Does our consciousness produce our technology, or does our technology determine our consciousness?
The internet originally promised to pull us together. Instead it seems to have pushed us even farther apart. It was supposed to democratize our information, but is instead flattening our knowledge, fomenting a virulent strain of anti-intellectualism, and eroding our trust in the fundamental institutions (media, science, politics, etc.) that support modern civilization. It was supposed to rekindle our civic idealism and revolutionize our political systems; instead it created a platform where cynicism, confirmation bias, and perspectival sprawl would eventually culminate in a complete and total epistemic collapse.
We no longer enjoy a “shared reality” in any meaningful sense. We now live in a time-shifted honeycomb of mediated views and values, a flat and fragmented reality that has completely changed the shape of our consciousness, our culture, and our conduct in the public sphere. And while we continue to have far more in common with each other than not, it is getting more difficult to see those commonalities with every new day. This is how we go from a common world-centric vision of global prosperity to the resurgence of ethnocentric nationalism.
In this short article author Douglas Rushkoff weighs the effect the internet has had on our collective identity, from tribalism to national retrenchment.