Semantic Erosion/Post Truth/Semantic Apocalypse, Part 1

It’s funny – it’s a hard to introduce subject because it’s about subjects being hard to introduce. In Venn diagram terms, hard to find some overlap of circles on the subject of non overlapping circles. Who wants to listen on the subject about them not listening?

Fantasy Author R. Scott Bakker has had various posts on the idea of a ‘Semantic Apocalypse’. A recent one here, using a real life example to raise the hypothetical as possibly applying. It’s the Kavanaugh hearings, btw. Not your kind of thing? Well the subject is things that don’t overlap the interests of others, so that kind of fits you have to admit.

A crude way to put it is possibly just that political spin gets bigger and bigger. It’s probably got more nuance than that, but that idea is a circle that kind of reaches out. In addition we have a history where people of differing ideas had to work together to survive – now that’s not so much the case. People can have more and more extreme ideas and use search engines to find people who share those ideas. Rather than having to only be able to talk to a range of people with a range of views, most of which would tell them ‘That’s a bit extreme’. And so maybe take the extremism down a notch or two. Instead you get stuff like theredpill on reddit.

So you get spin and you get machinery/the internet that helps polarised people find polarised people and reaffirm their polarisation. Rather than have it turned down a notch or two by only seeing a range of people with a range of views.

I wanted to get onto some concerns Scott raised in a pair of comments

“I very much worry that warning of the semantic apocalypse will have the effect of contributing to it”

and the other comment

“Understanding the mechanics of human sociocognition enables evermore manipulation of human sociocognition means the eventual doom of human sociocognition.”

And who doesn’t love a bit of doom, eh?

But these I realise are circles inside of the first circle. And the first circle is hard enough to find some tasty gristle in to chew on. But if doom is a kind of tasty gristle, I assure you there’s something to chew on there! And I’ll leave this here as a sort of reasonably bite sized portion and move onto the other parts in future – having not actually reached the subjects I started writing for to begin with! What can I say, there was more gristle than I realised?

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