The internet, vs. “culture”

The internet gives us the technological capability to transmit digital information seamlessly over any distance.  The concept of culture is more complicated, but I mean the influences and inspirations we grow up with, such as the family norms and practices of a place, the street scenes, the local architecture and cuisine, and the slang.  Culture comes from both nearby and more distant sources, but the emotional vividness of face-to-face interactions means that a big part of culture is intrinsically local.

Rapid Amazon delivery, or coffee shops that look alike all around the world, stem in part from the internet.  The recommendations from the smart person who works in the local bookstore, or the local Sicilian recipe that cannot be reproduced elsewhere, are examples of culture.

Since the late 1990s, the internet has become far more potent.  Yet the core techniques of culture have hardly become more productive at all, unless we are talking about through the internet.  The particular aspects of culture which have done well are those easily translated to the digital world, such as songs on YouTube and streaming.  When people are staring at their mobile devices for so many minutes or hours a day, that has to displace something.  Those who rely on face-to-face relationships to transmit their influence and authority don’t have nearly the clout they once did.

The internet gaining on culture has made the last twenty years some of the most revolutionary in history, at least in terms of the ongoing fight for mindshare, even though the physical productivity of our economy has been mediocre.  People are upset by the onset of populism in world politics, but the miracle is that so much stability has reigned, relative to the scope of the underlying intellectual and what you might call “methodological” disruptions.

The traditional French intellectual class, while retrograde in siding largely with culture, understands the ongoing clash fairly well.  Consistently with their core loyalties, they do not mind if the influence of the internet is stifled or even destroyed, or if the large American tech companies are collateral damage.

Many Silicon Valley CEOs are in the opposite boat.  Most of their formative experiences are with the internet and typically from young ages.  The cultural perspective of the French intellectuals is alien to them, and so they repeatedly do not understand why their products are not more politically popular.  They find it easier to see that the actual users love both their products and their companies.  Of course, for the intellectuals and culture mandarins that popularity makes the entire revolution even harder to stomach.

Donald Trump ascended to the presidency because he mastered both worlds, namely he commands idiomatic American cultural expressions and attitudes, and also he has been brilliant in his political uses of Twitter.  AOC has mastered social media only, and it remains to be seen whether Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have mastered either, but probably not.

Elizabeth Warren is now leading a campaign to split up the major tech companies, but unlike the Europeans she is not putting forward culture as an intellectual alternative.  Her anti-tech campaign is better understood as an offset of some of the more hostility-producing properties of the internet itself.  It is no accident that the big tech companies take such a regular pounding on social media, which is well-designed to communicate negative sentiment.  In this regard, the American and European anti-tech movements are not nearly as close as they might at first seem.

In the internet vs. culture debate, the internet is at some decided disadvantages.  For instance, despite its losses of mindshare, culture still holds many of the traditional measures of status.  Many intellectuals thus are afraid to voice the view that a lot of culture is a waste of time and we might be better off with more time spent on the internet.  Furthermore, many of the responses to the tech critics focus on narrower questions of economics or the law, without realizing that what is at stake are two different visions of how human beings should think and indeed live.  When that is the case, policymakers will tend to resort to their own value judgments, rather than listening to experts.  For better or worse, the internet-loving generations do not yet hold most positions of political power (recall Zuckerberg’s testimony to Congress).

The internet also is good at spreading glorified but inaccurate pictures of the virtues of local culture, such as when Trump tweets about making America great again, or when nationalist populism becomes an internet-based, globalized phenomenon.

The paradox is that only those with a deep background in culture have the true capacity to defend the internet and also to understand its critics, but they are exactly the people least likely to take up that battle.

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Ask a college student what was the last book they read all the way through. There goes the culture. What will take its place?

I make a point of asking my History undergraduates, every semester. The answer has been the same for a decade: Harry Potter.

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Ask Tyler when he last read a book about Teddy Roosevelt. Anti-monopoly does not equal anti-tech.

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I think by Culture vs Internet Tyler meant not so much the fight between books against digital as the fight between the local and global influences we have in our daily lives

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It could be said that there are two groups of people: highly-mobile people whose identity is based on their own achievements, and community/nation-centric people whose identity is based on the shared achievements of their cultural group (as per 'The Road To Somewhere').

Technologists are very much in the first group. Zuckerberg could move to London or Sydney or Singapore and still succeed and feel culturally intact. He has no perspective on those who would be decimated by such a move, those whose entire sense of self feels tied up in the land, the people, and the national spirit. This is a cultural dyad that divides nationalists from technologists.

High quality comment.

Leg so hot

Hot hot leg

....

Some of us boomers straddle both worlds. Analog children then digital adults. All the manners and customs of mid century america while slowly then quickly accumulating digital skills, if not full time occupations. At 63 I feel like I have an advantage honestly. I perform well on screen or in person.

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It's a false duality though. Many technologists are also "nationalists" in your sense of the word. It's a whole spectrum, not just two opposite and disparate positions.

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When the concept was articulated 20 years ago, it was called "Jihad vs. McWorld."

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Good points.

Here is Sebastian Junger discussing his book "Tribe : On Homecoming and Belonging". I find it interesting he studied anthropology at university. Anthropology maybe the most useful social science.

Sebastian Junger in New Bedford Massachusetts:

https://youtu.be/wChhL8gkcFM

Bedford, MA - not New Bedford, MA

Thanks for the correction.

Are you a New Englander?

I miss New England - Californian culture sucks.

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good essay. every once in a while TC does manage to give a lefty like me something original to think hard about so i am glad i stick through some of his less appealing POVs

Yeah that was so good I was expecting a citation to somebody else.

Bonus trivia: what did the French say about Americans going from no culture but economic might to decadence and decay but with no culture in-between? I tried to Google this but the internet gave me no hits.

The United States is the only country that went from barbaric times to decadence without going through civilization.

Civilization is playing dress-up when you can't afford decadence.

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As someone who spent his formative years with the internet available, I find this whole article odd. Growing up I formed much stronger bonds with my peers playing MMORPG's than I ever did in face-to-face extra curricular activities like sports and arts. Certainly there are localized aspects of culture that I grew up with, but I don't understand the need to differentiate these from the culture that I experienced online. This feels like an "old man yells at cloud" moment...

Really? You don’t see any important differences between someone that you’ll never meet, don’t know what they look like, don’t know their real name, and will never do anything with other than play a video game, and someone with whom you’ll have a layered relationship - you’ll play on the same soccer team, run into him at the movies, take a high school class or two together, he’ll date a friend of your sister’s, your parents and his will belong to the same church?

It’s not worrying that your friendships are largely coming from MMORPGs. Shit happens, there are worse things. It’s worrying that you aren’t aware that you’re missing something.

It's not that. The close friendships from gaming were also people I know in real life with the layered relationship that you describe. What I am trying to say though is that some of my most formative experiences with these friends were through shared online experiences. When it comes to internet acquaintances though, I'd say that their impact could be the same as a face-to-face acquaintances.

The internet is just a platform and culture is all over it. Why distinguish between shared experiences through it vs shared experiences in the real-world?

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Why do you assume that relationships with people online are less layered than relationships with someone you play on the same team as? I've played basketball, baseball, done sword fighting (fencing and Medieval), and other sports, and quite often I have zero interaction with other players outside of the requirements of the game. On the flip side, I've had discussions of surprising depth on subjects such as epistemology, aesthetics, feminism, and history with people while playing Diablo II.

It's not worrying that you consider face-to-face interactions better. It's worrying that you're so willing to swallow whole the stereotypes and misconceptions, without (as far as I can tell) any critical thought or serious investigation.

Dinwar dropping knowledge like he's Deckard Cain.

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I don't know your age but as you grow up and you get a job and you start raising a family you'll find that live interactions become more important than digital interactions

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Still confused by why you choose to (mis)frame a concern with excessive concentration of power among a very small number of firms as "anti-tech." Is it because doing so makes it easier to rationalize your conclusion?

"Is it because doing so makes it easier to rationalize your conclusion?"

Hell Yes!

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Speaking as a 27yo I can say that the division between culture and the internet is not quite so cut and dry for me (us). Facebook hit towards the end of my schooling career but it's mark was instant and indelible (and I eschew all forms of social media). Meet-ups, news, gossip were all found on Facebook as well as on the 'playground' (we were 16/17 - whatever the angst-y teenager version of 'playground' is).
Before Facebook videogames were our culture. Our parents had no idea what kept us involved in what they saw as a blatant waste of time. This was our culture - conversations revolved around it, jokes formed our of shared experiences arising from it.
I generally agree with TC's (excellent as usual) observations, with the caveat that, from a younger millennial's perspective, the culture and the internet often feel like a conjoined twin rather than different or opposed to one another.

Another excellent comment.

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I just turned 50 and FB is useless. (I’m too old for Insta-whatever.) But I play videogames at a high level with an international group of friends from all over the world, including rocket scientists in Texas and engineers in India.

What game do you play?

Not him but I play Eve online and the people I have met are quite smart and some are very successful IRL.

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I'm 37. Internet user since 1998. ex-BBS forum moderator, ex-blogger, ex-torrent maker, ex-FB group moderator.

For me, internet is 50% music, 30% here and the FT, and the rest among twitter and fb. In spite of being online since 20 years ago I feel disconnected from the "culture".

A coffee machine talk in the office a few days ago was about the netflix documentary on the Fyre festival fraud. Most people knew about this because of the documentary. When I opened my mouth and said I laughed at the fraud in real-time via the FT.com and twitter I was regarded as total outsider.

I have to rely on "culture" to socialize with people. If the internet-aware version of me tries to socialize, it's total failure.

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Yes, exactly. It's intertwined.

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"The traditional French intellectual class, while retrograde in siding largely with culture, understands the ongoing clash fairly well. Consistently with their core loyalties, they do not mind if the influence of the internet is stifled or even destroyed, or if the large American tech companies are collateral damage."

If the French don't buy Ford cars, that doesn't mean they don't like cars...perhaps they just prefer Citröen. The issue is not the influence of the Internet but a foreign Internet.

Sorry, but i'll plan the whatabout game. It's curious that 1.49 billion € fine for Google last week in the EU causes much more concern than China effectively destroying Google locally.

'but a foreign Internet'

Yep, this is considered so stereotypical of being French, yet it is so also true (at least when one lives 20 minutes away from France, with all that implies in 'cultural' face to face terms). And Minitel predates the Internet in a number of ways by a decade. (Of course Minitel was not the world wide web, but it was a networking service - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minitel)

However, Prof. Cowen decided to go with a more specifically American cultural stereotype of 'the traditional French intellectual class,' one that tends to ignore 'French' as being the important determiner, not 'intellectual class.'

If Google were French the American intellectual class would also be against it. We saw it with Huawei a few weeks ago.

I doubt that. Nobody complains about Spotify being Swedish. Chinese companies are a unique case.

And one concern, economies of scale being what they are, is that if you break up the big US tech companies, you might be handing the world on a platter to the big Chinese companies.

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Huawei is about espionage pure and simple. The concerns are justified.

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'If Google were French the American intellectual class would also be against it.'

Possibly, possibly not. As you can see from an apparent member of America's intellectual class, American intellectuals tend to be quite flexible in terms of their 'Americanism.' If a French Google were to spread its money around properly (just like the American Google already does, so just use that as a model), it would be able to collect quite a number of the American intellectual class in a way beneficial to Google. It is a significant cultural difference.

(One of the things I remember from years ago is how the French government banned head coverings of students in school, and Bin Laden attempted to use that French decision to gain more converts. Instead, a number of Muslims, including those wearing head coverings, protested in the streets against Bin Laden, basically saying that the only people who get to decide what the French do are the French - period.)

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you say culture is "the family norms and practices of a place, the street scenes, the local architecture and cuisine, and the slang"

No, wrong. Culture is the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion, to bear arms for self-defense, the right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures, to vote on policies not just candidates, the right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be fired after being accused of something you haven't been found guilty of.

Liberty, privacy, and justice are the culture. What you're talking about it is superficial distractions so people don't recognize that they're be oppressed and forced to conform to the majority's norms.

"the right not to be fired after being accused of something you haven't been found guilty of."

From what socialist hellhole is that from? At-will employment is a good thing.

At-will employment is no longer the norm in the US with 42 states recognizing implied contracts and 43 having public policy exceptions.
http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/at-will-employment-exceptions-by-state.aspx

'with 42 states recognizing implied contracts'

Your link unfortunately does not provide details - however, the only 'implied contract' aspect to at will employment in Alabama as of a year ago is that your employer merely needs to state that your employment is at will. After being being informed of that fact (around the time of employment, essentially), your employer can fire you at any time, for no reason at all.

And the 'public policy exception' would seem to be negated, specifically in the case of Alabama (the only state I have recent experience of), by the employer simply saying you are no longer employed, and not having to provide a reason at all.

Perhaps you have further information that shows Alabama is an outlier in both cases.

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So, obviously, only America has Culture.

I'd suggest rather than a quick response to troll bait posts, you just ignore them. Why waste your time?

Sadly, there are people commenting here who sincerely believe this - 'the right not to be fired after being accused of something you haven't been found guilty of'

Damore remains a rallying cry for such people - you are welcome to call them trolls, but many of them seem deeply convinced that Damore conclusively proved the inferiority of women, and was fired for nothing but telling what they consider the truth.

Poe's law, MR variant, always applies, but that is the problem - you cannot tell the sincere apart from the parody.

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Such is life on the internet. It's increasingly difficult to distinguish between the bait trolls and the ordinary sincere loons.

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'the right not to be fired after being accused of something you haven't been found guilty of'

Leaving aside how completely America centric your defintion of culture is, do share with us where that right exists. Because in at will employment states, your employer can fire you at any time, for no reason at all.

I speak from personal experience in this arena. I was fired from my Public Relations job at George Mason years ago for daring to speak the truth about The Kochs.

But of course Mercatus has no relationship to George Mason, slavery enthusiasm notwithstanding.

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This looks suspiciously like complete bollocks.

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Is the distribution of niche culture versus large dominant entities really all that different online than it was pre-internet? There are innumerable youtube rabbitholes, subreddits, and twitter communities dedicated to the most arcane and creative forms of culture. Reddit is a particularly good place to observe this, and the distribution of huge subreddits ("videos") to small creative ones ("imaginarycityscapes") seems to me to be quite like the distribution of, for example, big popular restaurant chains, independent genre food, and original local successes ("/r/outrun")

Maybe Amazon are approaching monopoly, but are most of the big tech companies more dominant in their market than Coke is in the cola market? I don't think it's about culture, I think the anger is more about wealth and power being transferred to a different type of person in a more uneven way than it was when physical rather than information-based jobs were dominant.

Physically local and culture does depend on interaction among people in the same space, but I would use the word "community" for that. I think people still eat and work in shared spaces mostly, we should have more and much better quality public spaces, facilities, public transport to get people to interact naturally across social divides. When the quality of public experiences (cinema, park, pool) becomes too low everyone starts paying extra to do these things alone, and that's a cycle.

Arnold Kling offers a tripartite model consisting of markets, governments, and community. In his view, both markets and governments have been crowding out community. Maybe not the exact same subject, but it seems like a lot of overlap:

https://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2019/KlingRajan.html

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'to transmit digital information seamlessly over any distance' - Thanks to the abolition of net neutralilty in the U.S., that is only theoretically true.

'or coffee shops that look alike all around the world, stem in part from the internet' - McDonald's, of course, is blameless.

'Most of their formative experiences are with the internet and typically from young ages. ' - Nope, any of them over 40 had their formative experiences with PCs.

'big tech companies take such a regular pounding on social media, which is well-designed to communicate negative sentiment' - Which a different person would point out is an intrinsic problem for society, even if they disagree with various proposed measures to reign in that problem.

'are not nearly as close as they might at first seem' - Particularly as the Europeans actually create laws to address their concerns.

'they are exactly the people least likely to take up that battle' - Well, there are the occasional modest figures willing to put themselves forward. Willing to have a Conversation, or many, even.

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Uhm, so, what exactly is your point?

Let me help you out though. Take out social media AND money out of the Internet, what are you left with?

The Internet as such is still a thing, the only problem is that now everyone wants to be a brand or at least a brand ambassador. And this has completely annihilated any kind of decency on the Web.

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It's been happening since Boomers were teens. American music and television and movies homogenized the world, and English became a global lingua franca. French intellectuals weren't happy back then, either.

It was appointment television that sharply reduced local social influences. People stopped dropping in on their neighbors unannounced. The TV set became the gathering spot, not the local pub or weekly square dances or whatever. Regional differences within a country were erased as everyone was glued to the same limited programming on the same two or three national TV channels.

The internet at worst merely continued those trends, but actually partly reversed them too, since it's so good at catering to niche tastes. Except now every subculture is a global diaspora rather than a folkloric regional custom.

Forms of culture unique to the Internet have had limited impact so far. Memes and YouTube stars and influencers. Online gaming is huge, but is not yet widely recognized as culture. You could say the same thing about porn.

So it seems strange to frame it as "internet" vs. "culture". The anti-tech talking points are mostly business practices, monopoly power, privacy, and occasional side effects like wealth concentration and gentrification.

100% agree.

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Good comment.

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Good points.

I think that Cowen makes interesting points here, but I was surprised by his failure to mention the internet vs. "culture" (especially as he defines culture, which emphasizes highly localized aspects) as a continuation of prior trends, rather than some new break.

Building on the Captain's point: it's not just TV, blockbuster movies, and music, but also the pre-Internet spread of restaurant chains, mass-market branded consumer goods, mass-market retail chains, etc. The French intellectual class (and a certain portion of the the intellectual class other places, including the U.S.) has also long delighted in criticizing the spread of all of those things.

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It's been going on longer than that. EVERY new communications technology has been accused of erasing cultural nuances, starting with writing itself.

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'what are you left with'

The world wide web, ca 1995, along with bittorrent, e-mail, streaming in terms of a radio station being online. Also things like those new fangled 'weblogs' which may (someday) pose a threat to the pre-emince of one's home page.

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« Through the internet » carries an awful lot of weight in this argument.

Imagine discussing culture and then noting that writing was really more important and culture had really stopped advancing since its advent. Cacator cave malum on the wall under is just not the same as the old ways.

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Cowen is on to something here, but there are a couple of points to tease out.

First point – what is the real complaint of the French intellectuals (a synecdoche)? I think there are two.

Let’s compare the internet with printing. Printing allowed written information to be transmitted much more easily over great distances. And when people starting staring at their books for minutes or hours a day that displaced something too. What it displaced, so far as the Catholic Church was concerned, was people getting their religion from face to face contact with priests, nuns or just other laypeople, from the contemplation of statues and stained glass, from participating in ceremonies, and so on.

There are two concerns that the Church might have in this situation. (Note: printing did not destroy Christianity; it changed it. The issue is how it changed.) The first is that these new books, these new translations of the Bible and new commentaries, might have the wrong information in them. That is the concern some commentators above have in mind when they say that the French intellectuals wouldn’t mind a French internet. But you can see how there is a potential remedy for this: print your own books! set up your own internet! And sure enough, there are lots of Catholic books, Catholic translations of the Bible, Catholic commentaries and so on. Similarly, modern technologies like film and television have been used by French people to produce French films and television programmes that don’t always export well but are successful on home soil.

The second concern is different. That is the concern that spending time on books/the internet, and turning away from what Cowen describes as ‘culture’, i.e. the world of the face to face, the local and the ‘real’, is itself a mistake or harmful in some way. The remedy to that does not lie in putting better information in books/the internet – in fact, doing that makes the problem worse, by encouraging people to turn away from ‘culture’. It’s like making junk food tastier – you’re just making it even less likely that people will try proper food.

The Church could well have thought that people really ought to spend more time looking at stained glass and contemplating, and less time reading the Bible (even a really good translation of the Bible). And that’s not a stupid thing to think: stained glass has gone downhill massively in the last few hundred years, while Bibles have improved only slightly. Who benefitted from that trade-off?

Similarly, cultural opponents of the internet today might well consider it better to spend more time on the things that the internet doesn’t help with (talking to people face to face, climbing trees, Scottish dancing) and less on the internet (even the good bits, like commenting on this blog). That is not an inherently stupid idea: there are activities (gambling, drug use, eating junk food, etc.) that we conceive of as best kept to a minimum in a well-lived life, and there’s no reason why internet activities shouldn’t be in this category.

I think these French intellectuals have both concerns. “Many intellectuals thus are afraid to voice the view that a lot of culture is a waste of time and we might be better off with more time spent on the internet.” I suspect that’s wrong. These intellectuals hold the view that even low quality culture (playing Pachelbel’s Canon in a ukulele orchestra) is a better use of time, for all sorts of reasons, than playing the finest MMORPG ever devised by man.

Second, what does Cowen really mean by his conclusion that “The paradox is that only those with a deep background in culture have the true capacity to defend the internet and also to understand its critics, but they are exactly the people least likely to take up that battle”?

Think of how an intellectual Turing game would work here. Normally, this is a game that the right-wing win, because they understand left-wing thought while left-wingers find it hard to grasp why right-wingers think as they do. But here Cowen is saying that the French intellectuals understand the clash, while the Silicon Valley CEOs don’t. What he is saying is that someone steeped in high-quality culture – Socrates dissatisfied – is best able to understand both sides of the issue, but least likely to take the side of the internet (the pig satisfied). What’s the paradox? Isn’t it just like saying that it’s a paradox that an educated right-winger, Roger Scruton say, has the true capacity to defend socialism and understand its critics but he is least likely to do so? Isn’t Cowen telling us that the French intellectuals are likely to be right?

"The second concern is different. That is the concern that spending time on books/the internet, and turning away from what Cowen describes as ‘culture’, i.e. the world of the face to face, the local and the ‘real’, is itself a mistake or harmful in some way. The remedy to that does not lie in putting better information in books/the internet – in fact, doing that makes the problem worse, by encouraging people to turn away from ‘culture’. It’s like making junk food tastier – you’re just making it even less likely that people will try proper food."

I agree with this point, but would add that the internet itself has also gotten less intimate. The swallowing of the blog/forum ecosystem by FB/Twitter plus FB's impact on advertising dollars elsewhere plus the massive increase in mobile usage plus the continued one-upsmanship in fighting for clicks has hollowed out a lot of the positive space. This is a more complex phenomenon than I can do justice to or prove in a comment space, but I think it bears mentioning in this overall pattern.

I think the internet was more "real" in its past and I retain a stubborn optimism that some of that reality can be recaptured.

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According to Cowen, Trump added the internet to culture to produce division. Who knew Trump is a mathematician? Sure, culture on its own can produce division, but adding the internet to culture is a recipe for chaos. Armed with the internet, bad people can cause bad things to happen to a whole lot of good people. I wouldn't expect Cowen to acknowledge that any more than I would expect him to acknowledge that big business can cause bad things to happen to a whole lot of good people. Granted, every advancement in technology carries with it the possibility of it being exploited by bad people to cause bad things to happen to a whole lot of good people. Atomic energy comes to mind. The difference between the bad things caused by bad people exploiting atomic energy is that it is loud and highly visible while the bad things caused by bad people exploiting the internet is silent and almost invisible; but the damage done in the latter case can be far more extensive, in part because the damage can't be readily observed, and by the time it can, it's too late to avoid chaos.

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If only Germany had won World War One we would all have authentic Kultur now and not Anglo consumerist internet Civilization

Well, Germany was/is a Kulturstaat, as is Russia and France, but not the US.

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We will change perspective once the world realizes it has lost a couple of generations staring at a screen and orienting their lives to social media success. Old age will be a long and painful time for these childless, spoiled, untrained generations.

You can't both spend your twenties online and be socially capable. The amount of unmarried, socially isolated, physically weak and disorganized people we are creating is staggering. Political parties and social media are doing great on the other side, so our reactions are going to come very late, after a lot of harm is done.

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This is way over thinking it and relating too many unrelated things.

Trump is doing well because he has bypassed the media using twitter and voices real concerns - immigration and trade. (If he can just address health care he will "the GOAT president")

But the problems in France are the same as always. Nothing to do with culture. Those that are comfortable want to slow down any change. Even if it hurts fellow frenchmen and especially if it hurts germans or english.

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Re: TC’s point on Elizabeth Warren:
“Her anti-tech campaign is better understood as an offset of some of the more hostility-producing properties of the internet itself. ”
That’s not fair. These companies are the Standard Oils of our day. Their methods have been updated and they are more sophisticated about killing off potential competition, but Elizabeth Warren is making perfectly reasonable and historically consistent claims about them.
Furthermore, her attacks are not ‘internet based,’ other than the companies she named control large parts of the internet.

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Is TC here aspiring to become "a traditional French intellectual" by being creatively opaque in some moth-eaten modernist or outdated avant-garde sense?

Why not address the issue as the latest skirmish in Europe's three century-old "quarrel of the ancients and the moderns" ("the battle of the books" on some other side of some other channel)? This is the "traditional frame", after all.

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OR: is TC only attempting to conceal for the moment the almost-entire responsibility that our so-called Cognitive Elites and our lying and spying Tech Sectors between them share for the advent of Technogenic Climate Change?

Those said to be "in charge" deserve all the credit once the entire globe begins falling apart, signs of which begin to become obvious and incontestable.

Food chain collapse might in whole or in part begin to offer some crying solutions to whatever problems we actually face.

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Why is the word "culture" in quotation marks, but not the word "internet"?

+1. Tyler reveals his philosophical materialist bias. Excuse me, "bias".

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Because Prof. Cowen is a "cultured" man?

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I tend to agree with the younger comments (even though I am 45) in that I don't think this is a duality and more of a new factor in the culture that is boosting certain parts of it (while killing some other parts). Take dating apps. My understanding from younger people is that this form of interaction is clearing up some of the social confusion we had before (it is hard to read people and people in groups tend to not say what they think) so that now people connect more easily. That has a few cultural impacts. Promiscuity is up. "Group dates" is down. Later marriage is much more common. Social exclusion for people who are inept at sexual games is up, since these [people feel even more inept. And on and on.

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Interesting post. Some problems. One troubling one (to me) is his characterization of the "traditional French intellectual class". Since when is it acceptable to describe the beliefs of an entire class of people? If he has some specific examples (and I'm sure there are some) then he should use their names, but any claim that traditional French intellectuals all (or even mostly) share the beliefs TC imbued them with is risible. It calls for a higher degree of evidence than a claim by a non-member of the category. I also disagree that culture is created by a single generation. I've written it before but culture (imho) is learned from previous generations. A reasonable floor would be 3 generations, I'd say. The (use of the) internet is barely old enough to qualify. I'm sure TC is aware of the claims that "Western Culture" is under attack and has been for some time. Well, guess what! All cultures are under (competitive) pressure. Society can either reinforce its culture(s) or disfavor it/them or introduce alternatives. Some slang is cultural but much slang is generational (and hence by definition NOT cultural). I could go on, but won't. Smart phones (or their replacements which provide the same emotional support) are likely here to stay. The internet is fragmenting and every year we see more government (local) control. What's next? IDK. My overall reaction is trying to separate technology from culture is 1) a fools game and 2) a confusion of category.

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As the social sciences slice and dice humanity into overlapping sub-groups of humanity in favored dimensions to define victims, genders, color, etc. they define them with specific cultural characteristics. However, all the different cultures have some beneficial components and some that are not productive in today's world.

To maximize the benefits to humanity as a whole, some of the sick sub-culture beliefs have to recognized and die out. For example, the cultural belief among some sub-groups of liberals or fundamentalist that vaccines are harmful to children (the anti-vaxers) are putting other peoples children at unnecessary risk.

Cultures are not sacrosanct and that includes the silly French intellectuals whose beliefs in their superiority and divine right to rule the world are not justified in modern reality. Their response seems to be envy driven as the new young companies running the internet were not created by them. It is in their self-interest to capture and take control over the Unicorn companies which there static and sick culture can't create.

Note that the social scientists almost never slice and dice humanity along intelligence or innovation or analytical dimensions that may give results that don't match their belief systems.

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The Internet disseminates cultural memes as quickly as Tyler moving on from the topic of all his journalist friends' role in spreading the Trump-Russia collusion hoax!

And that, my friends, is quick!

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I like the false dichotomy presented in the second paragraph. Rapid delivery has a long history, the most iconic example from the pre-internet age being the Sears catalogue. Franchises likewise have a long history, predating the internet by a wide margin. The idea that these institutions are somehow separate from culture is obviously flawed; they arise from the culture that spawned them, and they flourish in specific cultures.

the only way to reconcile such a critique is to assume that Christ ate food, such as strawberries and bananas. And who's food was it? The earth's. And work played its part. so to you people who drop a banana peel and swoop your nine-irons, who's stuff is that? It's the earth's. Maybe, the rise of internet is merely proof humankind will one day up and perish. The coincidence of things is reason enough.

Such high-quality comments on this blog....

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Tyler, look to India and China to see the internet at the forefront of a genuine cultural revival. Both countries, post WWII, went through a period of “secular” suppression of their core cultures by the intellectual socialist elites. Post early 1990s the Internet in India has seen an explosion of engagement with Hinduism. Intellectuals there are too easily turned off by the rabid elements the internet has set loose. However they are missing the much larger genuine engagement that is taking place on the web. No wonder then Modi and Co have filled the vacuum leveraging the most rabid into his political base.

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