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A Seneca Cliff for the Web as we know it?

A Seneca Cliff for the Web as we know it? thumbnail


We can’t ignore the evidence any longer. The “Web”, intended as a constellation of independent information providers is dying. It is going through a Seneca Cliff of its own, being replaced by a “Trinet”, controlled by the three giant companies, Google, Amazon, and Facebook.

I have been noticing it with the stats for “Cassandra’s Legacy”. You can see how the decline in the number of contacts has been steady over the past year. Here are the stats:

We don’t yet see a Seneca Cliff, that is a rapid drop in the audience (don’t look at the drop at the end of the graph; it is just because the data are for the current month). I think it is mainly because I have been trying to contrast the decline by publishing more posts, but that has not been sufficient to change the trend. Here are the data for another blog of mine, “Chimeras

In this case, the blog used to be visited by students looking for text to cut and paste for their term papers on mythology. They are not coming anymore; evidently, they found other sources of information. Or maybe the search engines don’t lead them to my blog anymore. Hard to say, but it is a fact.

So, what’s happening? As always, things change and, in our times, tend to change fast. Many of us can remember the “age of mass media,” now obsolete as steam engines and mechanical calculators. It looks incredible that there existed a time when everyone was exposed to the same information, provided under strict control by the government. In the Soviet Union, it was under control of the Communist Party. The West was theoretically more open but, in practice, you had access only to information that was controlled by one or the other of the two parties sharing power.

Now, in an age of privatization, every one of us has picked up the job that once was in the hands of the dominant party (or parties). We have become our own censorship agents and we have been busily building up walls to keep away from us information that goes against our individual party line. It is the concept of “information bubble,” or “echo-chamber,” or “walled garden.”

The difference is that, while once the different echo-chambers were aligned along national borders, now they are fragmented in a pattern embedded within the various language islands of the Web, of which the English one is probably still the largest, at present. Add to this fragmentation the fact that people’s brains are different and the result is the phenomenon called “opinion polarization”. People across the street where you live will behave in ways that are completely incomprehensible to you if they happen to be part of a different information bubble. And chances are that you’ll see each other not only incomprehensible but truly evil.

Nowhere this phenomenon is more evident than with the actions of the Trump administration. If you are a reader of this blog, you are likely to think that actions such as supporting coal burning and removing the environmental protection legislation are not only incomprehensible but evil. But they are perfectly understandable if you think that they are taken by people who live in an information bubble where it is an accepted fact that climate change is a hoax concocted by the left in order to impose a world dictatorship and enslave the American people.

It doesn’t matter how powerful you are, even if you are the president of the United States, you are still sensitive to the echo-chamber effect. Again, the situation is not much different than it was when dictators tended to believe their own propaganda.

So, where are we going? I think we can say that the Web is like an ecosystem and that it is being colonized by informational lifeforms which compete and evolve in order to occupy as much virtual space as possible. What we are seeing nowadays is just a phase of a continuing evolution: changes are ongoing, and everything will change in the near future in ways that are difficult for us to understand.

The main problem, here, is not so much the evolution of the virtual ecosystem of the Web but the fact that we – as human beings – live in a real ecosystem and that this real ecosystem is being disrupted by what we are doing to it. The virtual and the real ecosystem interact in the sense that our view of the real ecosystem is filtered by the virtual ecosystem to which we have access. But while there are many possible virtual ecosystems, there is only one real ecosystem. And if we destroy it, as we are doing, the virtual echo-chambers won’t keep us alive.

But, after all, the real ecosystem is the result of the virtual ecosystem stored in the DNA of the creatures populating it. If the model stored in the DNA turns out to be bad for the survival of the phenotype it creates, then that DNA is ruthlessly eliminated from the genetic pool of the planetary biota. The same will be the destiny of the bad echo-chambers of the Web. And so it has been and it will be. It is the way the universe works.

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi

37 Comments on "A Seneca Cliff for the Web as we know it?"

  1. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 7:34 am 

    Probably ironical intended piece that shows that the interest in peak oil-related themes, as promoted by Bardi’s blog, is waning.

    In reality the internet is replacing the globalist MSM”:

    Dutch parliament yesterday… while Geert Wilders in his speech was fulminating against the Islamization of the Netherlands, ALL government members are staring at their smart phones:

    And probably not at Bardi’s blog but perhaps at LuckyTV, making fun of our king receiving Obama and Xi Jinping:

  2. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 7:43 am 

    The end of the internet is near:

  3. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 7:54 am 

    Dumb n dutch is oblivious to the systematic dangers of overshoot and complexity overextension leaving us dangerously close to thresholds of failure. IMA, not only the very important internet by most every system and network. Dumb n dutch fiddles as the dikes overtop.

  4. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:20 am 

    complexity overextension

    Only for those countries who can’t maintain the complexity as created by first world countries, necessary to be a first world country in the first place.

    The US comes to mind.

  5. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:32 am 

    Dumb n Dutch, sorry there is more to it and you look for the more insignificant reasons. 10% of a population is vital with the rest being sheeple. Your Euroland that you brag about is financial overextended in debt. Despite all your crowing about renewables, Euroland is absolutely reliant on fossil fuels. You are just showing more of why I call you dumb.

  6. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:53 am 

    Trailer-Park intellectual Davy tries to explain everything in terms of finance, the most important category in American life…

    … and only category he is familiar with, but in reality is a secondary category in explaining history, civilization and geopolitics.

    The point is that after a financial collapse , people and organizations have to come to terms with the fact that they are not as wealthy as they thought they were and rather than spending the last two decades of their lives lying on a stretcher next to the pool, they have to work again for a living, which is good for the economy.

    After the systemic collapse of the USSR in 1991, people kept going to their workplace, even if they weren’t paid for months, because that was the only meaningful way for these folks to live. At some point, after very difficult years, the economy began to pick up again and 15 years later Russians were doing fine and now pretty well.

  7. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:54 am 

    You are just showing more of why I call you dumb.

    People start to resort to name-calling if they run out of arguments. You are nothing but a desperate wounded animal.

  8. Anonymous on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 9:21 am 

    The effect that Bardi is describing does happen (self segregation). But covering his own blog’s traffic (very small doomer blog) does nothing to prove or explain the phenomenon.

  9. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 9:30 am 

    Dumb n Dutch gives his usual bias opinion of risks common to everyone who is attached at the hip to the global system. Oh and he adds a movie
    For your viewing pleasure. Dumb n Dutch I don’t watch your stupid movies. Your use of YouTube is childish. When are you going to grow up?

  10. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 9:32 am 

    Looks like the name calling and spot on personality inventory of dumb n Dutch is working. He is squirming. Cha- Ching!

  11. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 10:53 am 

    Mr. Bardi describes an observation and provides an explanation that extends the Seneca Cliff theory to communications systems. Reasonable questions: is this a valid observation?; is the explanation for the observation rational?; is the extension of Seneca Cliff theory a valid basis for this explanation?
    Ultimately ideas, values and beliefs form the basis for choice. If the dynamics of our communication systems change in a way that changes how ideas/beliefs/values are disseminated or alternatively are intensified by existing in an insular environment, then this is important and worthy of discussion.
    Can we give Mr. Bardi’s idea the consideration that it probably deserves rather than exchanging insults and applying derogatory monikers to each other?

  12. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:01 am 

    It is pretty clear that the current dynamics of our communication systems are a long ways from resilience to shocks and long term sustainable per economic conditions, energy requirements, and resource needs. We are captivated by our own traps.

  13. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:32 am 

    The decrease in total energy and resource available per capita coupled with a large increase in energy and resource required to maintain infrastructure and repair or replace infrastructure that is affected by climate change does leave industrial civilization with only one overall trajectory: down. I do not dispute this. However, a study commissioned by Shell a few years ago determined that by 2075 the overall state of humanity would be about the same regardless of choices made in the near term (they must of excluded nuclear war) – but the path by which we get there could vary significantly. It is vitally important to humanity that we make good choices now – all collapses are not equal. Neither you nor I will have any significant effect, but the dissemination of the concept of good choices for the future can result in a group of people whose aggregate choices are significant. Trying to get people to reduce consumption in the present to increase the possible welfare of future generations is mostly a thankless task – but it is probably better than religion.

  14. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:45 am 

    Come on Mitch studies out to 2075 are a joke. That shit is mental masterbation I don’t care who fields such studies. They are stupid human exceptionalism at work.

  15. Cloggie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:49 am 

    The decrease in total energy and resource available per capita coupled with a large increase in energy and resource required to maintain infrastructure and repair or replace infrastructure that is affected by climate change does leave industrial civilization with only one overall trajectory: down. I do not dispute this.

    I dispute it. With rapidly developing renewable technology we acquire access to a tremendous new energy resource that puts everything in the shadow, pun intended:*e0iW9Kzc4q1xQm8vA7Kz3g.png

    The four circles on the right represent all cumulative fossil resources consumed to date.

    The size of the big sun represents all solar energy over a single year.

    This boils down to an area like Spain covered with solar panels would be sufficient to replace ALL fossil energy, ignoring the storage aspect, the only remaining bottle neck to be solved, although many storage technology candidates already exist and are being developed all over the planet as we speak.

    The demand will be met by European specialty offshore wind and Asian specialty solar panels.

  16. shortonoil on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:57 am 

    Bardi is correct; the web has hit its point of diminishing returns. We have noticed it for more than a year. The internet is an advertising venue, and for a lack of self discipline they have made the internet experience uncomfortable for a lot of their readership. Google horse radish, and you will get pop ups for everythng from horse shoes to buggy whips for the next six months. Many major advertisers have already significantly reduced their internet budgets in lieu of other advertising appoaches. It has also become a place where a vast amount of incorrect information is intentionally discriminated. Like the media it has become a place where you never know if what is being published was intentionally skewed, or not. Also like the media, it is has become very much a launch point for somebody’s agenda. For many including the site owners, and readership it is no longer bringing an equable return on their investment in time or money. It has been frantically attempting to reduce itself to the least common denominator, and its appears that it is accomplishing its goal!

  17. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 12:30 pm 

    Renewables are unproven and have yet to show they can support a complex civilization on their own. Anyone disputing this is a hair brain. In a perfect world 1kw = 1kw and that is where it ends. KW’s become highly relative once they are plugged into reality.

  18. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 12:46 pm 

    Cloggie, no disrespect intended, but I suspect that your views may have been unduly influenced by the people who are selling renewable energy technologies. Despite the frequent claims of rapid development there is actually very little that is really new in this area. I taught physics and chemistry last year and reading that I did about research into battery technology brought home the huge gulf between a concept that can be made to work in the laboratory, and something that will work on a scale that would make a significant impact upon our large scale future energy deficit.
    Davy, you are certainly correct that the accuracy of projections made for 2075 are limited by the uncertainties in the assumptions that have to be made. If I remember correctly Shell’s group created a computer model (similar to the approach of W3) and the most interesting thing was the similarity in resource per capita in 2075 regardless of initial conditions (path followed).
    Short, I think you identified some of the symptoms of the change that Bardi was talking about. These changes certainly adversely effect the success of people who are trying to promote a new narrative – or one that many people are skeptical of (eg: climate change). If the net is overpopulated with salespeople and people trying to influence others for questionable political or ideological goals, then people stop reading – get the laugh from the headline and move on.
    What about the narrowing of perspective due to the dominance of a relatively few, ideologically similar media companies? I think this deserves some consideration.

  19. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 1:16 pm 

    Cloggie, you are entirely correct about the tremendous quantity of energy from insolation. However, the difference in energy intensity between this insolation and the background energy (all systems, including PV panels have a background energy level) is rather small. The machines that our industrial civilization run on require high intensity energy. You can get high intensity energy from a low intensity source – but you have to use a lot of your initial energy for concentration. The efficiency of a solar water heater to give you a hot shower can be very high, but the efficiency of a high voltage distribution system supplied by PV is rather low – and if you have to use storage systems to maintain constant voltage it gets significantly lower.
    It is very important that we develop renewable energy systems – in the future most of our energy will have to come from renewables. However, they will never be able to provide the quantity of high intensity energy that we currently get from a very high intensity source – fossil fuels.

  20. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 1:27 pm 

    Mitch stick around our resident renewable energy priestess needs an education

  21. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 2:19 pm 

    Hey, I need an education too. That’s why this blog is in my bookmarks file – all sorts of interesting stuff turns up here.

  22. Davy on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 2:23 pm 

    Lol, Mitch you will get an education in nasty attitudes here. Before long you will be a seasoned asshole like many of us here. We do have some informative threads from time to time. The problem is the extremist peddling their emotional agendas that have little to do with reality.

  23. dave thompson on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 3:48 pm 

    Great back and forth guys. Mitch you sound very informed and well read in the reality of the predicament we face.
    I am of the mind that we humans have so degraded the biosphere and the food chain that we are headed for, and in the midst of a major disruption the like of which, I am selfishly going to say being in my early 60’s, the younger than 50 crowd will hate us for. Most likely already do.
    We are about 9 missed meals away from annihilation.

  24. makati1 on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 6:43 pm 

    The internet is not ‘forever’. It is dying. Currently by censorship. It is becoming more obvious everyday to those who see and read. Soon each major country will have its separate internet, walled off from the rest, and then they will all disappear.

    Why? Because it take millions of people and a lot of energy and money to keep it up and running. Both will be in short supply when the SHTF and the whole financial system fails. Or a natural EMP that takes out all of it in am eye blink. We have only missed the sun doing that by a few hours in recent times.

    When? Today. Tomorrow. A few years? Who knows? But it is as inevitable as the sun setting tonight. And, like vacuum tubes, it will NOT come back.

  25. dave thompson on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 7:01 pm 


  26. makati1 on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 7:06 pm 

    Hahahaha. Thanks for the chuckle, dave. I used to change tubes in our first TV when I was a teen. Then came transistors and then chips. Then? Maybe nothing. We shall see.

  27. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:01 pm 

    I agree that the internet as we know it now is not going to last – we will not be able to maintain the infrastructure necessary to support a global high speed network. However, the internet by its nature is a structure that scales easily. Local networks connected with low speed directional (so low power) radio links can be maintained with WIFI technology and off the shelf components. Long distance connections might have to priced based on the cost of maintaining inter-hub connections. So slower, much more local – and no streaming video from your favorite asian porn site.

  28. Mitch on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:14 pm 

    I don’t think there is much hope for Mark Zuckerburg’s Aquila. Lovely piece of design and I can’t help but love it because I love airplanes – but it is just to fragile to be part of a reliable network in the real world.

  29. makati1 on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 8:34 pm 

    Mitch, I don’t see even local internet surviving. It is NOT a necessity and necessities will have priority for most after the SHTF. Even phones will go the way of the Dodo which will leave a lot of young people without any friends or even the ability to deal with the real world face to face. Interesting times.

  30. LetStupidPeopleDie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:49 pm 

    The Internet is dying because people are fed up with wasting their time putting a comment only to see it is pending to approval by the web site owner. There is too much censure ship on the Internet, not only from the man player but also from the small blog, I soon as I see comment pending to approval, I just move away and never come back to the web site.

    This is a good thing, maybe people could entertain themselves differently,

    I lost respect for UGO as soon as I saw he believe in global warming, THe latest analyses of the sun cycle are pointing toward global cooling.

    Writing is not a natural way to communicate with people and I think people are realizing that.

  31. LetStupidPeopleDie on Thu, 2nd Nov 2017 11:50 pm 

    The Internet is dying because people are fed up with wasting their time putting a comment only to see it is pending to approval by the web site owner.
    There is too much censure ship on the Internet, not only from the man player but
    also from the small blog, I soon as I see comment pending to approval, I just move away and never come back to the web site.

    This is a good thing, maybe people could entertain themselves differently,

    I lost respect for UGO as soon as I saw he believe in global warming, THe latest analyses of the sun cycle are pointing toward global cooling.

    Writing is not a natural way to communicate with people and I think people are realizing that.

  32. makati1 on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 12:01 am 

    Let, does your name mean you are volunteering? Your comment about global warming definitely puts you in the stupid line. Maybe this site will censor your comment? lol

  33. letstupidpeopledie on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 12:05 am 

    Are you talking about this kind of global warming:

    Snowfall warning issued for Fraser Valley as Chilliwack sees earliest snowfall in 29 years

  34. joe on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 8:36 am 

    The Web needs to police itself because if it does not then it won’t become popular and people won’t use it. Before twitter bans and online stalking laws people more or less kept their Web presence to a required minimum. The reason is obviously pointed out is the online sales and marketing that goes on now makes it very hard to use. People don’t create their walled gardens, artificial bots send us these environments after only a few clicks, so a guy interested in guns and right wing politics will invariably be blasted with stories and ads about guns, right wing politics and politcal donations. Laws could easily be passed for example, to make sure that every islamist page is associated to Christian or alternative ads and vice versa so a peace loving atheist is afforded the oppertunity to be a violent jihadist.

  35. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 3:07 pm 

    Hey stupid, the next ice age isn’t due for 100,000 years and though the last 3 years have set the record for hottest year ever there is still Colt temps in the world. With the mangled Jet Stream and an 8% increase in humidity levels you will get anomalistic snowfalls events. Weather and climate are seperate entities yet still related, unlike the relationship between reality and your cognitive abilities.

  36. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 3:25 pm 

    Mitch, no Asian poor?


  37. Sissyfuss on Fri, 3rd Nov 2017 3:27 pm 

    My porn comment cleaned up by spellcheck.


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