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Read the change… Part 4: The Doom Loop

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

This is not a video game reference. It is instead trying to pull together the ideas in this short series into what I call the doom loop.

Echo Chambers are bad

Let’s walk through a scenario.

You, (general you and 1,000 of your friends…) read an article or watch a video. It is about how material XYZ in your house, which is in all your Tupperware, drinking cups, and even your couch can cause cancer and kill you. But only if used daily or you are exposed to it on a daily basis, so don’t worry. You panic, and you read three websites and watch two more videos about material XYZ. You then decide the only conscionable thing to do in a world where you have a child in the house is to replace them all. You hop over to Amazon and grab the cheapest glassware that you can find. Then you get a new eco friendly guaranteed couch.

Let’s say 15 other people in the 1,000 are also in that camp and make major life changes. The algorithm will pick up on your collective behavior. It knows what you purchased, it knows what you browsed and it does in general understand the connection. The ads sent to your websites, which are tailored to you and your log in and therefore habits start to show more ads for ecologically friendly materials, and more ads show up on YouTube, about more dangerous materials. It will also send them to strangers who watch the same video assuming their behavior will follow yours in a correlation function.

You think to yourself, what is happening? Has the world gone mad? Why are there so many dangerous materials? How did I not know? You listen, and you change behavior again, and then a third time. More ads show up, more recommended watches pop up.

You are in the loop. Is it a doom loop? Maybe. Maybe not.

Some would argue trying to be more ecologically conscious can never be a doom loop. I selected this example to question what is “doom,” because picking a political side, which has featured in this series, is also not a doom. It is when we do not know we are in the loop, and can no longer recognize the echo chamber we built for ourselves that the doom begins.

Echo chamber: An environment or ecosystem in which participants encounter beliefs that amplify or reinforce their preexisting beliefs by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulated from rebuttal.

You didn’t enter it on purpose. You acted once. But in that action, you tell the algorithm, I will spend time here. Time “here,” means that more ad revenue will be realized in this location. The ads flock to you, you reinforce the algorithm by your purchases, and the algorithm tightens its displays for you, showing you more of what it thinks you want to see.

Echo chamber doom loop

A problem is that it can happen when it is NOT what you want to see.

A new example.

You read an article about murder. Your pick of which kind. High school shooting. Family dispute. Drug gangs. You spend a substantial portion of time reading the article or watching the video. The algorithm picks up on this. You see more advertisements about how this is a problem. Maybe it is accompanied by self-defense ads, gun ads, body armor ads, home security system ads, etc.

You read them because you are afraid. Your heart rate spikes, you are saddened and unhappy. You take no particular action to change anything, but you flock every day to the same information presented by the feeds. What happens? You are in an echo chamber again. You become convinced that violence is higher or worse than it is, and while any murder is too much, you would overestimate the amount per capita and your own danger because your personal data set shows a disproportionate amount of it. You start to be afraid of strangers, or family members or whoever is the source of violence as you perceive it. You feel doom, and your blood-work will show you do with stress hormone levels andblood presure rise.

It’s a doom loop.

Every echo chamber is bad. Let me say that again because I don’t believe it matters what echo chamber you are referencing. All echo chambers are bad. No beliefs, no facts, are valid if they are not reasonably challenged from outside.

But what we can accidentally do with the internet is not just an echo chamber which is bad for us, but one that as we have seen in this series, drives the entire internet to a particular behavior introducing new people to our fear or hate chambers.

We must be careful to engage with material which is broad, deliberately from conflicting points of view. We must read and listen carefully for when we are no longer hearing anything which contradicts us, and we are too comfortable. We must be careful when we are listening and EVERYTHING scares us. The world is measurably better than it has ever been, with points that need work, sometimes a lot of work, but not a cesspool of failure with bright spots.

Avoid echo chambers. Avoid them in the small things you read. Avoid them in your books. This channel has often said we should read widely. This is another reason to do so.

Remember what you read determines not only your future, but the future of the internet.

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