A small change to fix the internet


Binary is Boring

In the contemporary digital landscape, the internet stands as a colossal infrastructure that shapes our perceptions, interactions, and even the fabric of society itself. However, this powerful tool is not without its faults. A pressing issue that demands our attention is the increasing polarization online. The root of this problem, surprisingly, might trace back to a seemingly innocuous feature ubiquitous across platforms: the binary system of “thumbs up” and “thumbs down.”

The Problem of Polarization

Polarization refers to the division of society into distinct groups, often with conflicting ideologies or preferences, leading to a fragmented community. The internet, with its vast potential for diverse expression, has paradoxically become a battleground of echo chambers and polarized camps. This issue has been exacerbated by the binary feedback mechanisms embedded within digital platforms, where complex opinions are reduced to simplistic likes or dislikes. Such a system discourages nuance and fosters an environment where middle ground is often overshadowed by extreme views.

The Binary Culprit: Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down

The binary feedback model, epitomized by the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons, encourages a simplistic, black-and-white view of content. This model lacks the ability to capture the complexity of human opinion and reduces rich, multifaceted discussions to mere numbers of approval or disapproval. The question then arises: What if there was an alternative? A solution that could mitigate polarization by embracing the complexity of human perspectives?

A Proposed Solution: The Slider

Imagine a digital world where, instead of a binary choice, users are presented with a slider ranging from 0 to 1. This slider would allow users to express their opinions with greater precision, offering a spectrum of values that better captures the nuanced shades of agreement or disagreement. Such a system could move us away from the divisive nature of binary choices and towards a more inclusive, gradient-based understanding of content and opinions.

High-Resolution Reflections of Ourselves

By implementing a slider mechanism, the internet could become a mirror reflecting high-resolution images of our collective consciousness, rather than crude, 1-bit graphics devoid of nuance. This shift towards a “gray scale” representation of opinions could encourage more thoughtful engagement, foster empathy by highlighting the common ground between seemingly disparate views, and ultimately, contribute to the healing of the polarized landscape.

New Reality

We are forced to develop a new idea of reality because the non-real in the sense of the virtual is obviously becoming all too real. This is not a new phenomenon; media historians such as William Uricchio have studied it in detail. New media has always frightened parents who worry that their children will not be able to distinguish real reality from virtual reality. There may still be proponents of the theory that computer games lead to violent crime, that television makes people stupid or that comics are rubbish. Proponents of the latter theory are currently dying out; those who were concerned about the radio, telephone, railway, photography or book printing have already died out.

It was always the same recurring worry that arose in “our time”, the worry of drowning in information and no longer being able to distinguish between what is true and what is false. So far, we have managed to adapt to these new realities brought about by new technologies, at least the next generation has more or less managed it. However, we seem to have fallen behind in terms of adaptation if you look at the number of confused people around us. Quite subjective, quite mean, quite honest.

We need to develop a new conception of reality, not just in the way it has been capped over the last few hundred years, namely in adapting our understanding of reality, but we need to develop a fundamentally new understanding of what reality is.

This is also nothing new in history, as Davor Löffler describes in compressed words. The ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Mayans all had “mystical” notions of reality that are incompatible with our concept of reality.

We cannot, for example, have an adequate idea of the reality in which the Egyptians or Mayans lived because they had a different idea of reality that is incompatible with ours.

Such will be the new idea of reality that we must develop as quickly as possible. Before our current reality, or rather the inadequate representation of it, kills us.

Falling in love with a ghost

The system makes it possible to fall in love with a spirit. With someone’s mind without relating to the body.

I met a friend today. The friend told me about his life in an online system. About the friendships he has found there and what goes beyond friendships. He described a system, a society in which people meet who have a similar views of the world, similar dreams and fantasies. They follow similar paths to get closer to happiness or at least contentment. Those online people give themselves avatars that they choose themselves, that they design themselves according to their wishes and ideas.

Strict rules apply in the system, every now and then people disappear, sometimes because they have died in “real life”, more often they have been banished from the system. The rules give the system structure, a framework that holds it together as a system and prevents it from falling apart again, from dissolving back into its component parts. The individuals within the system are aware of the system and adhere to the rules. Everyone knows that anyone who does not abide by the rules runs the risk of being banished. Being banned means no longer being part of the system. In this sense, it is a free decision to submit to the rules of the system or not. There are many other systems, systems that function according to different rules. Everyone is free to choose a system. But there is no system without rules.

We are snakes that reach into the heads of other snakes

We are snakes that reach into the heads of other snakes. We try to manipulate the other snakes so that they do what we want them to do and behave in the way we think is right. Some snakes may be interested in money, some in spreading a truth or demanding ethically correct behaviour. There are many different motivations for snakes to grab into each other’s heads.

Why do snakes do this? Maybe they exchange information – in some form or another. There are different ways of reaching into each other’s heads, the imaginary snakes in the picture above do it with their hands, we humans reach into each other’s heads by talking to each other (and there are other ways of communicating). This is exactly where something huge is currently happening. In the past – and the earlier the more – the direction of technical communication (imagine radio) was one-to-many, today it is primarily many-to-many (all over the world, simultaneously and simultaneously time-shifted (we communicate with our friends on Facebook, while dead thinkers put their thoughts into our heads via YouTube).

Man kann heutzutage Zeitung lesen, Radio hören, und eine WhatsUpNachricht schreiben. Gleichzeitig. Nicht, dass ich das könnte, aber ich habe es im Zug gesehen.

You can now read the newspaper, listen to the radio and write a WhatsUp message – all at the same time! (Not that I could, but I saw it on the train).

We first have to get used to this simultaneity of voices that are constantly reaching into our heads while we are reaching into the heads of others at the same time. So it’s no wonder that humanity seems so confused at the moment.

But once we get used to it, it will probably be quite cool.


The image shows a person lying in bed holding a smartphone. Above them is a mirror mounted on the ceiling, inverting the view, so the room above the bed is visible in the reflection. The room contains various items such as a desk with a computer and chair, a microphone stand, a music stand, and other objects that may suggest musical or creative activity. It appears the person in bed is taking a selfie, with the photo captured via the mirror.

You can also recognise an object that probably looks like a bathroom scale, or is it simply a metal box with a rubber coating?

No, the thing, which also looks like an electric foot warmer from the DIY store, is actually a kind of spaceship that houses the secret centre of the world. All the strings are pulled from there. I have nothing to do with it, I just happen to be in the picture.

The last answer is humorous because it provides an absurd and imaginative interpretation of an everyday object. Instead of giving a simple explanation of what the object could be (like a bathroom scale or a box), it is described as a hidden spaceship that serves as a secret control centre for the world. This surprising twist plays on the idea of science fiction and conspiracy theories, making the answer witty and unexpected. The answerer’s self-distancing (“I have nothing to do with it, I just happen to be in the picture”) adds to the humorous effect by taking an innocent position in an obviously contrived and exaggerated situation.

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