Navigate to “The Modern World Has Finally Become Too Complex for Any of Us to Understand.” You may want to read the listing of examples about how complex life has become. Note this sentence which refers to how humanoids accept computer outputs without much thinking:

What was fascinating — and slightly unnerving — was how these instructions were accepted and complied with without question, by skilled professionals, without any explanation of the decision processes that were behind them.

Let’s assume the write up is semi-accurate. The example may provide some insight about the influence, possibly power, online systems have which shape information. In my experience, most people accept the “computer” as being correct. Years ago in a lab testing nuclear materials, I noticed that two technicians were arguing about the output from a mass spec machine. I was with my friend (Dr. James Terwilliger). We watched the two technicians for a moment and noted that when human experience conflicts with a machine output, the discussion becomes frustrating for the humans. The resolution to the problem was to test the sample in another mass spec machine. Was this a fix? Nope.

The behavior demonstrated how humans flounder to deal with machine outputs. These are either accepted or result in behavior that will not answer the question: “Okay, which output is accurate?”

The incident illustrates that humans may not like to take guidance from another human, but guidance from a “computer” is just fine. And when the output conflicts with experience, humans appear to manifest some odd ball behavior.

Here’ are two questions:

How does a user / consumer of online information know if the output is in context, accurate, verifiable?

If the output is not, then what does the human do? More research? Experimentation? Ask a street person? Guess? Repeat the process (like the confused lab techs)?

This is not complexity; this is why those who own certain widely used systems control human thought processes and behaviors. Is this how society works? Are one percenters exempt from the phenomenon? Is this smart software or malleable human behavior?

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2020