There is a breakthrough in the field of NLP. Despite of its familiarity with the subject the name ELIZA rarely gets mentioned in video essays or in any for of media tasked to explain how to internet we experience today came to be.
Invented as a pattern-matching chatterbox, ELIZA had no sense of the words it regurgitated back to the people in the other side of the monitor, nor it didn’t understood any context. When equipped with its DOCTOR script it would conduct robotic theraphies in form of asking convenient questions to delve deeper. Doing it mainly by reversing the sentence structure and referring to keywords.
Oddly, as people interacted with ELIZA they reported a sense of attachment. Something that most of the gamers and devout anime fans have at least experienced one time. Attachment to some sorts of beings that are unfit to socially reciprocate like a video game character you choose to save from death rather than taking an achievement or a parasocial relationship many people establish with the streamer on twitch or imaginary partner on dating apps thinking that spending funny money on internet based personas may really made them acquainted of sorts? Internet has loads of this especially due to the lockdowns. Although this aspect and underlying factors may have already become the main force of destruction of the best parts of the internet and people needlessly suffer because of it.
Before everything there was the possibility of nuclear mass destruction this made powerful militaries to consider a distributed network of processing power. Booming tech scene introduced terminal and personal computers to universities and big corporations and suddenly the www was rolling.
But the early models offered easy, unrestricted access to simply designed distributed fronts, like university pages etc. If you know basic html css you can easily guess the sites in the old web was complex enough to be described as a canvas painting. You laid out the components in html and painted them in css that was all, superficially. Me? sadly I wasn’t alive to document those times. I was more like a adobe flash era kid although we can always go back to simpler times. Just take a look at my schools' 1998 internet page. Only some years after the internet access started in Turkey.
Current website is not restrictive or malfunctioning of course, this version had a broader focus on accessability (refer to motherfuckingwebsite.com to understand this statement better if you haven’t.) and overall the goal was to present information or anything as is.
You may use a styling here and there but the focus is to piggyback on the distribution power of the web to get a presentation of some information out there. Anybody is welcome to contribute and backlinks are not something to be padded to get to the top of the search results. Rather, without them your site wouldn’t function as intended.
Yet the history of cyberbullying, astroturfing, inceldom, high speed internet pornography addiction, internet hate groups are old as the oldest piece of forum software that is available. Whatever happened? Probably it isn’t about corporate takeover of the internet in early 2000’s or startup culture influx or even Facebook isn’t the culprit they are means to extend the damage that has been already dealt to the very foundations of human interaction with the web.
When we tried to substitute human interaction upon a foundation which designed to distribute content, and in general the extent of possibilities are really narrow when it comes to distribution of substitute human interaction, whole thing did a 180 and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
Whole point of this text is to argue that different platforms or increasing corporate takeover is not the problem but the problem lies in the heart of supposed human interaction in www. Web is only without flaws when we seek out simple and direct information such as searching for some Wikipedia entry or when we make a direct transaction, fully informed.
Supposed problems like monetization, paywalls, ad networks, overengineering, lack of service for smaller and impoverished areas and devices and popups are equally terrible occurrences but they really come down for the businesses and internet economy to sort them out. They are problems with poor integration, delivery, audience and costs. They rarely cut deep in the flesh, most of the time purely a source of annoyance, that is all for now.
Before normies knew to equate internet with social media there was a forum and a board culture (still present) where you confront with bunch of anon people behind arbitrary names discussing about topics that are remotely or directly about your and others reality. Most of the hateful or violet communities that lived in the fringes of the net that has been recently caught up in media attention (ex. alt-right in the US.) had their only chances for survival in forum and board culture. Every community has a set of rules or codes to be welcomed, as an example incel forums and chan boards like /r9k/ welcomes people who have come to terms that they are not socially acceptable, well adjusted people and doomed to a life full of gloom. Hundreds of people populate this kinds of internet forums in the fringes seeking a cure to their soul sickness or a series of bad occasions. Suddenly they are bombarded with half-wit explanations on why this internet cause exist and why they should be the follower. Not only internet forums and chan boards does this, extreme political views, conspiracy theorists etc. follow more or less the same.
So, Facebook can’t be the only reason why internet has gone awry. Everytime someone tries to express a feeling, a frustration, a strive for betterment or a concern on the internet most of the human part of that equation would be lost in translation from analogue to binary, because the platform isn’t built to accommodate a one solution fits all problem. It can’t be a place about swift justice or quick solutions for all humanitarian questions. Those have always and will be dealt with face-to-face.
In the 1987 film Hellraiser, a strange salesman starts a pitch by saying what is your pleasure to the main character Frank who would buy a puzzle in a form similar to a rubiks cube. The thing is cube represents a journey inward to his personality as he delved into the puzzle, demons came and tortured him, soon after he turned out to be so obsessed about the puzzle his personality and social material would move to extremes.
This journey inward represent everything that is wrong with today’s internet at its core. ELIZA didn’t had an idea about the person behind the keyboard so it just regurgitated information back. Regardless, people bought make-believe connection between the algorithm and themselves.
What Facebook and other social media did for a worse internet is they built a super ELIZA concept and put it in through use concealed from the unsuspecting public. Even if ELIZA doesn’t know sh*t about you, the concept shows that if the topic is all about you, people are comfortable with going down the rabbit hole themselves. When a platform runs crawlers all around the web, controls single sign on modules in popular websites, aggregates data from 3rd parties, has ways to monetize its platform with ad revenue this version of modern ELIZA has to know just enough things about all of its users to keep them coming back.
In a digital combination of public and private spaces, if every statement and every bit of knowledge supported the current thoughts and standpoints you had how would this be helpful for a more connected and collaborative society? Business wise, its makes more sense to hook up every platformer with shiny bright notification sounds and bell icons then sell for the audiences' direct attention to marketers.
ELIZA had a way to persuade the conversation in a way that is convenient for the algorithm, modern social media applications do worse by feeding you what is already determined as interesting or worth it and keeping a regular dose of the same copied content until all around you can be described as your and your fellow’s interests. Any point of interest would be signalling your own biases, point of views and tastes.
As I claimed that internet or social media is not the medium for organized thought and anything beyond communicating informative pieces and making informed purchases or searches is ineffective at best. Meme culture, with its special side of self-hatred comedy contributes to the ineffective and destructive cycle of how we process information about the world and other people in it.
Among other Wojak memes are only one of them, they are oversimplified mirrors of everyday people hand-drawn while looking at their sharp edges, nothing else is considered. Yet that how most of my generation derives most of their public knowledge. Wojaks doesn’t paint the whole picture nor make it interesting only thing that arises from overly generalized views of society and memes is discontent and disconnection.
Algorithmic realities in social media and meme culture takes millions of people in to drive them further with their own biases and interests under the pretense of them interacting with the content they really desired and cared about, or the descriptions of wojak memes really represented people in the streets every day not that we are finding funny ways to box them in consistently.
Predatory data collection worries a lot of people, not just about what big corporations might do with your personal data today, but most people worry their data might help build a all wise and knowing skynet of sorts. What if half of the people focused on the right direction? Direction that throws constant gloom, self-depreciation, hatred, segregation, doubts and performance concerns. When algorithms and super ELIZA clones can tweak your views about society and life in general, really do they need any more data to achieve skynet?