The Internet is socially conservative

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SpiderMonkey
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The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 1:53 pm UTC

I'm not talking about social conservatives using the Internet, I'm talking about the inherent conservatism of the Internet community.

If you as a veteran Internet user go onto an open bulletin board, so long as its not absurdly specialised (LesbianBahaiMacUsers.com or something) then you will know, without even reading the local rules, that potential comments you make will fall into one of three categories:

a) Comments the board will almost all agree with
b) Comments the board will almost all disagree with
c) Comments that will split the board down the middle

These categories are pretty fixed, not only between different boards but across time as well. In terms of text content, you would be hard pressed to tell a heated discussion 10 years ago from one now. The much vaunted mixing pot of ideas that the Internet is supposed to represent hasn't actually mixed at all, in any noticeable way, in over a decade. My theory is that when the AOLers first descended upon usenet in the early nineties, their sheer weight of numbers allowed them to crush or assimilate all previously existing Internet culture, and because there has been no comparable rush of new people since then, the cultural norms they have imposed have essentially remained.

These norms are essentially the norms of 90s, angst ridden, above average intelligence, well off, teenage outcasts. There is a stronger anti-authoritarian current in the Internet mainstream (shown by the massively disproportionate numbers, compared to mainstream life, of libertarians on the right and anarchists on the left), but rather than being based on an intellectual critique of authority it tends to take the form of blind rebellion against parental figures. There is more tolerance for sexuality but less for religion, and a less for race. This reflects the values of suburban, middle class, white teenagers in the US in the 1990s. They are more likely to have had gay friends than black friends or non-christian friends.

The norms are enforced in ways that are also dictated by the 90s teenager; verbal bullying, mockery and ostracism are used to kick people into line. On most web forums, this is effective enough to keep unwanted people from staying around that banning doesn't have to be used that often. As mentioned above, there are divisions of opinion on the Internet, but they are quite rigid - anyone going against the current of opinion in a particular forum or thread is branded a 'troll' and often disciplined. This helps force people to stick in groups which conform their own opinions instead of seeking out challenge and debate. Debate is further stifled by a cultural aversion to any level of passion - caring about anything is of course uncool to the teenager - and this manifests itself in such derisory concepts as 'flame wars' and 'godwins law'.

Far from being a goldmine of debate and new thinking, Internet discussion is frozen at a particular point in history. This stagnation of public discourse is made all the more damaging by the illusion that contacting someone in a geographically remote location whose opinions coincide precisely with your own somehow means you are pushing boundaries, and joining a global community of ideas.

You may now burn me with your opinions :)

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Gunfingers » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:04 pm UTC

I'm a pretty strong conservative. There's only one or two people i've seen on XKCD who share my opinions on a significant number of issues. I have yet to be branded a troll or banned. Hell, i'm even in a few people's signatures.

Another forum i frequent has a more conservative lean to it. I generally agree with the site moderator there instead of picking fights the way i do with Belial. They also have a number of more liberal users who agree less with the majority of the board.

You don't get banned from websites for disagreeing with them (unless you're on one of the CTer fora, the Loosers can't really stand disagreement), you get banned from websites for being a dick. If i had to guess, i'd say you've been going to fora and starting threads in which you insist that you're right and anyone who disagrees is wrong and you got banned for it. Am i close?

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 2:08 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:I'm a pretty strong conservative. There's only one or two people i've seen on XKCD who share my opinions on a significant number of issues. I have yet to be branded a troll or banned. Hell, i'm even in a few people's signatures.

Another forum i frequent has a more conservative lean to it. I generally agree with the site moderator there instead of picking fights the way i do with Belial. They also have a number of more liberal users who agree less with the majority of the board.

You don't get banned from websites for disagreeing with them (unless you're on one of the CTer fora, the Loosers can't really stand disagreement), you get banned from websites for being a dick. If i had to guess, i'd say you've been going to fora and starting threads in which you insist that you're right and anyone who disagrees is wrong and you got banned for it. Am i close?


I haven't been banned from a forum in a very long time. My nettiquette is quite practiced, and that is part of whats bothering me. For a lively arena, everything is just so fucking polite, albeit according to its own internal manners rather than the manners of the outside world.

No, you don't get banned for disagreeing with people, you get banned for expressing that. You've just stated now you are strongly conservative, but not tried to push any conservative positions. I imagine you don't do that much at all in fact, because you are aware you go against the mainstream current.

Oh, and if you 'insist that you're right and anyone who disagress is wrong' it is called 'having an opinion' - and there is nothing at all wrong with that, besides going against the fashionable air of nonchalance most Internet users try to project. It is actually a prime example of the kind of social conformity I have in mind, and you probably didn't even consciously think of that when you were writing it.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Simbera » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:41 pm UTC

Oh, and if you 'insist that you're right and anyone who disagress is wrong' it is called 'having an opinion'

Actually, no, it is possible to have an opinion but remain open to new ideas or the persuasion of others. This kind of mindset would be more of a hindrance to the net becoming a melting pot of ideas than the idea that we're Living In The 90s. If you insist that you're right and everyone else is wrong, how are you supposed to debate? I don't know how that hashes with the rules of 'netiquette' or any other bullshit portmanteaux that people put on urbandictionary to feel clever, but in the rules of Not Being A Close-Minded Jackass it's a no-no.

Your initial premise to me seems kind of flawed too. So, you say something, and either everyone agrees, everyone disagrees, or some agree and some disagree? I don't really see what other options there are, besides everybody ignoring you entirely.

In any case, I have generally found that every website is different because all the members are different. On the xkcd fora you get people who have one thing in common (a love for the comic and how it applies, sometimes scarily, to their own lives) so of course you will get a lot of similar opinions. On another site you would get a bunch of opinions that are different, but common to the members of that site. As a sidenote, I can't ever remember coming across a site that was as intolerant of race or anything as you said. Maybe you want to stay away from 4chan.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Indon » Thu Jul 17, 2008 3:50 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:If you as a veteran Internet user go onto an open bulletin board, so long as its not absurdly specialised (LesbianBahaiMacUsers.com or something) then you will know, without even reading the local rules, that potential comments you make will fall into one of three categories:

a) Comments the board will almost all agree with
b) Comments the board will almost all disagree with
c) Comments that will split the board down the middle


I should think this is no more true for the Internet, than it is for all other human interactions in all other media. Yet, there's obviously always been a nonstagnant element, because even before the internet, some communication clearly caused progress.

And now there's a lot more communication - so even as inefficient as it is, I should still say the Internet has the power to brute-force solutions to things.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Robin S » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:06 pm UTC

I do not think it is true that everyone on the Internet is that stubborn about their beliefs (be they religious, political or anything else), certainly not to any greater degree than people are in general anyway. Perhaps many of the most vocal people online are that stubborn; this holds for offline communities just as well.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Ari » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:08 pm UTC

By excepting smaller and more specialised communities, you've essentially excepted the radical elements of internet society. I think you've begged the question here.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:21 pm UTC

Simbera wrote:Actually, no, it is possible to have an opinion but remain open to new ideas or the persuasion of others. This kind of mindset would be more of a hindrance to the net becoming a melting pot of ideas than the idea that we're Living In The 90s. If you insist that you're right and everyone else is wrong, how are you supposed to debate? I don't know how that hashes with the rules of 'netiquette' or any other bullshit portmanteaux that people put on urbandictionary to feel clever, but in the rules of Not Being A Close-Minded Jackass it's a no-no.


Having an opinion and arguing it doesn't make you close minded. Its possible to believe you are right, and those that disagree with you are wrong, and then change your mind later. But according to you (and I think this is one of the social norms I was talking about) then expressing an opinion and arguing means you aren't open to new ideas, and that is absolute rubbish. The concept that 'nobody knows anything' is sort of an Internet meme and one of the reasons why Wikipedia isn't very good. This relates to my central point, in that in the social network of that 90s teenager nobody really does know anything, so people having an opinion on something automatically seems like bullshit to everyone.

Your initial premise to me seems kind of flawed too. So, you say something, and either everyone agrees, everyone disagrees, or some agree and some disagree? I don't really see what other options there are, besides everybody ignoring you entirely.


If that is what you think I said, then read it again more carefully.

In any case, I have generally found that every website is different because all the members are different. On the xkcd fora you get people who have one thing in common (a love for the comic and how it applies, sometimes scarily, to their own lives) so of course you will get a lot of similar opinions. On another site you would get a bunch of opinions that are different, but common to the members of that site. As a sidenote, I can't ever remember coming across a site that was as intolerant of race or anything as you said. Maybe you want to stay away from 4chan.

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I haven't been to 4chan, but it is certainly not the only intolerant place on the Internet. Go to genmay some time, its like a bloody boys changing room. I have also found much the same environment on technical forums, forums about TV shows, even science forums. Don't even get me started on google groups.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:25 pm UTC

Ari wrote:By excepting smaller and more specialised communities, you've essentially excepted the radical elements of internet society. I think you've begged the question here.


Not at all. The groups you consider 'radical' are usually only radical in the context of outside culture. Within the Internet framework, they are as staunchly conservative as everyone else, often more so. They maintain the strict barriers between groups, they diligently adhere to the boundaries of what is considered valid discussion on the Internet, and they tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone. They might be talking about overthrowing a real life government, but they are utterly servile to online society.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby e946 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:35 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Not at all. The groups you consider 'radical' are usually only radical in the context of outside culture. Within the Internet framework, they are as staunchly conservative as everyone else, often more so. They maintain the strict barriers between groups, they diligently adhere to the boundaries of what is considered valid discussion on the Internet, and they tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone. They might be talking about overthrowing a real life government, but they are utterly servile to online society.


I don't understand your point here, as this happens in real life. People naturally do this.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:42 pm UTC

e946 wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:Not at all. The groups you consider 'radical' are usually only radical in the context of outside culture. Within the Internet framework, they are as staunchly conservative as everyone else, often more so. They maintain the strict barriers between groups, they diligently adhere to the boundaries of what is considered valid discussion on the Internet, and they tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone. They might be talking about overthrowing a real life government, but they are utterly servile to online society.


I don't understand your point here, as this happens in real life. People naturally do this.


This is news to me. I have friends with completely different opinions to my own. In real life, people are bought together more often by circumstance than by common views. You don't choose your family, you don't choose (directly) your flatmates when you first come to university, and you don't choose your work colleagues either.

Also, please don't invoke what people 'naturally' do; people have free will and it has been experimentally shown that the idea of a human 'nature' guiding our will has no basis in reality. Invoking human 'nature' is usually an appeal to popularity, because you know people with a similar world view to yourself are likely to have a similar model of how human beings behave, and you can assume between yourselves that model is universal, regardless of any facts that might come from the outside.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Indon » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:05 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:This is news to me. I have friends with completely different opinions to my own. In real life, people are bought together more often by circumstance than by common views. You don't choose your family, you don't choose (directly) your flatmates when you first come to university, and you don't choose your work colleagues either.

And even on a forum in which I have a lot in common with someone, there are people I argue with. Belial, for instance, I find myself agreeing with a lot of the time, but we still argue against each other sometimes (and in contrast, I sometimes agree with Vaniver).

SpiderMonkey wrote:Also, please don't invoke what people 'naturally' do; people have free will and it has been experimentally shown that the idea of a human 'nature' guiding our will has no basis in reality.


You must have missed the whole science of economics, game theory, and psychology/sociology in general 'thing' that's been going on for the past hundred years and change.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:11 pm UTC

Indon wrote:And even on a forum in which I have a lot in common with someone, there are people I argue with. Belial, for instance, I find myself agreeing with a lot of the time, but we still argue against each other sometimes (and in contrast, I sometimes agree with Vaniver).


If you had read more carefully, I didn't deny that people argued on the Internet. I am just saying that there are certain issues on which there is a consensus, and its a viciously defended one by all sides.

You must have missed the whole science of economics, game theory, and psychology/sociology in general 'thing' that's been going on for the past hundred years and change.


Game theory has not existed for a hundred years, the man who invented it is still alive. I recommend you watch The Trap by Adam Curtis for a run down of how all those things actually fail in practice to predict people well. I would also recommend that you not mistake being glib for being right.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Indon » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:29 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:If you had read more carefully, I didn't deny that people argued on the Internet. I am just saying that there are certain issues on which there is a consensus, and its a viciously defended one by all sides.

You've strongly implied that people on the internet group with people who just agree with them, here:

SpiderMonkey wrote:This is news to me. I have friends with completely different opinions to my own. In real life, people are bought together more often by circumstance than by common views. You don't choose your family, you don't choose (directly) your flatmates when you first come to university, and you don't choose your work colleagues either.


That's not only not the case, but because there are so many issues in which people can disagree with each other, given any significant breadth of conversation that's not even possible.

SpiderMonkey wrote:Game theory has not existed for a hundred years, the man who invented it is still alive. I recommend you watch The Trap by Adam Curtis for a run down of how all those things actually fail in practice to predict people well. I would also recommend that you not mistake being glib for being right.


And similarly, Economics has existed for far more than a hundred years. And economics is about as good at predicing people as meteorology is good at predicting storms, but that doesn't mean the air doesn't follow rules.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:32 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:If you had read more carefully, I didn't deny that people argued on the Internet. I am just saying that there are certain issues on which there is a consensus, and its a viciously defended one by all sides.

You've strongly implied that people on the internet group with people who just agree with them, here:

SpiderMonkey wrote:This is news to me. I have friends with completely different opinions to my own. In real life, people are bought together more often by circumstance than by common views. You don't choose your family, you don't choose (directly) your flatmates when you first come to university, and you don't choose your work colleagues either.


That's not only not the case, but because there are so many issues in which people can disagree with each other, given any significant breadth of conversation that's not even possible.


You don't have to agree with someone on every point to agree with them. In any case, as I said originally, most forums tend to have split factions, but agree on a large range of issues.

And similarly, Economics has existed for far more than a hundred years. And economics is about as good at predicing people as meteorology is good at predicting storms, but that doesn't mean the air doesn't follow rules.


Even putting your bizarre analogy aside, air doesn't follow rules it follows probabilities.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Indon » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:44 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:You don't have to agree with someone on every point to agree with them. In any case, as I said originally, most forums tend to have split factions, but agree on a large range of issues.

You get that with family and workplaces, too (or at least, families and workplaces that don't have that are not in stable states).

SpiderMonkey wrote:Even putting your bizarre analogy aside, air doesn't follow rules it follows probabilities.


There is no such thing as 'following probabilities'. Weather events occur on the newtonian level of physics - they are for all intents and purposes perfectly deterministic. We just aren't good enough to work at that level yet, so we abstract things out into probabilities because that's what we can work with - which is precisely what we do with human behavior. Unsurprisingly, neither meteorology nor economics show much predictive accuracy beyond very simple predictions.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:46 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:You don't have to agree with someone on every point to agree with them. In any case, as I said originally, most forums tend to have split factions, but agree on a large range of issues.

You get that with family and workplaces, too (or at least, families and workplaces that don't have that are not in stable states).


A family with any kind of consensus, even a partial one, is rare.

SpiderMonkey wrote:Even putting your bizarre analogy aside, air doesn't follow rules it follows probabilities.


There is no such thing as 'following probabilities'. Weather events occur on the newtonian level of physics - they are for all intents and purposes perfectly deterministic. We just aren't good enough to work at that level yet, so we abstract things out into probabilities because that's what we can work with - which is precisely what we do with human behavior. Unsurprisingly, neither meteorology nor economics show much predictive accuracy beyond very simple predictions.


There is no newtonian level of physics. There is a newtonian approximation of physics, but when we are talking about molecules bouncing off each other, I think its fair to say that newton breaks down. Anyhow, this is entirely off topic. Your analogy was flawed and you've not shown how it relates in any way to what I have said.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Ari » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:49 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:
Ari wrote:By excepting smaller and more specialised communities, you've essentially excepted the radical elements of internet society. I think you've begged the question here.


Not at all. The groups you consider 'radical' are usually only radical in the context of outside culture. Within the Internet framework, they are as staunchly conservative as everyone else, often more so. They maintain the strict barriers between groups, they diligently adhere to the boundaries of what is considered valid discussion on the Internet, and they tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone. They might be talking about overthrowing a real life government, but they are utterly servile to online society.


I'm sorry, I'm having trouble grasping how you're defining online society here- the pigheadishness and stubbornness that results from poorly moderated anonymity? The privilege of the young white male upper/middle classes? The blindness to issues of race, gender, disability, social class, and poverty?

You don't seem to have defined what "valid internet discussion" is, just identified it with one group.

I don't see how you can ever be radical without being able to be defined as radical in relation to another culture, even if you've practically completely redefined your own culture internally. Being a member of the Green Party has often taught me that we often get interpreted as socialists, despite having very different internal principles and taking very different measures towards similar goals.

Your complaint seems to be that the mainstream areas of the internet are culturally conservative and full of disrespect. I agree- that's inherent in being mainstream. I just fail to see how you're defining "online society" so that every part of the internet is somehow continuously attached to it, rather than being loosely based on broadly similar principles.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Robin S » Thu Jul 17, 2008 5:57 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:I am just saying that there are certain issues on which there is a consensus, and its a viciously defended one by all sides.
Surely if something has a consensus, by definition there is only one side and no need to defend it.

Without meaning any offence, you are rubbishing other people's claims without providing actual evidence that they are wrong. To give a specific example of one of your comments that I find unconvincing:
A family with any kind of consensus, even a partial one, is rare.
What is your source for this? My own experience is the opposite: yes, there are disagreements and differences of opinions within families, but a functional family without any kind of consensus whatsoever is truly unusual.

when we are talking about molecules bouncing off each other, I think its fair to say that newton breaks down.
I don't see why. The difficulties in making accurate predictions in, say, meteorology are due to the chaos inherent in the dynamics of turbulent fluids. Chaos, despite being hard to predict, is a fully deterministic process and occurs in classical mechanics without any need to resort to quantum mechanics any more than there would be to describe the motion of a very large number of balls bouncing off each other in a confined space.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:01 pm UTC

Ari wrote:I'm sorry, I'm having trouble grasping how you're defining online society here- the pigheadishness and stubbornness that results from poorly moderated anonymity? The privilege of the young white male upper/middle classes? The blindness to issues of race, gender, disability, social class, and poverty?

You don't seem to have defined what "valid internet discussion" is, just identified it with one group.


The online society is all of those things, although it isn't that stringently defined and does I admit have some level of variance (but not nearly as much as it is claimed, and possibly even less than offline society). What it sees as 'valid discussion' is simply that which agrees with the common principles of that society.

One of these principles is that the online community somehow represents an intellectual elite, engaging in the greatest mass discourse in history. I think this came from a time long ago when it actually did represent an intellectual elite, and newbies latched onto this as it made them feel important. Its interesting to note the aggression of the response to what I have said, which of course contradicts the view of the online community as a whole. Read some of the things that have been written here out loud, and I think you will agree were they spoken in an offline social setting, the atmosphere would be pretty tense by now.

I don't see how you can ever be radical without being able to be defined as radical in relation to another culture, even if you've practically completely redefined your own culture internally.


You can't, but that wasn't my point. My point was that next to no radicalism exists on the Internet which goes against the mainstream of Internet culture.

Your complaint seems to be that the mainstream areas of the internet are culturally conservative and full of disrespect. I agree- that's inherent in being mainstream. I just fail to see how you're defining "online society" so that every part of the internet is somehow continuously attached to it, rather than being loosely based on broadly similar principles.


Obviously I can't speak for every discussion everywhere on the Internet; but the vast majority of what is not mainstream does still adhere to the social norms of the Internet. These social norms are the ones I originally described, and tend towards people confirming their beliefs instead of challenging them, grouping together by common views and attacking those who hold different views (although they are, as I have made clear, capable of operating along side other factions if they share enough common belief).

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:09 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Surely if something has a consensus, by definition there is only one side and no need to defend it.


Defend it from outsiders and dissenters. It isn't a perfect consensus.

Without meaning any offence, you are rubbishing other people's claims without providing actual evidence that they are wrong. To give a specific example of one of your comments that I find unconvincing:
A family with any kind of consensus, even a partial one, is rare.
What is your source for this? My own experience is the opposite: yes, there are disagreements and differences of opinions within families, but a functional family without any kind of consensus whatsoever is truly unusual.


I guess your parents are still married then? That none of your brothers or sisters ran away from home? That nobody was abused?

I of course have no knowledge of your background, but I doubt you've known much poverty if you think stable, coherent families are the rule.

when we are talking about molecules bouncing off each other, I think its fair to say that newton breaks down.
I don't see why. The difficulties in making accurate predictions in, say, meteorology are due to the chaos inherent in the dynamics of turbulent fluids. Chaos, despite being hard to predict, is a fully deterministic process and occurs in classical mechanics without any need to resort to quantum mechanics any more than there would be to describe the motion of a very large number of balls bouncing off each other in a confined space.


Weather patterns aren't just hard to predict, they are impossible to predict; the whole butterfly thing is an overstatement of the case but the direction an air molecule bounces off another molecule does affect the rest of the system, and that is not newtonian.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Robin S » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:16 pm UTC

Double-posting is not encouraged in these forums. Just thought I'd let you know.
SpiderMonkey wrote:Its interesting to note the aggression of the response to what I have said, which of course contradicts the view of the online community as a whole. Read some of the things that have been written here out loud, and I think you will agree were they spoken in an offline social setting, the atmosphere would be pretty tense by now.
I think the atmosphere is pretty tense by now, though undoubtedly less so than it would be if we all knew each other personally - but I wouldn't call that a consequence of the culture of the Internet so much as of human psychology. My impression is that people are perhaps getting a little peeved because they perceive you to be speaking as if you are absolutely, unquestionably right without providing a great deal of evidence, and then acting as if everyone else's knowledge is inferior to yours. I've seen people create threads and talk like that before on these forums, and the reaction has always been the same. My experience of the matter is that people here are quite willing to discuss their own flaws, and those of society and its various aspects, in an open, friendly (and by no means unified in opinion) manner.
I guess your parents are still married then? That none of your brothers or sisters ran away from home? That nobody was abused?

I of course have no knowledge of your background, but I doubt you've known much poverty if you think stable, coherent families are the rule.
I'm not claiming that most families don't have some problems to one degree or another, but that is a far cry from claiming that the overwhelming majority have no consensus or cohesion whatsoever.
but the direction an air molecule bounces off another molecule does affect the rest of the system, and that is not newtonian.
Tell that to my mechanics lecturers, who would beg to differ.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:34 pm UTC

Robin S wrote:Double-posting is not encouraged in these forums. Just thought I'd let you know.


Double posting isn't that welcome most places, which kind of makes it hard for one person to speak against many, doesn't it?

SpiderMonkey wrote:Its interesting to note the aggression of the response to what I have said, which of course contradicts the view of the online community as a whole. Read some of the things that have been written here out loud, and I think you will agree were they spoken in an offline social setting, the atmosphere would be pretty tense by now.
I think the atmosphere is pretty tense by now, though undoubtedly less so than it would be if we all knew each other personally - but I wouldn't call that a consequence of the culture of the Internet so much as of human psychology. My impression is that people are perhaps getting a little peeved because they perceive you to be speaking as if you are absolutely, unquestionably right without providing a great deal of evidence, and then acting as if everyone else's knowledge is inferior to yours. I've seen people create threads and talk like that before on these forums, and the reaction has always been the same. My experience of the matter is that people here are quite willing to discuss their own flaws, and those of society and its various aspects, in an open, friendly (and by no means unified in opinion) manner.


The first response, right off the bat, implied that I was having some kind of tantrum because I had been banned from a forum elsewhere. Aside from being logical nonsense, circumventing someones argument to try and determine what is wrong with them personally that would make them want to say such a radical thing, is quite unpleasant.

Then someone suggested I was bitter at having spent too much time on 4chan. Again, I am subject to psychoanalysis to find out what terrible experience could possibly have given me an idea that contradicts the accepted view of things. I doubt people here would speak to people face to face like this regardless of if they knew them.

You claim that I am not backing up my claims with evidence - but who is? I've already had someone invoke the old 'human nature' chestnut to shoot down my argument, without a trace of any evidence of this human nature at all. As you well know, most people presenting their argument don't painstakingly reference it because to do so takes a great deal of time. You may argue that the burden of proof is on the person making claims against the existing consensus - but if you do claim that it is simply evidence of conservatism. Don't try and tell me science works that way either, because it simply does not. Established theories have to prove themselves just as much as new ones do.

I guess your parents are still married then? That none of your brothers or sisters ran away from home? That nobody was abused?

I of course have no knowledge of your background, but I doubt you've known much poverty if you think stable, coherent families are the rule.
I'm not claiming that most families don't have some problems to one degree or another, but that is a far cry from claiming that the overwhelming majority have no consensus or cohesion whatsoever.


What I was trying to say is that families don't have anywhere near the consensus of an Internet community, because they have not chosen each other by personality. This does not imply, nor did I ever try to imply, that families lack cohesion. It is only Internet forums that tend to fall apart without a strong consensus.

but the direction an air molecule bounces off another molecule does affect the rest of the system, and that is not newtonian.
Tell that to my mechanics lecturers, who would beg to differ.


One moment, you are telling me off for appearing to talk with authority, and the next moment you are invoking a nameless mechanics lecturer? Can you see the double standard there?

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby seladore » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:37 pm UTC

Well obviously weather pattern's aren't impossible to predict. Sure the met office gets it wrong from time to time, but they are right more than they would be by guessing alone.


But on topic,

I have two points,

Firstly, it has only been 10-15 years since the internet became widely used. This really isn't a long period of time for a culture to evolve in, so chiding it as being still '90's' seems a little silly to me.

Secondly, you seem to attribute universal personality traits to "90's teenagers"
The norms are enforced in ways that are also dictated by the 90s teenager; verbal bullying, mockery and ostracism are used to kick people into line.

When these are just what people do when arguing. Lose the '90's' part, and what is left is the affluent, above average intelligence youth. These make up (I'm guessing) most of the internet demographic today, so there is no surprise that they still act in a certain way.



Also, I'm really unsure what value system you are basing your evaluation of 'the internet' on. What would be the ideal online community? You seem to dislike restrained civilised debate, and mutual agreement. Would you perhaps prefer an unmoderated shouting match? That wouldn't get anyone anywhere. Imagine the people here and some people from a Creationist forum in one community. There would be no "goldmine of debate and new thinking", it would just be a mess.
It is of course true that you need some conflict to stimulate ideas - and this is just what I see, anywhere I look online. But in general, people gather in like-minded communities. In real life too: in school and work, people with similar personality types spend time around each other. This isn't a new feature of the internet, it's just people.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Robin S » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:46 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:Double posting isn't that welcome most places, which kind of makes it hard for one person to speak against many, doesn't it?
No. It's very easy to edit your old post and add extra information. I do it myself all the time when I find there are new posts to respond to.
You may argue that the burden of proof is on the person making claims against the existing consensus -
I do, and I claim this because the consensus already has its own evidence, which is how it became the consensus in the first place. There is ample literature available for you to peruse.
- but if you do claim that it is simply evidence of conservatism.
This sentence has me convinced that you are as fixed in your opinion as anyone else in this thread. You dismiss anyone who argues with you as proving your point.
Don't try and tell me science works that way either, because it simply does not. Established theories have to prove themselves just as much as new ones do.
Established theories are, by their nature, those for which a large body of supporting evidence already exists. If no contradictory evidence comes to light, they remain established theories. That is indeed how science works.
What I was trying to say is that families don't have anywhere near the consensus of an Internet community, because they have not chosen each other by personality. This does not imply, nor did I ever try to imply, that families lack cohesion. It is only Internet forums that tend to fall apart without a strong consensus.
I'm not quite following what you're saying here. Of course Internet communities have things in common (so do families, by dint of living together and having shared genes, but that's irrelevant to this point) but that does not mean that individuals within a community are like clones. Within the various communities I have been a member of, I have seen examples of both ends of the spectrum between consensus and divisiveness, and also many points in-between.
One moment, you are telling me off for appearing to talk with authority, and the next moment you are invoking a nameless mechanics lecturer? Can you see the double standard there?
My mechanics lecturer is teaching proven maths and well-supported science. If he was making independent claims about the way the Universe worked, I would have realized that it was not evidence in support of my argument, and would not have mentioned him.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:56 pm UTC

seladore wrote:Well obviously weather pattern's aren't impossible to predict. Sure the met office gets it wrong from time to time, but they are right more than they would be by guessing alone.


I already said you could work with the probabilities...

But on topic,

I have two points,

Firstly, it has only been 10-15 years since the internet became widely used. This really isn't a long period of time for a culture to evolve in, so chiding it as being still '90's' seems a little silly to me.


Internet culture itself as evolving quickly, and in any case - the offline discourse has changed in 10-15 years quite a bit, but the online one has remained much more static.

Secondly, you seem to attribute universal personality traits to "90's teenagers"
The norms are enforced in ways that are also dictated by the 90s teenager; verbal bullying, mockery and ostracism are used to kick people into line.

When these are just what people do when arguing. Lose the '90's' part, and what is left is the affluent, above average intelligence youth. These make up (I'm guessing) most of the internet demographic today, so there is no surprise that they still act in a certain way.


Aside from net users themselves aging, older people are taking up the Internet much more than they were a decade ago. However, the underlying culture has not changed. This is why I am singling out the 90s teenager as the model for this new culture.

Also, I'm really unsure what value system you are basing your evaluation of 'the internet' on. What would be the ideal online community? You seem to dislike restrained civilised debate, and mutual agreement. Would you perhaps prefer an unmoderated shouting match? That wouldn't get anyone anywhere. Imagine the people here and some people from a Creationist forum in one community. There would be no "goldmine of debate and new thinking", it would just be a mess.


Why must I have an ideal community? Why does the validity of my argument hinge on what proposals I have thought up? That line of thinking is logically no different that saying that I am wrong because I am made of poo.

It is of course true that you need some conflict to stimulate ideas - and this is just what I see, anywhere I look online. But in general, people gather in like-minded communities. In real life too: in school and work, people with similar personality types spend time around each other. This isn't a new feature of the internet, it's just people.


But the Internet makes it so much more efficient. People have been given total free association and have largely wasted it by narrowing their horizons instead of broadening them. And they have done this under a banner of advancing discourse and opening up the world.

No. It's very easy to edit your old post and add extra information. I do it myself all the time when I find there are new posts to respond to.


Perhaps, but it can get confusing for the reader following. It also puts a great deal more work on the one lone voice, like I said.

I do, and I claim this because the consensus already has its own evidence, which is how it became the consensus in the first place. There is ample literature available for you to peruse.


What do you think would happen if an evolutionary biologist gave such a response to a creationist challenge? They would've already won. A good scientist never dismisses a demand for evidence, even of an accepted theory, so please don't try to use the language of science to support your argument because you aren't acting as a scientist should.

This sentence has me convinced that you are as fixed in your opinion as anyone else in this thread. You dismiss anyone who argues with you as proving your point.


No, I am not stating that everything you could respond with is evidence of conservatism, but that the one thing I mentioned (and you shockingly agreed with) was evidence of it. I have explained why as well.

Established theories are, by their nature, those for which a large body of supporting evidence already exists. If no contradictory evidence comes to light, they remain established theories. That is indeed how science works.


It isn't. See above.

I'm not quite following what you're saying here. Of course Internet communities have things in common (so do families, by dint of living together and having shared genes, but that's irrelevant to this point) but that does not mean that individuals within a community are like clones. Within the various communities I have been a member of, I have seen examples of both ends of the spectrum between consensus and divisiveness, but also many points in-between.


Living under the same roof and having some genetic structure in common really doesn't impact your world view that much. Internet communities are far, far more self selecting. They also have a higher rate of turnover, which leads to a constant refinement of the consensus towards a point where it becomes inflexible, as 'good' sorts are given incentive to stay and 'bad' sorts are given incentives to leave.

My mechanics lecturer is teaching proven maths and well-supported science. If he was making independent claims about the way the Universe worked, I would have realized that it was not evidence in support of my argument, and would not have mentioned him.


Compounding one appeal to authority with another doesn't help. Instead of invoking mechanics lecturers, gods or pixies why don't you go straight to the source. Or rather, why don't we drop this particular line of discussion because it isn't worth either of our times dredging up evidence through Google?

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Belial » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:08 pm UTC

Why must I have an ideal community? Why does the validity of my argument hinge on what proposals I have thought up?


Because it would be nice to see a "...compared to" qualification to give all of your characterizations some kind of grounding.

Otherwise, most of it doesn't make much sense.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:19 pm UTC

Belial wrote:
Why must I have an ideal community? Why does the validity of my argument hinge on what proposals I have thought up?


Because it would be nice to see a "...compared to" qualification to give all of your characterizations some kind of grounding.

Otherwise, most of it doesn't make much sense.


I've already compared online society to offline society, but I don't hold offline society up as some kind of ideal. In any case, its still an ad hominem. Although its common wisdom to say 'if you dont like it think of an alternative' it is no basis for an argument at all.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby seladore » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:21 pm UTC

I don't want to quote a 10 foot stack, so...

- I am interested in how you view online communities, as distinct from online culture. You say online culture is evolving fast, while online communities are static. Aren't these two essentially the same thing?

But the Internet makes it so much more efficient. People have been given total free association and have largely wasted it by narrowing their horizons instead of broadening them. And they have done this under a banner of advancing discourse and opening up the world.


I totally agree with this, but again I feel it is human nature to seek the company of like minded individuals. In an intellectual utopia everyone would challenge everyone else's ideas, and everyone would learn from the experience. But people aren't like that - how many radical Muslims will go to Christian church? How many secular liberals will attend a pro-life meeting? How many Tories [EDIT FOR CULTURAL TRANSLATION - Tory = British conservative] will go to socialist party discussions? This doesn't happen in real life.

Why must I have an ideal community? Why does the validity of my argument hinge on what proposals I have thought up? That line of thinking is logically no different that saying that I am wrong because I am made of poo.


I wasn't using this to attack your entire point.
I was just imagining that as you are criticising the status quo, you have some mental picture of how things could be improved, how things would work in an ideal world. From this picture, I would be able to better gauge exactly what it is you dislike about the current state of affairs.
Last edited by seladore on Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:38 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Belial » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:28 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:I've already compared online society to offline society, but I don't hold offline society up as some kind of ideal. In any case, its still an ad hominem. Although its common wisdom to say 'if you dont like it think of an alternative' it is no basis for an argument at all.


Apart from the fact that you're somewhat confused about what ad hominem means, isn't avoidance of ad hominem part of that whole "too polite" culture that you've got your back up about?

And yeah, as seladore says, some explanation of what you'd *prefer* to see would help us understand exactly what it is you have a problem with. It would also help us evaluate whether we even care: if your ideal model of online interaction turns out to be something we don't care about or want, then your objection that our current interaction falls short of said ideal is pretty much not compelling at all.

Right now, I'm not even sure of what you're trying to say, half of the time.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby frezik » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:31 pm UTC

If these rules are held to be socially conservative within the context of Internet discussion, then it's largely because of technical limitations. Slashdot doesn't allow images in posts because it developed at a time when most people were on dial-up and images would take too much bandwidth; these days, most forums allow at least moderately sized images. Double-posting is generally disliked because a separation in messages is expected to be a separate poster. Spam messages are booted because they too easily drown out useful posts.

I was looking at some materials I had sitting around on web usability design from the mid-90's. They include "don't change the default colors and formatting of links". Nearly every modern web site (including this one) breaks that rule.

There are web sites where there is strong consensus among its users, like Free Republic. It's usually built through strong moderation of different opinions. I've found that no useful debate can happen on these sites.

(Daily Kos, the left-wing version of Free Republic, might be just as guilty of this, too, but I don't pay as much attention to them. Kos just makes me roll my eyes; freepers are actually scary.)
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:55 pm UTC

seladore wrote:I don't want to quote a 10 foot stack, so...

- I am interested in how you view online communities, as distinct from online culture. You say online culture is evolving fast, while online communities are static. Aren't these two essentially the same thing?


I made a typo; I said "Internet culture itself as evolving quickly" when I meant "Internet culture sells itself as evolving quickly". I have been using communities/culture pretty much interchangeably.

But the Internet makes it so much more efficient. People have been given total free association and have largely wasted it by narrowing their horizons instead of broadening them. And they have done this under a banner of advancing discourse and opening up the world.


I totally agree with this, but again I feel it is human nature to seek the company of like minded individuals. In an intellectual utopia everyone would challenge everyone else's ideas, and everyone would learn from the experience. But people aren't like that - how many radical Muslims will go to Christian church? How many secular liberals will attend a pro-life meeting? How many Tories will go to socialist party discussions? This doesn't happen in real life.


People have a choice. The reason I don't like the concept of 'human nature' aside from the fact there isn't evidence for it, is that it essentially writes off 6 billion people by saying their actions are, for the most part, inevitable. Its a very bold statement to make and I have never had anyone convince me of a claim about human nature.

The level to which we are willing to be challenged is different in different times and places. It isn't a constant, and we do have a choice.

I wasn't using this to attack your entire point.
I was just imagining that as you are criticising the status quo, you have some mental picture of how things could be improved, how things would work in an ideal world. From this picture, I would be able to better gauge exactly what it is you dislike about the current state of affairs.


I try not to think of utopias, they tend to get in the way of most discussions. What I dislike about the current state of affairs is how many times I have taken part in the same discussion, had all the participants come away believing the exact same things as before, and then repeated some time later. It isn't intellectual discussion, its a treadmill of cliched arguments and insults. And yet we, in varying degrees, all pat ourselves on the back as vanguards of a new age of global enlightenment.

If debate on the Internet never, or at least hardly ever, results in change then what is the point?

Apart from the fact that you're somewhat confused about what ad hominem means, isn't avoidance of ad hominem part of that whole "too polite" culture that you've got your back up about?


I know exactly what ad hominem means. I am applying it because people have directed their comments at me (have I had a bad experience? what is the ideal system I am trying to promote?) rather than my argument. It is a logical fallacy, and nothing to do with politeness or culture.

If these rules are held to be socially conservative within the context of Internet discussion, then it's largely because of technical limitations. Slashdot doesn't allow images in posts because it developed at a time when most people were on dial-up and images would take too much bandwidth; these days, most forums allow at least moderately sized images. Double-posting is generally disliked because a separation in messages is expected to be a separate poster. Spam messages are booted because they too easily drown out useful posts.


I'm not really referring to technical issues; I am referring to the framing of Internet debates, what is considered 'acceptable', what is considered by users to be normal and how that is enforced. Such things have changed very little as technology has advanced.

There are web sites where there is strong consensus among its users, like Free Republic. It's usually built through strong moderation of different opinions. I've found that no useful debate can happen on these sites.

(Daily Kos, the left-wing version of Free Republic, might be just as guilty of this, too, but I don't pay as much attention to them. Kos just makes me roll my eyes; freepers are actually scary.)


Even though those sites moderate themselves, they do it to keep out certain factions of the community whilst accepting the principles of the community at large.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby frezik » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:42 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:I try not to think of utopias, they tend to get in the way of most discussions. What I dislike about the current state of affairs is how many times I have taken part in the same discussion, had all the participants come away believing the exact same things as before, and then repeated some time later. It isn't intellectual discussion, its a treadmill of cliched arguments and insults. And yet we, in varying degrees, all pat ourselves on the back as vanguards of a new age of global enlightenment.


That way of thinking about the Internet seems to have died out around the same time as the .com bust. Though perhaps not so much because of the .com's, but because it happened to be roughly the same period as the DeCSS debacle. After that, the old quote of "the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it" was no longer held as axiomatic.

If debate on the Internet never, or at least hardly ever, results in change then what is the point?


On the contrary, I've changed many of my opinions due to Internet debates. It might not be that any specific debate changed my mind, but I decided otherwise when reviewing the debate in my head latter on. You could easily dig through my comment history of the past 10 years on various forums and find things I now disagree with.

If these rules are held to be socially conservative within the context of Internet discussion, then it's largely because of technical limitations. Slashdot doesn't allow images in posts because it developed at a time when most people were on dial-up and images would take too much bandwidth; these days, most forums allow at least moderately sized images. Double-posting is generally disliked because a separation in messages is expected to be a separate poster. Spam messages are booted because they too easily drown out useful posts.


I'm not really referring to technical issues; I am referring to the framing of Internet debates, what is considered 'acceptable', what is considered by users to be normal and how that is enforced. Such things have changed very little as technology has advanced.


"What is considered 'acceptable'" very often is due to technological constraints, as with the examples I noted. For anything else, this generally follows rules that can be dated back to classical Greece. I suppose you could call that "socially conservative", but I wouldn't attach negative connotations to the term.

If you don't believe in a basic human nature, then how do you explain certain recurring themes in history, such as people of different religions slaughtering each other, even when their founders expressly forbid that type of behavior?

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby lowbart » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:47 pm UTC

Gunfingers wrote:You don't get banned from websites for disagreeing with them (unless you're on one of the CTer fora, the Loosers can't really stand disagreement), you get banned from websites for being a dick. If i had to guess, i'd say you've been going to fora and starting threads in which you insist that you're right and anyone who disagrees is wrong and you got banned for it. Am i close?


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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby seladore » Thu Jul 17, 2008 8:50 pm UTC

Really? Can you explain what happened, I'm interested.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby SpiderMonkey » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:39 pm UTC

frezik wrote:
SpiderMonkey wrote:I try not to think of utopias, they tend to get in the way of most discussions. What I dislike about the current state of affairs is how many times I have taken part in the same discussion, had all the participants come away believing the exact same things as before, and then repeated some time later. It isn't intellectual discussion, its a treadmill of cliched arguments and insults. And yet we, in varying degrees, all pat ourselves on the back as vanguards of a new age of global enlightenment.


That way of thinking about the Internet seems to have died out around the same time as the .com bust. Though perhaps not so much because of the .com's, but because it happened to be roughly the same period as the DeCSS debacle. After that, the old quote of "the Internet treats censorship as damage and routes around it" was no longer held as axiomatic.


Really? I found it quite alive with Web 2.0 and 'meta'ness. Users creating the content was supposed to shake off the last shackles of the old model of media. Instead users just got aggressively tribal. Wikipedia has pretty much degenerated into a perpetual turf war these days.

If debate on the Internet never, or at least hardly ever, results in change then what is the point?


On the contrary, I've changed many of my opinions due to Internet debates. It might not be that any specific debate changed my mind, but I decided otherwise when reviewing the debate in my head latter on. You could easily dig through my comment history of the past 10 years on various forums and find things I now disagree with.


Perhaps you are an exception, or more likely the things you've changed your views on are not fundamental to the community.

"What is considered 'acceptable'" very often is due to technological constraints, as with the examples I noted. For anything else, this generally follows rules that can be dated back to classical Greece. I suppose you could call that "socially conservative", but I wouldn't attach negative connotations to the term.

If you don't believe in a basic human nature, then how do you explain certain recurring themes in history, such as people of different religions slaughtering each other, even when their founders expressly forbid that type of behavior?


Not all religions have engaged in holy wars. Not all wars have been religious. Just because there are themes in human history doesn't mean there is a historical inevitability (a concept as unproven and as offensive to the idea of free will as human 'nature' is). There is no simple, underlying order to the unfolding of historical events, because such events are driven by millions or billions of minds each one of which is too complex for us to understand the functioning of.

Learn the lesson of fluid dynamics: even if you can't predict the individual, you can often give useful answers about the group.


We aren't water molecules. A water molecule only responds to the forces directly around it, and one water molecule under the same conditions responds the same as all other water molecules. If human behaviour could be modeled like fluid dynamics you could estimate the dates of wars in the next century. But we can't. We don't even know when (or if) the war with Iran will begin.

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Jessica » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:43 pm UTC

I'm sorry. Maybe I'm misunderstanding.
But it looks like you keep saying it's impossible to predict what humans will do, and yet you say that all people in the internet have a similar outlook, essentially predicting that human communities on the internet will do certain things.

Is that not a contradiction?
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby 22/7 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:44 pm UTC

SpiderMonkey wrote:We aren't water molecules. A water molecule only responds to the forces directly around it, and one water molecule under the same conditions responds the same as all other water molecules. If human behaviour could be modeled like fluid dynamics you could estimate the dates of wars in the next century. But we can't. We don't even know when (or if) the war with Iran will begin.
This is in direct contradiction with
SpiderMonkey wrote:Weather patterns aren't just hard to predict, they are impossible to predict
Either we can predict a fluid system or we cannot.

Also, in response to your comments on human nature, how exactly do you describe psychology?
Totally not a hypothetical...

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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby Hammer » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:46 pm UTC

Y'know, I'd probably be nudging you folks to stay on topic, except I'm not sure what the thread topic actually is.
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Re: The Internet is socially conservative

Postby 22/7 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 9:48 pm UTC

Hammer wrote:Y'know, I'd probably be nudging you folks to stay on topic, except I'm not sure what the thread topic actually is.
* scratches head *

Sorry Hammer, I actually am going somewhere with this, I promise.
Totally not a hypothetical...

Steroid wrote:
bigglesworth wrote:If your economic reality is a choice, then why are you not as rich as Bill Gates?
Don't want to be.
I want to be!


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