious?  If so, shouldn’t the line you keep repeating be:
“Those fictions were things such as Gods, Kings, Country and money that doesn’t fluctuate in value.”
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 5:49am
Hi Johnny - I call them fictions because they are not real, tangible things. I could give you a large denomination note. It is basically a piece of paper. The value it has is only the shared belief we have in its value. When I take it to the shop I trust that the shopkeeper will value it the same as I do. We share that belief. There have been times when that belief in the value is lost. In Germany after the war there was a loss of belief in the currency. It changed from day to day. You needed a wheelbarrow of notes to buy a loaf of bread. The same thing was happening in Zimbabwe around twenty years ago. The value was dropping daily and people lost their faith in its value.
The worth of those pieces of paper is a fiction. Our belief in it makes it work. That has been important in enabling trade but it is a fiction. It only works while we all believe in it.
The same with God, the idea of Nation or Culture, the idea of a King (or President). We believe in them and imbue them with power but they are not real. People believe in God or religion without any proof. But that is a faith that is largely dying. Back in medieval times there was no question. People were prepared to die in battle or through torture in order to achieve heaven. People that have that zealous belief these days, such as ISIS, are now seen as brainwashed fools. Kings, Popes and Presidents are seen as ordinary people and not as superhuman. They are openly lampooned and ridiculed. The fiction of their infallibility has been punctured. It was a fiction. They are no different to us. A nation is an arbitrary piece of land that we lay claim to and relate to a particular culture that we are proud to be part of, to defend with our lives and fight for. But when you analyse it, it is just a piece of land and the culture we are part of changes. What is it to be English? Different things to different people. What is our culture? It is not set in stone or real at all. It is a fiction we buy into.
That is what I am talking about when I say these things are fictions. Their power is that we believe they are what we believe they are. That has provided us with cohesion and shared purpose. But those beliefs are waning. Religion is questioned, Kings and Presidents are not respected, people are thinking beyond national boundaries and reaching out to other people, the value of currency fluctuates.
What happens next?
I suggest we need to replace our fictions with things we can believe in and be united by - new better fictions.
Neil Lock Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:16am
Opher to George: We are ruled by fictions we believe in. That is the glue that binds us.
Opher to Bill K: Once we lose our faith the cards all fall down.
Opher, I thought you claimed to be an atheist?
TBH: No, it’s not a duck. Look, a flying squirrel! :-)
Opher to me: We do not have any more right to live than any other species.
Try persuading a lion that it has no more right to live than its prey do.
And: 8 billion of us is too damaging and will prove our downfall. History shows a trend towards greater and greater amalgamations. Opher, don’t you see the contradiction?
Opher to Ian: I wouldn't run a planet based on [Terry Pratchett’s insights.] Opher, why do you want to run a planet?
Ian to Opher: 25 million is too many. You’re on the right lines there, Ian. My guess (and it’s a guess) is that 100,000 is about the limit on the size of a coherent community of people. May well be less.
Johnny Fever: If the dollar bill you refer to says on its back “In Gold We Trust,” you do have an asset there! If the L is missing, you don’t...
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:27am
Neil - Lol - I enjoyed that.
I am an atheist. I do not believe in any of those fictions - god, kings, leaders, nations or money. They are all created out of the minds of men. That is what makes them a fiction. I shall choose which fiction to put my faith in - The UN Declaration of Human Rights. That has more resonance with me than any of that other crap.
We have to have shared beliefs to provide the cohesion to hold us together.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:28am
Neil - it is obvious to me that the lion has no more right to life than the antelope it eats. Who survives is not a question of rights but attributes.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:30am
Neil - no there is no contradiction. Numbers is one thing and amalgamations another. We can reduce our numbers to 4 billion and our countries to one. There is no contradiction. People and nations are different things.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:32am
Neil - I wouldn't mind running the world. I can trust me and I know I'd make a better job of it that the mess the others are creating.
But then again I'm not a megalomaniac. That is probably what separates me from the likes of Trump and May.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:34am
Neil - it is a lot less. Before the cognitive revolution and our ability to believe in fictions we lived in groups that rarely exceeded fifty.
Fortunately our ability to believe in fictions enables to live relatively easily in cities of many millions.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 9:35am
Neil - gold is a rare metal of no great intrinsic value. It is another fiction. If everyone stopped believing it would be pretty worthless.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 10:58am
Ed - I'm surprised that Trump blocked her. I do not view climate change as a creed, faith or dogma at all. It is science. The changes that are going on require careful monitoring and assessment. That is science.
In this age of fake news where an uninformed tribal view is as important as a well thought through conclusion based on sound evidence it is convenient for disbelievers to view it as a religion. It can then be refuted without the need to examine the evidence. You merely select the dogma you wish to identify with. Knowledge and observation counts for nothing. Science is discredited.
We are in the age of ignorance.
Bill Kamps Added Feb 6, 2018 - 11:10am
I think you are underestimating the way that since the turn of the century, the internet has come increasingly under the control of governments and a few corporations that have a target="_blank">very cosy relationship with governments.
Ian, perhaps true.  However, I dont think the government really cares what hotels I stay at, or what flights I travel on.  If they really are interested in this, then God bless them.  Yes I realize that they may be up to more nefarious things, but I dont do much on the internet that I consider really private, because it isnt. 
I do think a lot of people use the internet for not very productive purposes, texting friends instead of meeting with them in person for example.  Playing games, when they could be outside doing real exercise or sports, or activities.  Staying at home when they could be out.  These are some of the real dangers, as well as privacy dangers.  But most of these are under our control, how we choose to use the internet. 
Im not suggesting we live our lives without it.  However, I dont have a Facebook account, or any social media account.  Why? obvious privacy reasons.   Facebook is purely optional to use, you can communicate with friends any  number of ways without Facebook, just for an example.
opher goodwin Added Feb 6, 2018 - 12:08pm
Bill - I think most young people are nudged into being good consumers. How much nudging goes on politically is open to question.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 6, 2018 - 3:30pm
Bill, right, the government does not care who you fly with or where you stay. Rigging search results for profit is the territory of Search Engine Operators. Keeping 'off-message' information invisible is definitely in the remit of certain agencies in collaboration with tech corporations however. Facebook's manipulation of our news feeds is a case in point as are the efforts of the Government of Germany and France to censor 'hate speech'.
Ian Thorpe Added Feb 6, 2018 - 3:37pm
Neil, I think 100,000 is a good number, people can feel connected at that level. Some historians and classicists claim ancient Athens, with an estimated 250,000 population, was the greatest flowering of democracy. If we take off probably 50,000 slaves and maybe 25,000 children we are not far from your figure.
George N Romey Added Feb 6, 2018 - 5:56pm
We all say stupid things at times and FB can enshrine what we say. Recently I applied for a position and they wanted my permission to access my FB and Twitter account. Setting aside it was none of their business, they were shocked to find nothing.
Jeff Michka Added Feb 6, 2018 - 7:08pm
I get repetitive strain injury in my finger from typing (one finger typist). Hopefully they'll come up with a cure soon-Whereas there are some effective treatments, these cannot be discussed on WB WITHOUT ONE OF THE RESIDENT NAZIS DROPPING IN ND CASTING ASPERSIONS OVER MY HEALTH.    
Ben McCargo Added Feb 6, 2018 - 10:00pm
Opher, the only thing ruining the internet is money or that universal quest for it.  You call it an erosion of the fictions; I call it the give and take of society.  Leaders come and leaders go; people lose faith, people gain confidence.  For me, I think what keeps us grounded as men, moral and practical, is our spirituality, our relationship with God.  What I'm talking about with that is a belief that I can be better than what I am right now.  That's the God in us.  It's an ascension kind of thing.  Even if everything goes to hell, where are we without that spirituality in our lives; that oneness with nature and the heavens, the cycle of life, the seasons; that and a decent reloading station, adequate powder, shells, firearm of your choosing, good farming skills, books, etc.  A belief in God doesn't negate mindful preparation.  I'm just saying...
Ben McCargo Added Feb 6, 2018 - 10:03pm
Opher, on the other hand, Facebook IS hurting us.  I don't think the world is ready for a college-type bulletin board that serves a global campus.  We're not ready for all the "life and living"  it can produce.
opher goodwin Added Feb 7, 2018 - 3:59am
Ben - that fiction of religion is one of the cohesive things that has enabled Homo sapiens to bind together into large groups. Once we stop believing in god, putting our faith in leaders (Kings/Presidents) and willing to defend our country against all-comers the whole fabric falls apart. Yet many people are seeing that all of these are manmade. There is division.
My contention is that we need to replace those worn-out fictions with better ones that people can believe and unify behind.
opher goodwin Added Feb 7, 2018 - 3:59am
Jeff - there do seem to be a number of Nazis on WB.
Neil Lock Added Feb 7, 2018 - 6:19am
Opher: I shall choose which fiction to put my faith in. And: We have to have shared beliefs. So, if you put your faith in one fiction, and I put my faith in a different and maybe opposite one, how can we even talk sanely to each other, let alone feel cohesion? If we have to have shared beliefs, that can only happen if some have a “right” to browbeat or to force others to take on and follow their own choices of fiction.
Who survives is not a question of rights but attributes. Umm... I think you’re saying “might makes right.” The lion has the “right” to eat the antelope, only because he’s stronger than the antelope.
People and nations are different things. Absolutely agree. But I would rather see lots of nations than one; for in a world of one state, there would be no escape from its tyranny. In the longer term, of course, I’d rather see zero nations! As to population, I don’t see it as part of my remit, nor indeed as my right, to tell other people how many children they should have.
I wouldn't mind running the world. That’s an extremely good reason why you should never be allowed to.
Gold is a rare metal of no great intrinsic value. History says otherwise. Apart from its industrial uses, many people find it pretty. It resists corrosion and other chemical reactions, is easily portable, and is fairly easy to identify. Exactly what you want as the characteristics of money!
opher goodwin Added Feb 7, 2018 - 6:28am
Neil - we already believe different fictions don't we? We can still communicate and see the other point of view can't we? We do not need to browbeat. It is surely the power of debate and reason that wins conversions - not force.
No Neil - I am saying it is a balance. The lion won't eat the gazelle if the gazelle is fast enough no matter how strong it is. In practice the lions prey on weak members and thus weed out those least suited.
Neil - overpopulation is the biggest crisis affecting the planet. It needs addressing without having to direct. There are many ways of doing that.
opher goodwin Added Feb 7, 2018 - 6:28am
Neil - most gold is simply stored in vaults.
Neil Lock Added Feb 7, 2018 - 11:01am
Opher: Seeing the other point of view isn't the issue. Your complaint is about lack of cohesion - otherwise said, lack of agreement. Debate and reason can sometimes bring about agreement, but only when both parties are rational, are willing to listen, and share a respect for facts and truth. That doesn't work in political matters, because (a) politics is confrontational by its nature and (b) those with political agendas aren't willing to listen to any view that contradicts them. For example, when I suggested that, instead of expecting other people to sacrifice their own interests for the sake of wildlife, you should get together with friends and create a nature reserve, you pooh-poohed my suggestion. In political (and religious) matters, to secure any collective "cohesion" with those of opposing views always comes down to the use or threat of force.
George N Romey Added Feb 7, 2018 - 8:04pm
There are many petty, juvenile people in the world. The internet just simply gave them a collective voice.
Ben McCargo Added Feb 7, 2018 - 10:38pm
Opher, do you think that God becoming fiction is caused by man's idea of what he thinks God is?  I mean, with all the religions we have, and despite the fact that there is only one, we wind up with numerous ideas about what God is, or should be.  I think the reason my "fiction" lasts is because i don't listen to the teachings of men, none of them.  i seek him in my own way.  For me, it's more about an inner peace and spirituality rather than holiness or piety.Both of those can kinda get you into trouble.  Or, it's entirely possible I'm blaspheming my ass off.  Time will tell.
Ben McCargo Added Feb 7, 2018 - 10:42pm
Opher, to your point, if we are more concerned with our own peace, that should be something we can rally around.  I think it's when man replaces his own knowledge-his moral code-with specific doctrine and dogma from a specific organized religion, I think that's when he may run afoul.
Neil Lock Added Feb 8, 2018 - 4:16am
Ben: You are spot on about the difference between personal religion and organized religion. There is nothing wrong with seeking your own god in your own way. But there is a lot wrong with subscribing to someone else's religion. That's a cop out.
And yes, I agree with the point you make about man's moral code. What is and is not ethical behaviour, comes from our nature as human beings; and should be completely independent of religion.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 3:41am
Neil - as I said before the finance necessary to halt the destructions of rainforest in South America, Sumatra, Africa, Vietnam. Borneo, Australia and elsewhere, to prevent poaching of elephants and rhinos and to stop the hunting of chimps and gorillas is well beyond anything me and my friends can do. It requires governments. I remain shocked by your lack of care for wildlife and the environment. I think it is very shortsighted. We are part of it apart from anything else.
I suggest you read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. He explains the cognitive revolution very well. It enabled humans to move from small groups into much more successful large groups through the creation of cohesive fictions. Now those fictions are being increasingly disbelieved. My contention is that we need to replace them with better fictions that fit in with our current understanding.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 3:42am
George - I think you are right. So much on the internet is drivel. But it also gives a platform to malicious people who want to manipulate others for their own ends.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 3:44am
Ben - I would make the distinction between spirituality and religion. What you are doing is exploring your spirituality which I would find commendable rather that believing in the obvious manmade dogma of organised religion and its jaundiced view of god or gods.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 3:45am
Ben - that would be a fiction worth rallying around as long as it wasn't then subverted into a religion.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 3:46am
Neil - I thoroughly agree with you. Spirituality should be a personal experience.
Neil Lock Added Feb 9, 2018 - 11:50am
Opher: If the Vietnamese and other governments want to promote environmental concerns, let them do it. But why do you expect me to finance it? And why should you expect those, even in Vietnam, who don’t agree with those concerns to pay for them? Unless their actions are causing objective, quantifiable harm to others?
I remain shocked by your lack of care for wildlife and the environment. And I remain shocked by your lack of concern for human beings. And at your unwillingness to back up your agenda with your own actions and sacrifices.
Opher, why do you not support your own species above all others? That was the import of my question about the lion.
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 2:05pm
Neil - you do not seem to understand that all life on this planet is related and that ultimately we depend on it. It is in all our interests to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Wantonly destroying life is irresponsible and ultimately dangerous to ourselves.
Have you no compassion for all the poor creatures being destroyed so cruelly?
opher goodwin Added Feb 9, 2018 - 2:08pm
Neil - I want the best for my species - and that does not mean crammed into a polluted concrete jungle; it means enjoyment of all the beauties and wonders of an incredible planet.
8 billion is far too many. We are shitting in our own beds.