“Tilling my own grave to keep me level”

Weak & Powerless


“We clearly need not less but more technology.

At the same time, it is undeniably true that we frequently apply new technology

stupidly and selfishly. In our haste to milk technology for immediate economic advantage, we

have turned our environment into a physical and social tinderbox.

The speed-up of diffusion, the self-reinforcing character of technological advance, by

which each forward step facilitates not one but many additional further steps, the intimate

link-up between technology and social arrangements—all these create a form of

psychological pollution, a seemingly unstoppable acceleration of the pace of life.”

Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970


I almost called this weak and powerless.  This is about how experts have to feel weak and powerless in the onslaught of opinions, misinformation and selective use of facts out of context. Experts face an instantly-gratification-desiring fragmented public in which debatable points (usually facts taken out of context) gain velocity while the experts ruminate on the proper response. This is what Toffler called “sped-up diffusion.”

I’d also note that one of the things about the internet is everyone gets a voice. What that means is the non-expert, including the petty minority seeking to diminish an expert so they look ‘taller’, can gain quite a volume and velocity in their non-expert voice. They take molehills <data out of context, oversimplification, fabricated speculation, etc.> and speak of them as mountainous point of views. Psychologists say that this behavior from people who make mountains out of molehills stems from some unrelated insecurity or unhappiness, but I would suggest in a “diffusion world” people will use any opportunity they can to ‘self-reinforce’ their perceived self image/character.

I’d also note one of the things in a ubiquity web world is that while things have always changed, it’s increasingly difficult to compare them against the past. What I mean by that is on the worldwide web the past is always being ‘scrubbed’ and parsed. Incremental, contextual, fragmentary pieces are elevated into mountains … despite truly being molehills. At exactly the same time someone is, sometimes quite convincingly <or connivingly>, attempting to show that a real mountain is simply a molehill. Basically, everything on the internet is inherently fluid and nothing seems immutable.

I say all this to suggest ‘cancel culture’ is a slightly absurd concept – particularly within the context of experts. Everyone has a frickin’ voice and everyone is using it. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of ‘cancel’ in that it’s more a maelstrom of bullshit views going viral in an environment in which there are no constraints. The expert stands no chance. Shit. No one would stand a chance. They get deconstructed into nothingness and, yet, they are somethingness we should all be caring about.
In the good ole days an expert maintained their expert status by defending their expertise. Someone would challenge them, offer objections or criticism, and then the true expert would hunker down and address them all. After a bit we just accepted, having successfully defended their expertise, they were experts and listened.

Today is a bit different. Ok. Today is a lot different. It is a de-massified and de-synchronized world which means an expert needs to defend within an asymmetrical attack zone.  This asymmetry gets tricky because in some contexts what non-experts say can be close enough to the truth to have some usefulness but in most situations, they offer serious distortions of systemic truths and significantly harm normative, and formative, attitudes and behaviors – and truth. They appropriate experts’ terms and flip them back in a false equivalence situation – a big lie (a real one) is countered with “you are saying a big lie!” which, well, isn’t. Its like a grade school argument where “it’s not me, it’s you.” This asymmetrical deconstruction occurs mostly by deconstructing the patterns of expert logic. I specifically note ‘expert logic pattern’ because in an internet-based world all of us are constantly under attack from a variety of signals and they usually arrive in routine, repetitive patterns. Psychologists have noted that “when something changes within the range of our senses, the pattern of signals pouring through our sensory channels into our nervous system is modified.” What that means is we defend against modification that challenges the routine, repetitive patterns and, yet, feel a desire to respond. We are of our environment and yet distinct from it. Simplistically this means any progress is herky-jerky and asymmetrical.


“I do think today’s skepticism toward progress is because the late-19th-century view of progress was somewhat naive. People were oblivious to the real risks and problems of progress.”

Jason Crawford


I say all that because (a) experts tend to thrive in symmetrical arguments and environments and (b) progress demands some adaptive reaction.

Which leads me to overstimulation.

If you buy into everything I have said, then one has to take a fairly close look at the effect the internet/social media/24-hour news has on us. We have to because any expert ‘construction’ takes place within that context. First. The onslaught of internet creates a sped-up diffusions which demands us, humans, to have an adaptive reaction. Second. We may not always actually adapt, but we will have a reaction which makes us feel like we have to consider adapting – that reaction to adapt is nonstop. The truth of this is if you never get a break and pressure is sustained and we are forced to constantly choose between adapt or not adapt <as well as assess what to adapt or not> our pituitary gland spits out some substances. One of these, ACTH, goes to the adrenals. This causes them, in turn, to manufacture certain chemicals termed corticosteroids. When these are released, they speed up body metabolism. They raise blood pressure.


I got to the physiological point to get back to how experts get deconstructed into nothingness. If the environment raises our metabolism and blood pressure all an expert does is, well, amplify both within that ‘sped-up diffusion world‘. Why do I say that? Well. Let me circle back to symmetry and asymmetry. Experts, being experts, thrive on symmetry while non-experts, under stress, survive within asymmetry. What that means is while experts give their symmetrical, logical, best only to be deconstructed into nothingness in the asymmetry of, well, everything.

This is a really bad time for civilization because it is a really bad time for experts. As I have noted in the past, today’s world encourages the guy at the corner of the bar to think he is as smart or has better common sense then the experts. That is not only not true but a dangerous belief.  The internet has created a form of psychological pollution, a seemingly unstoppable acceleration of the pace of life, in which experts are getting run over and squished into nothingness.

Let me end by saying having experts weak & powerless is not good for us. Deconstructing experts into nothingness does nothing good for us – people.


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Written by Bruce