WeeklyTech #152

3 words that will shape digital culture for good and cultivate virtue in the public square

It happens like clockwork. Often within a few moments of breaking news or some other major event happening in our culture, we see one of the most damaging effects of social media and digital culture. Our feeds are immediately filled with “expert” opinions, half-baked ideas, and reactionary takes that routinely fail to account for the reality of the situation and resort to partisan or cultural talking points. In these moments, it seems that everyone we know has a take on what is happening. It’s tempting to join in as we seek to align ourselves with the “right” tribe or group online.

The internet was originally promised to be a major turning point in the pursuit of truth and free expression. We were told that the democratization of information would usher in a new era of freedom and emphasis on truth. The idea is that the truth would naturally rise above the fray given the freedom of information and a common pursuit of truth. But along with this pursuit came an onslaught of fake news, misinformation, and opinions based on feeling and emotion.

In reality, much of the ”news” we hear about today or “expert” commentary is nothing more than content designed to whet our appetites for immediacy, inflame our alliances to group identities, or stir up controversy to influence our behaviors. Social media in some sense breeds behavior in which we project ourselves as omnicompetent. We are constantly being pushed to post about “what’s happening?” on Twitter or to post “what’s on our mind?” on Facebook. We are encouraged and incentivized to post our random musings, unformed thoughts, and reactionary takes for the world to see.

So, how are we to break this vicious cycle of self-promotion and recenter our lives on pursuing wisdom in a digital age? The answer might sound trite and overly simplistic, but I am convinced that three little words can help change a culture: I don’t know.

The Rundown

An Education for Thinkers and Doers – Leonidas Zelmanovitz | Law & Liberty

Since at least the Enlightenment, Western civilization has improved the world in ways that previous generations could not even have dreamed. Advances in both the natural and social sciences have led to unimaginable material and intellectual progress for humankind that have crescendoed right up to the present time.

Texas’ social media law lives. Here are Big Tech’s options. – Issie Lapowsky | Protocol

The tech industry’s worst nightmare came true Friday when the 5th Circuit upheld a law in Texas that prohibits platforms from moderating content on the basis of “viewpoint.” The on-again, off-again law had been blocked from taking effect twice before — first by a district court and more recently by the Supreme Court.

Rights and Liberty in the Western Legal Tradition – Mark David Hall | Public Discourse

Far too many accounts of Western intellectual history claim that natural rights were largely unknown until brilliant Enlightenment thinkers discovered them. Christians, it is commonly asserted, opposed these rights, especially the freedom of conscience.

This artist is dominating AI-generated art. And he’s not happy about it. – Melissa Heikkilä | MIT Technology Review

Rutkowski is a Polish digital artist who uses classical painting styles to create dreamy fantasy landscapes. He has made illustrations for games such as Sony’s Horizon Forbidden West, Ubisoft’s Anno, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering. And he’s become a sudden hit in the new world of text-to-image AI generation.

Pentagon opens sweeping review of clandestine psychological operations – Ellen Nakashima | Washington Post

The Pentagon has ordered a sweeping audit of how it conducts clandestine information warfare after major social media companies identified and took offline fake accounts suspected of being run by the U.S. military in violation of the platforms’ rules.

Talking to whales: can AI bridge the chasm between our consciousness and other animals? – Patrick Barkham | The Guardian

Today, big data and machine learning could probe an impenetrable frontier – the chasm between our consciousness and those of other animals. Can we communicate with whales? If so, what will we say? And what will they say back?

The staying power of quiet quitting by Erica Pandey | Axios

The work philosophy of quiet quitting — a rebellion against the “rise and grind” ethos — is spreading quickly and widely among young workers. And this has the potential to change how we all work.

Reviled by the world by Nathan Finn | WORLD

Christian universities face ongoing cultural pressure to abandon orthodoxy in matters related to gender, sexuality, and marriage. A growing number of historically Christian schools have softened or even rejected traditional views, convinced that accommodation is the surest path to institutional survival. Schools that continue to affirm biblical sexual ethics frequently endure the ire of progressive critics, sometimes from within their institutions and almost always from the wider culture.