The Traditional Way: Information Networks
Before the advent of mass media, everybody had one or more chain of people providing him with information. These included merchant networks, churches, alumni networks of schools and universities. They were built around people, institutional or not.
Example: Roman Catholic Church
A classical example for the power of information processing is the Roman Catholic Church. They had their think tanks in monasteries and universities, a system led by the Vatican to gather the information, and a system to distribute the information they wanted to be known via bishops and priests to all corners of the world. These systems makes the Roman Church until today one of the most powerful and richest organizations in the world.
Political Strongmen Hate Competition
European governments never liked this powerful church. Many countries built their own organizations resembling the Roman Church. Examples are the Anglican Churches in England or the Lutheran Churches in the sphere of German culture.
All these government churches called for freedom from Rome, but the result was in no way freedom of information or freedom of thought. The real change was more profane: The information gathering and distribution network in the respective country was now dominated by the local strongman. This did not spell more freedom for people, because these strongmen were also the ones who claimed the right to use force against people if they do, say or think things strongman did not want to be done, said or thought. People who insisted on freedom of thought had to leave Western Europe. The Pilgrim Fathers went to America. Many Jews went to Eastern Europe, where strongmen were not so strong, or to the Ottoman Empire, which was more liberal.
Radio and Television allow Mass Mind Control
A few hundred years later, mass media, especially the radio, developed. They could penetrate every corner of a country at very low cost. Governments got the idea that they could now control the minds of their subjects directly, bypassing even their own churches. The churches had still a little bit of autonomy to be more credible.
European governments used a combination of secret services and electronic media instead of bishops and priests to manage peoples’ minds. The result was brain wash and mass murder, as manifested in Germany, the Soviet Union, Maoist China and many more places.
Only thanks to the U.S. (the heirs of the Pilgrim Fathers, who had left Europe for freedom) the German concept of total state dominance could be defeated, and a degree of freedom could be reestablished in Western Europe.
Political Strongmen Loose Ability to Control Information Flows
But the technical development did not stop with radio and television. Personal computers and the internet come along the way. Everybody gets the technical means to broadcast his own view, thought, observation – as written text, as picture, audio and video.
As the Iranian president had to learn, not even highly sophisticated equipment designed in Germany to control what people send through mobile phones and the internet were able to prevent video footage of election fraud, mass protests and government agents killing people, to go instantly around the world.
But this broad access to information and information distribution creates new problems:
Forged and Worthless Information
There is poor information, and forged information. It is as easy to distribute crap, as it is to distribute quality information.
Nobody has the capacity to sift through all the information available, not even to all information relating to his personal interest. And even if you could read it all, how you can know, which is fake and which is legitimate. Spam filters for email and equivalents for websites were built to filter out the useless and damaging stuff.
Technical Solutions Failed on Two Counts Miserably:
- They do not find all spam and provide many false positives.
- They are open to manipulation and a wide gateway for government censorship.
Return to a System that Worked for Centuries
Peoples’ simple answer to the problem of relevance and legitimacy of information are social networks. They do what they always did: Get information from trusted people. They build a network of people, whom they trust more or less. They filter the information through these networks.
This way, they know who talks. They can ask questions, like “how do you know?” They can follow through to his sources and add them to their network. They can stop to listen to somebody, if it is not worth their time to listen. All together, people regain the control of the own mind.
You Are the One Who Gets it Right or Wrong.
It is very important to choose the right people in your network. If you get that wrong, your life can be spoiled thoroughly. And the bad thing is: You won’t have a government, priest, or school teacher to blame.