singularity industries

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Mass Effect: New Media Lemmings?

While watching Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, I came across this dialogue in Episode 24 between Motoko Kusanagi and Kuze, where Kuze explains the manipulation of the masses due to the prevalence of information via the Internet. In it, he explains in rather far fetched terms, how he intends to save them all from such a demise by fully merging with the Net.

This notion of manipulation due to a lack of media and technological literacy is also perpetuated by Cass Sunstein’s analysis of the so-called “free net” in this article: “The Internet is Making Us Stupid

While Kuze’s solution is closer to the realm of science fiction, I do think he raises valid points about how most of us are using the Internet and Technology today. In no uncertain terms, everything is a large goop of grey with no real opinions, apart from those whom we follow.

To be literate, is to understand what is happening around us, and having an opinion so that we can continue to make sense of this world that we live in. But information has changed from a prized resource into a cheapened commodity. Sure there is wisdom of the crowds, but in some aspects, we’re also facing mob mentality without really understanding why.

I suppose that’s what gotten Senior Minister of State (Information, Communications and the Arts) going apeshit over the reactions of netizens, professing disdain at our apparent lack of self-regulation.

But he does not understand that changes do not happen overnight. People conveying different thinking on the Net should not mean that we are lawless citizens, but the Singapore Government should re-look at how some of its policies really aren’t that popular or even beneficial to Singapore’s citizens. If anything, they should be glad that feedback is actually given and that they do not have a colony of lemmings. Oh wait, maybe that’s why they aren’t glad.

But as you will see from the dialogue below, if the masses begin to dig past the surface of information, and make meaning of the information they consume, interpret it in such a way that adds value to our cultures and societies, information will not be cheapened, and a much higher calling becomes clearer. For now, information is merely passed from contact to contact, but how does that affect us if we don’t start thinking for ourselves?

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Motoko Kusanagi, Kuze

Kuze: “I went on a journey, just because I wanted time to reaffirm my motives, and to see whether I could execute the revolution or liberation that I had envisioned.”

Motoko: “What is this revolution you speak of?”

Kuze: “The transfer of people to a higher structure. What this means is that people should discard their rigid system, and unite with the Net.”

Motoko: “Unite with the Net?”

Kuze: “Due to the incident on the Peninsula, I began to look at life philosophically. I found a paradoxical order, exploitation by the strong, and corrupt structure. What disappointed me the most, however, was the irresponsibility. The masses didn’t try to create anything on their own, and don’t understand anything. And yet, if they find information convenient for themselves, they rush to ingest it, and are therefore manipulated. Without motives, they consume the infrastructure called the Net. Their actions may bring unintended results, but they feel no responsibility whatsoever. My revolution is also an act of revenge against such people.”

Motoko: “Revenge?”

Kuze: “I’ve always felt a disparity between my body and my mind because I’ve been a full cyborg since childhood. I’ve always wanted to discard this inconvenient body if I could and set sail for the sea of the Net. The Asian refugees gave me a reason to live. They said that my manmade face was a very good face and flattered me by saying my Ghost is expressed within it. I then realised, for the first time… that the body and the mind may be invisible, and I was able to think of myself as a human being with a physical body. However, even those people went in the direction of convenience once they encountered palatable information. It seems human beings were created to descend to lower heights from the very beginning.”

Motoko: “So how do you propose to enact your revenge?”

Kuze: “I will take the memories and ghosts of those who are connected to me away into the Net. If a nuclear bomb is dropped here, they will lose their physical bodies, but they will obtain a chance to force and evolution.”

Motoko: “What is the possibility that they can retain their individuality on the Net?”

Kuze: “That I don’t know. But as pioneers, they can become entities that enlighten those who remained in the lower structure and make them continually aware of the higher structure. In the same way man felt respect and terror toward spiritual entities in antiquity.”

Motoko: “So that’s your revenge and salvation for the ones who disappointed you.”

Kuze: “Yes, though I believe it to be a revolution.”

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3 Responses

  1. davea0511 says:

    I’m sorry, but this sort of banter makes me ill … in fact most of your meanderings on the death of democracy as it relates to internet related news-gathering dynamics makes me ill.

    I’m not alone in my opinion of the journalism community’s conviction that the public masses are a bunch of mindless zombies that need coddling by a privileged monopoly of information-dissemination channels, channels that have repressed mankind since the beginning.

    The fact of the matter is that there have always been great thinkers among the proletariat who’ve forever been without a voice until now. Yes, they seem few and far in between especially to the lazy journalist who’s quick to dismiss them, but they exist and in far greater numbers that the journalist community asserts. They have a voice that is far stronger now than ever who create the quiet undercurrents for megatrends waiting in the wings … and the restructuring of information channels, in which you claim democracy has died, is to be credited with this overwhelmingly democracy-enriching dynamic.

    It is the intelligent among the lower classes that quietly but ultimately claim the minds and hearts of the people, even if they seem drowned out by blathering idiots in the mainstream blogosphere.

    Sure, there are tremendous weaknesses of the new system – like how do you get a drink from a fire hydrant (especially when most of the stuff coming out of that source is crap)? But let’s contrast that weakness with the strength of reliable traditional media reporting of yesteryear:

    Where was the objective truth when Jews were being executed by the millions? Even our own political leaders disparaged the reports even as it was going on … even entire jewish communities disparaged them. The info-act has revealed numerous documents showing how we were aware of it, and capable of warning millions of Jews prior to “relocation efforts” to which they willingly submitted – an atrocity on our part of biblical proportions strangely absent in today’s historical perspective.

    The kind of blackout resulting in such atrocities is a phenomenon that wouldn’t even conceivably exist today.

    Furthermore the masses in general have always, ALWAYS, sunk to the lowest common denominator and the media has nearly always, ALWAYS, obliged because it was revenue, not truth, that drove the content, so lest you claim reliable sources saved mankind from ourselves the record speaks for itself.

    I could go on, but I feel I should at least offer some sympathy for aspiring journalists for the bold new world. I can only offer this though: It must be hard as a journalist to no longer enjoy the sanctity of irreproachability. Journalists now live in glass houses, and yes, they must be meticulously careful if they want to present an unbiased image but I will always know, and the public is becoming ever more aware that nobody has ever been or will ever be unbiased, and the days of darkness when people wielded power with the lie of objectivity are at last coming to an end.

    The best thing an aspiring journalist can do today is to substitute this unjustified aloofness with a climate of mutual respect among a whirlwind of differing opinions. And that’s what we need today: mutual respect and a climate of openess for those unafraid to speak thier mind. No more disparaging Fox, nor the Big 3 network news organizations, nor CNN, MSNBC, etc. Let the logic of the talking heads do it’s own damage, and have faith that the public is wise enough and has enough leaders among the commoners to sort through it all.

    This pretense that journalists are superior to commentators and opinion personalities is absurd and is yet another attempt to bring back the dark days of professionally-based prejudice. McCarthyism is McCarthyism, no matter how you slice it, whether that means “identifying misinformation” or railroading your political enemies IT IS THE SAME. This preoccupation with identifying misinformation at an official level is paving the way for some dangerous casualties of truth and goes against everything for which the constitution stands. Let the opinions of others stand, regardless of absurdity or truthiness, and then I might consider what you have to say might be true too.

    Journalism is becoming a vicious snarky circus of derision and snobbery, and believe me: you want to be sidelined then keep it up. It’s your professionalism with regard to manner and composure that should and ultimately will set you apart from the bickering and passion filled blogosphere. I will say this to all journalists that your manner, my friend, not snobbery and exclusionary insistence to be certified, is where your salvation and success in the new-information age will lie.

    All should be welcome to speak what they see as the truth whatever it be, and those who are most respectful of their critics should deserve the most air time, imho. Time will have a way of rewarding those who are most objective so you need not worry about that.

    • brian koh says:

      Hi,

      Firstly, thank you for a very illuminating reply, you’ve definitely addressed a lot of the blind corners I have in my post.

      But I’ll take away your key points about the future of journalism, and the role the blogosphere has in it. And yes, I definitely agree that these new publishing tools empower us common folk to have a voice now, when previously we didn’t.

      I don’t think I ever explicitly voiced my disdain that ‘the Internet makes us stupid’ or that the proletariat are still manipulated, but I really just wanted to highlight the present concern of self-awareness / expression’s the new toy.

      But yes, I totally appreciate your final point, that it is better to write, than not write. Maybe I’ve been living in Singapore for too long that subconsciously, I actually do fear the loss of control, when a tool of empowerment comes to those who are un-ready. But that could well be my own arrogance and downfall. Thank you for pointing that out.

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