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I think modern transportation and communication have contributed to our increasingly divided society... by extending our interactions over larger areas, those tools allow us to naively fall into our own physical "filter bubbles".

Modern transportation contributed towards physical obesity. Technology became so efficient and so cheap that we became isolated from physical reality... we have to work out in order to stay physically fit.

I propose that modern communication has had a similar impact. We've been binging on the conflict-free interactions we enjoy, but we haven't been eating our veggies or working out. This is a mental "obesity epidemic".

We drive between similarly minded social gatherings. We keep contact with similarly minded people by calling them. We're in constant communication with our social groups with little time for disruptive ideas to slip in... each of us is deeply connected to our pocket of the world, but many of us are equally disconnected from the rest of the world.




I blame Starbucks.

Say what you want about holiday themed drinks, but the coffee shop, bar, and church are essentially the only mass, small-town American discussion forums. And I'd say only the first tended to really breed in-depth conversations between unlikeminded neighbors.

Coffee chains could give two shits about inspiring conversation. In fact, it's downright bad for business (at best more seating requirement, at worst danger of disagreement). So it's optimized away.


While I'm not disagreeing, the historical record suggests that there's nothing new about an increasingly divided society. Or vociferous exchanges of view for that matter. We are not, and have never been, a tame species.


True, as a species we all but glorify conflicts... but I think democracy does require some degree of social cohesion. I see a lot of danger if our continent-spanning superpower starts to crumble due to internal divisions, especially considering we don't have a clear path to secession.


I wouldn't bet on the US's longevity. Read Peter Turchin, War and Peace and War (discussed here a week or two ago), particularly noting his part about how multiple imperial peoples can't coexist in a single country...

The Fourth Turning -- on the patterns that generations tend to fall into -- might also be interesting.


Thanks for the recommendation, I previewed Turchin's book and it's fascinating... I ordered a physical copy right away.


I agree with these statements. Debate has become an offensive action many will go to great lengths to avoid.


Alas, "debate" on the Internet is anything but. I am happy to debate, even to see my ideas proven wrong by a person who is informed and debates with good intentions.

Instead, most of it is ill-informed, without willingness to learn, and for the last 12 months or so with a good helping of death threats, at least in my interactions.

And so, yes, we start avoiding disagreement, because the pain inflicted upon us is so intense. For better or worse, the Internet is failing miserably at fostering healthy debate. We have inadvertently created the tools that allow bullies to silence on a global level.

Or maybe it's just a regression to the mean - we've been physically disconnected from the rest of the world for most of history.


I don't avoid "debate" because I fear disagreement or attacks. I avoid "debate" because so often when I enter one, the person engaging with me immediately employs ad hominem attacks or strawmen or appeals to emotions or any number of other unconstructive argumentation techniques. I am tired of engaging people who cannot argue using logic or rationality. I avoid it because it will be tedius and draining and there is no hope against someone not using logic. (Obviously this whole statement is merely an anecdote, and I'm not trying to explain trends.)


I know what you mean. Talking to people about things like, say, government surveillance. I have strong opinions on that. Nothing that this crowd wouldn't agree on mostly, but I'm the only IT guy in my life and generally encounter infuriatingly simple minded positions with this topic. Nothing to hide, nothing wrong with ogling your data.

I tried to explain. Edward Snowden said to ask people to give you their phones unlocked for half an hour. I extend the metaphors, I give concrete examples, but emotional bias trumps anything I bring up. I get angry, nobody wins anything.


People aren't good at rationality and logic. They are too abstract, so they wield abstract (read: stereotyping) tools to combat it. To successfully debate people, focus on actions and consequences that are relevant to their life, and back it up with an understanding of what their life is and evidence that these considered actions lead to undesirable consequences for them and/or others.

Debating in the abstract is something you need passion or training for. Our brains aren't built for it. Logic isn't what you need to wage debate, evidence is.


> Logic isn't what you need to wage debate, evidence is.

Depends on your goal and your audience. When talking to people who aren't particularly interested in the logic of a given argument, evidence won't help you.

>To successfully debate people, focus on actions and consequences that are relevant to their life, and back it up with an understanding of what their life is

However, you nailed it with this!


I think debate is offensive/avoided these days because we have potential access to 'all' the information we could possibly need and therefore feel inadequate in a discussion where we can't look up things on the fly. Back in the good 'ol days you could debate without being interrupted to look up 'facts'


Technology just amplifies human nature. The open-minded minority use technology to broaden their horizons in an unprecedented way.

My guess is that open-mindedness must be cultivated from a young age by exposing kids to a wide-variety of cultures/ideas.


Environment is continuously changing. There are infinite agents in the nature causing that change. Human being is one of them, technology developed by human is another. At the end fittest (not to confuse with physical fitness) survives.


It felt very ironic up-voting you.




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