Niall Ferguson on digital disruption on the public sphere

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23 Responses to Niall Ferguson on digital disruption on the public sphere

  1. RobK

    Thanks Sinc. Best analogy I’ve seen on the subject.

  2. RobK

    One could argue that the printing press allowed the industrial revolution to happen.

  3. Rusty of Qld

    Imagine what Joseph Goebbels could have achieved if his Ministry of Propaganda have had the advantages of control and mass communication through the personal I-Phones and computers of today. Those big lies would be the gospel truth in no time at all.

  4. Confused Old Misfit

    Niall Ferguson, Victor Davis Hanson, Jordan Peterson.
    Three very powerful minds.

  5. Texas Jack

    And we’re witness to otherwise smart people spruiking complete crap and getting away with it. Repeatedly. Like those who purport to believe photovoltaic and wind-generated power have a remotely sensible net energy gain. They’re never seriously challenged because people who aren’t willing to drink the renewables cool-aid are these days metaphorically burned at the stake.

    Anybody know anyone who’s made millions from wind farms? You’ll notice they’re rarely into actually saving the planet, but they can get away with Hewsonesque chutzpah because they know they can. Anyone who challenges their profiteering is a modern witch.

  6. DaveR

    Rusty of Qld: what do you think Greenpeace are doing right now?

  7. RobK

    I guess another analogy maybe the invention of counting, then the abacus and writing to facilitate long distance trade more efficiently. The salient point made in the video is the speed of uptake and impact. All that in a far greater population with unprecedented resources. There seem to be forces for global empowerment but also forces to enable more distributed autonomy without sacrificing effeciency or richness of data. It will be interesting to see how the balance is reached.

  8. Rusty of Qld

    DaveR : My subtle point entirely, but not only Greenpeace, their ABC, Mass Media, Education system etc,etc.
    A couple of generations so far, brainwashed beyond anything Goebbels achieved.

  9. JohnA

    RobK, the next big communications revolution came with steam and the humble chronometer which, between them, enabled vastly more reliable navigation around the world.

    Nowadays we have no idea how staggeringly amazing were the sailing trips made by Drake, Magellan and Cook.

  10. bollux

    War, or at least civil war, is inevitable. The single most important thing that Niall Ferguson is alluding to, is that because of the internet we realise how different some of us are from each other, and how much we hate each other. Just needs someone to marshall the forces. Multiculturism will be the gunpowder, immigration the gun and democracy the White Flag.

  11. DaveR

    bollux,
    what makes war inevitable, or at least war in Europe, is that the political bodies using these methods today, such as the UN and the NGOs like Greenpeace, require that nations give up their sovereignty as part of the process.

    When you combine that with the requirement of loss of border control (UN Global Compact on Migration) then you have the beginnings of deep trouble.

  12. Bruce

    @ bollux: I’ll take liberty over “democracy” any day.

    Related: There is an interesting book called: “The Spike”, by Damien Broderick (ISBN: 9780312877828).

    Basically about the rapidly increasing rate at which technology is changing the world.

    From the blurb:

    “The rate at which technology is changing our world–not just on a global level like space travel and instant worldwide communications but on the level of what we choose to wear, where we live, and what we eat–is staggeringly fast and getting faster all the time. The rate of change has become so fast that a concept that started off sounding like science fiction has become a widely expected outcome in the near future–a singularity referred to as the Spike. At that point of singularity, the cumulative changes on all fronts will affect the existence of humanity as a species and cause a leap of evolution into a new state of being.

    On the other side of that divide, intelligence will be freed from the constraints of the flesh; machines will achieve a level of intelligence in excess of our own and boundless in its ultimate potential; engineering will take place at the level of molecular reconstruction, which will allow everything from food to building materials to be assembled as needed from microscopic components rather than grown or manufactured; we’ll all become effectively immortal by either digitizing and uploading our minds into organic machines or by transforming our bodies into illness-free, undecaying exemplars of permanent health and vitality.

    The results of all these changes will be unimaginable social dislocation, a complete restructuring of human society, and a great leap forward into a dazzlingly transcendent future that even science fiction writers have been too timid to imagine.”

    Interestingly enough, Broderick is an Australian PhD, last seen living in Melbourne.

  13. Tim Neilson

    The rate at which technology is changing our world–not just on a global level like space travel and instant worldwide communications but on the level of what we choose to wear, where we live, and what we eat–is staggeringly fast and getting faster all the time.

    Really?

    Think of the six greatest changes in the 19th century. People’s lists may be different but it’s easy to put together a significant one e.g.:
    antiseptics
    telephone and telegraph
    photography [and motion pictures? or is that 20th?]
    steel ships (don’t underestimate the importance)
    refrigeration
    electric light

    Or for the 20th
    powered flight (maybe space travel is part of this)
    computers, internet etc.
    antibiotics
    nuclear energy
    radio and television
    plastics

    I haven’t even included the internal combustion engine because I’m not sure whether it was 19th or 20th.

    We’re now well over a sixth of the way through the 21st century and what’s the world changing invention that’s happened since 2000? Sure, we’ve made incremental improvements in a lot of areas, but what’s really changed?
    OK we’ve invented the selfie stick which has certainly changed the way the human species behaves – and I suppose that could make Broderick’s case in a way.

    But really I’d say that the 19th century was actually the era of the biggest changes in human existence since agriculture was invented, with the 20th century running it close, and we’re clearly tailing off in major innovations.

  14. Bollux/Dave R;

    bollux,
    what makes war inevitable, or at least war in Europe, is that the political bodies using these methods today, such as the UN and the NGOs like Greenpeace, require that nations give up their sovereignty as part of the process.

    Yep – the Yellow Shirt Peasant Revolt and another thirty years war.
    IIRC, it was Asimov who thought that the handheld calculator was going to revolutionise peoples thinking. When people were able to press a few buttons, they would be quickly able to get better deals for insurance, home loans, grocery specials, money exchange rates.
    What has happened is that people have generally become more financially stupid.

  15. Muddy

    bollux
    #2896907, posted on January 2, 2019 at 10:45 am

    War, or at least civil war, is inevitable.

    The Left (to use a phrase that is well overdue for euthanasia) will not initiate an armed civil conflict because it knows that it will lose, both in terms of propaganda, and in a real sense. The Right (see previous comment) will not initiate the same because of a cognitive inability to acknowledge it is being threatened (an amygdalic freeze).
    No, the L will continue using much the same strategies and tactics as they have thus far, because they have been working, and opposition has been negligible.

    We who are meekly baring our bellies and throats will continue to grin inanely and hope our bones are not chipping the enemy’s blades too much.
    Apathy emasculates. Cowardice bleeds.

  16. manalive

    While the spread of printed material and the concomitant literacy in Europe was responsible for an enormous increase in human capital the digital revolution is having the opposite effect (IMO).

  17. Roger W

    Ferguson makes some interesting comments about blockchain towards the end of the question session, not all being too optimistic, especially with regard to it being able to maintain full independence.
    Any thoughts from Sinc?

  18. JohnJJJ

    If you want to see this played out at speed go to India. Cities and massive wealth created through the internet juxtaposed with oxen and traditional farms and villages.

  19. Bruce

    Rusty: re propaganda.

    One ot the “secret weapons” was the good-old tape recorder. The Germans had perfected the adhesion of iron oxide onto a plastic backing and the machinery to record ans play back in STEREO before WW2.

    The allies were still fooling around with acetate discs or crappy wire recorders throughout the war.

    Thus Hitler and his jolly band could record in “Hi-Fi”; no pops and clicks, or “tinny” sound, and unlike disk or wire, it could be edited for timing and the removal of “errors” before broadcast over a noisy Short Wave transmitter. Hitler’s rants could be fine-tuned and squirted up a mast in Berlin whilst the old maniac was canoodling with Eva Braun at Berchtesgaden.

    There days, ANY audio can be “reimagined” in many ways. Once a “record of interview” leaves the hand of the “operator’ in an official interview, all bets are off. I’ve learned a LOT of interesting things during forty years in pro audio.

  20. Having just watched the shameless character assassinations & distortion of events in “Vice” – the Hollywood hatchet job on Dick Cheney – I can fully understand what Ferguson is arguing!

  21. Steve

    I agree, but he missed the impact of railways being constructed around the world. That too was a major economic force for change, in addition to the printing press & the internet. You only have to watch the BBC Great Railway Journey series presented by Michael Portillo to understand this fact.

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