1. In infinite information over infinite time, any networks of ideas that don’t internally contradict will be discovered, and precisely because they maintain internal consistency, the networks will be plausible.
1.1 The internet isn’t infinite, but it’s practically infinite, and thanks to it, we can learn new ideas and figure out new ways to creatively string those ideas together. Imagine the internet to be a giant box of puzzle pieces, and if we pull out a few pieces that don’t fit, we can go back in to search until we find pieces that do. And there are a lot of pieces that fit together, and since we don’t know the image we’re trying to create from the start, the fact pieces fit together is enough to believe we’re on to something meaningful. In fact, the image could be an abstract painting.
To take it a step further, the fact that we’ve found a puzzle piece at all suggests there are other pieces that will fit together with it, even if we’re yet to find the other pieces (and even though it’s possible someone created a puzzle piece that doesn’t connect with anything at all).
1.2 If we do have an idea of the puzzle-image we are looking to materialize, it is probably because a parent or authority figure told us what to look for, but there is always the possibility that the authority figure is wrong or trying to trick us. We have to live with that existential anxiety.
1.3 The puzzle we are working on may not be a mere hobby (and probably isn’t if it involves authorities, for example): if we fail to put it together correctly, we probably believe there will be real consequences. We might lose our job, our country might fall apart, the National Debt might collapse, etc. There is imperative to put the puzzle together correctly.
1.4 When we find a few puzzle pieces that fit together, precisely because they do fit, we have reason to believe they belong together (even if they don’t).
1.5 Since we don’t know what we’re looking for ahead of time, we won’t have reason to conclude the pieces shouldn’t go together because the image that is appearing on the surface of them doesn’t look right. We can’t say for sure what the image is supposed to ultimately look like, so we can’t judge error that way.
1.6 However, we can have an image we want to see ahead of time, and so as pieces come together, if we don’t like what we see, we can pull the pieces apart (that might belong together) or convince ourselves that the image that’s appearing will eventually unveil itself to be part of our preconceived ideas if we only keep looking for the right pieces. (This is confirmation bias, but keep in mind the presence of confirmation bias doesn’t necessitate the presence of error — if only it was so simple.)
2. Being plausible, it will be reasonable to investigate each given network of ideas to determine which are actually modeling reality accurately. Unfortunately, it will be practically impossible to investigate every plausible network of ideas.
2.1 If we begin putting puzzle pieces together and put five pieces together over on this spot on the floor, and a different ten pieces together over on this other spot of the floor, and a different six over here, etc., we have reason to invest time in each different section that has started to come together. In fact, we should investigate all of the sections, because there’s reason to think all the sections might add up to something (even if this is practically impossible).
2.2 Unfortunately, to really find out if each section might lead to something worth our time, we’d paradoxically have to devote a lot of time to each, and since we don’t know what we’re looking for ahead of time, there might not be a point where we can be entirely sure that we’ve done all we can do and should thus move on to the next section (and do so responsibly). There might be such a point, but we can’t know ahead of time: we must take a risk.
2.3 In addition to working on the puzzle, we have dishes to clean, children to take care of, work to do, etc.
3. Thus, to live our lives, we will have to choose not to investigate some internally consistent notions, which will be an intellectual failure on our behalf, because if x is plausible, on what grounds can we responsibly dismiss x without first investigating it well?
3.1 We all know we can’t know everything, but what’s harder to live with is knowing we can’t know everything that we feel like we should know and/or that matters and entails practical consequences. This creates an existential anxiety for which the generality “you can’t know everything” fails to prepare us.
3.2 There is a story of a mule between two equally sized piles of grain. Because the piles are equal, the donkey can’t make a rational decision on which to eat and ends up starving to death. The only way for the mule to survive is to make a choice on nonrational grounds, which is all well and good. Similarly, to work on x collection of puzzle pieces and not y — or to ignore the puzzle pieces entirely — is to make an ultimately unjustifiable decision. But the nature of reality is such that in order to survive and avoid insanity, we have to sometimes act on unjustified grounds. And we have to live with the knowledge of what we’ve (irrationally) done, which can be existentially challenging.
3.3 Because of the internet, we confront puzzle pieces and chunks of connected puzzle pieces constantly, as we also confront the existentially difficult reality that, in order to survive, we cannot give the attention to the puzzle sections that the puzzle sections deserve. This was always the case, but now thanks to the internet, we must face that reality directly, personified, specifically, and constantly (see “The Grand Technology” by O.G. Rose for more).
In infinite information over infinite time, any conspiracy/ideology/truth that is internally consistent will both be realized and be plausible, meaning there will be reason to believe the conspiracy/ideology/truth is in fact true.
(Please note that I use the term “conspiracy/ideology/truth” versus say “conspiracy, ideology, and/or truth,” because all networks of ideas have identical structures and look similar at the onset. Furthermore, we cannot know if x is a conspiracy, ideology, and/or truth until we investigate it. At the start, x is a kind of “Schrödinger’s Cat,” a multiplicity that investigation can singularize — but (a complete) investigation might not be possible.)
If there are 100,000 total possible conspiracies/ideologies/truths (which I will call CITs from now on), then the internet will through time increasingly approach that 100,000. If today the internet has realized say 5,000 CITS, then each year it will only further approach 100,000, meaning the existential anxiety we feel with 5,000 CITS will gradually multiple 20x.
In conclusion, the craziness we feel today will only get worse if we don’t learn how to think, to accept the limits of our thinking, and to learn epistemological tools that can help us from thinking that we should accept and/or investigate every x that is internally consistent (especially the tool of falsification, for falsification is paramount for how we can think for ourselves and avoid insanity). But even if we master thinking, at the end of the day, we are going to have to learn to live with our ontological limits, inevitable epistemic (im)morality, and ultimate reliance on nonrational decisions.
In other words, though we already feel like Ivan Karamazov, it will probably get much worse, especially if we don’t do anything to prepare ourselves.
This Reflection Combines “The Grand Technology” and “The Conflict of Mind,” both by O.G. Rose, where the thoughts outlined here are expanded on.