The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is | Justin E.H. Smith

Summary of: The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning
By: Justin E.H. Smith


Are you ready to dive deep into the world of social media and the internet? Our mobile book summary app presents the abridged version of ‘The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning’ authored by Justin E.H. Smith. This summary highlights how social media platforms exploit their users’ personal data, delving into the development of internet algorithms and the effects of online communication on our society. Furthermore, it explores how these platforms operate for-profit, shedding light on the dangers of global surveillance and discussing the driving force behind humanity’s communication advancements through history.

The Dark Side of Social Media

Social media platforms are exploiting personal data to make profits, fueling addiction, and exacerbating societal divisions. The rise of online devices has made users available to offer their data 24-7, encouraging them to market themselves to employers or partners, diminishing their personality to fit the algorithm. The internet also acts as a global surveillance system, tracking individuals’ movements and actions. This summary aims to uncover the roots of the online revolution and address the myths surrounding it.

Attention and Artificial Intelligence

The concept of outsourcing complex decisions to machines has been discussed for centuries. The development of artificial intelligence (AI) has brought us closer to that reality, except for one crucial factor: AI lacks the ability to pay attention. Attention is the act of selectively focusing on one thing while ignoring others. It is considered a sign of consciousness and is essential for decision-making. Perception is critical to attention as it provides the material for selection. However, attention does not guarantee perception. Modern neuroscience has shown that our perception is already severely limited due to the sheer amount of information our brains have to process. Online, attention is artificially limited and directed towards profit. The current state of AI can do many things, but it cannot pay attention, making it difficult to rely on it for complex decision-making.

The Living Internet

The internet is a living system that mimics natural communication networks seen in the world. Despite our tendency to separate ourselves from it, the natural world is full of social communication systems, broadcasting signals intended for interpretation. The humblest of creatures like the slime mold can grow along the most efficient routes without a brain or nervous system and do it better than AI. The assumption that faster equals better in communication and computation is also worth examining in the next chapter.

The Evolution of Telecommunication

Telecommunication has undergone tremendous changes throughout human history. Unlike plants and animals, humans require devices to send and interpret signals, making technology an integral part of long-distance communication. From the neolithic age to the present day, each transportation innovation has amplified our signals and given birth to the association between speed and progress. However, this hyper valuation of speed has come at the cost of losing the extra information that came with personal encounters. Although telecommunication has made communication faster and more efficient, it has also wiped out the memory of expanded interaction that once existed.

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