[Fis] The Age of Discord

Pedro C. Marijuan pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es
Fri Nov 22 12:13:43 CET 2019

Dear FIS & IS4SI Colleagues,

"The Age of Discord" was the title of a lecture that the historian and 
sociologist Peter Turchin, founder of the Cliodynamics approach, gave 
recently in the Netherlands. The slides can be easily obtained in the 
web (in his blog). The content was mainly referring to a decades-long 
trend of low progress and rise of inequality, and as a consequence 
growing social unrest. It would form part of a secular oscillation in 
history... But I think there is a new potent factor: the 
hyperconnectivity we talked weeks ago.

These days we are watching violent demonstrations in numerous countries: 
Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Nicaragua, Iran, Irak, Lebanon... plus 
Hongkong, Spain (Barcelona), France (gilets jaunes), and the rising 
polarization from Trumpism and Brexit. There is a contagion effect in 
some cases. But a common factor is the influence of social networks. In 
several aspects:

--How easy is to organize demonstrations and activist concentrations.

--How easy is to disseminate information that efficiently counteracts 
governments' efforts to maintain social order.

--How easyly anger and hatred are shared among the masses, generating a 
collective climate of insults, physical violence, highest irritation.

--How easily outright lies, disinformation, vitriolic attacks are 
jumping from screen to screen to the eyeballs of hypnotized watchers.

--The proportion of "negative" to "positive" (say of emotional 
responses) has become the highest in the history of communication.

My opinion is that the new media and new modalities of hyperconnection, 
still deprived of constraining cultural patterns, are the genuine movers 
of this "Age of Discord", without rejecting the other factors implied in 
Turchin secular views. This time there is something really new agitating 
history and the masses (like printing press, steam engines...). Is there 
hope that collective intelligence will domesticate this artificial 
information flow soon? Of course, without a loss of individual freedoms.

Best wishes


Pedro C. Marijuán
Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group

pcmarijuan.iacs at aragon.es

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