All posts by Ray Grigg

The Quadra Project: “Damned Fools”

The mood in the U.S. Senate on June 23, 1988, was expectant and tense. A prominent scientist from NASA, Dr. James Hansen, was giving testimony about the condition of the world’s climate and the implications for both the United States and planet Earth as a consequence of continued global carbon dioxide emissions. His prognosis was serious and sobering. His evidence unequivocally supported the conclusion that the results would be a catastrophic rise in temperature, with a consequent melting of ice caps, an uncontrollable rise in sea levels, and widespread disruptions in normal weather as carbon dioxide levels rose. Other scientific evidence was equivocal, but Hansen argued that no other explanation but carbon dioxide emissions came “anywhere close” to explaining the existing weather anomalies.

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The Quadra Project: Living in the Metaverse

The beginning of trouble can be linked to the advent of television. The first hint of a problem that has now grown out of control was identified in 1961 by Newton Minow, the leader of a Federal Communications Commission that was authorized to report to President John F. Kennedy on the effects of television on the personal and social psychology of Americans. Minow’s executive summary described a medium that was filled with “a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, Western bad men, Western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons.” Minow concluded that TV was creating “a vast wasteland” in which an alternate reality of entertainment was disconnecting Americans from the actual world in which they lived.

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The Quadra Project – Social Media P 4 of 4

Environmentalists have become acutely concerned about the physical state of our planet, but a related concern should be the psychological state that we occupy as human beings living in a milieu of digital information. This is an issue that has recently entered prominence because of a number of factors: the propaganda justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the possible meddling of China and Russia in American and Canadian elections, and the pervasive effects of social media on the attitudes and behaviour of people who are exposed to and influenced by it. We can’t solve any problem, environmental or otherwise, if we are not connected to reality.

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The Quadra Project: Social Media (P 2 of 4)

According to Jonathan Haidt, the fracturing rather than the integrating character of social media’s dynamic began to change in 2009 with the introduction of “Like” and “Sharing”, two similar options that transformed the exchange of person-to-person information into the mass distribution of opinions, rumours and judgments, without providing any substantial corroborating information. This process was abetted by the social media algorithms that favoured emotional rather than rational responses. Facts were boring. Extremism and lies generated more “sharing”, registered more “likes”, and earned more advertising revenue for the social media platforms.

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The Quadra Project – Social Media

“We invent things, and thereafter they invent us.” This is a fundamental principle in the media theory articulated by Marshall McLuhan, but it is rarely considered because we are usually so enamoured by the ingenuity of our inventions that we fail to consider the ways in which they invent us.

A brilliant essay by Jonathan Haidt, “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid”, in the May 2022 edition of The Atlantic Monthly magazine deserves careful reading and thought. Its insights do much to explain the factious irrationality that has been generated by social media, an adjunct of the internet that was supposed to facilitate and deepen communication, but instead has created angry disputes with irresolvable differences. What went wrong?

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