Science fiction comics; an interesting medium to explore ‘weird’ ideas, like being invaded by body snatchers who change our personalities and cause the spread of  lies and misinformation (see previous post – Symbiote). Our gut microbiome sounds similar to these Klyntar species, and like most human beings, I have little idea how this community that I host is composed, therefore I try to feed them well to keep all of its members happy and loyal to my cause of survival. 

Imagining my Gut Flora

Finding out about these unrelated species we are hosting has given us a new perspective on life. So has our newly developed technology that enables us to communicate across other boundaries. The internet, the world wide web has given us the opportunity to share ourselves through memes, our beings suddenly become bigger, communal, intertwined. In a twisted world, one can even question who is connecting to whom when our personalities can be altered by our gut communities, our Klyntars. Are we just vehicles for something entirely different. Bystanders to the spread of misinformation, manipulation and lies. 

The way this information spreads is facilitated at large by BIG Tech, and serious efforts are underway to address the power of these tech giants at national and international levels. The EU has been sounding alarm for years and now the US follows, but to prove that they harm consumers is difficult, especially since we all like(d) the free services they provide. We were/are happy, or ignorant to sign over our right to privacy. But it is not only the giants themselves that are the problem, more so who they are willing to facilitate, free speech and all that. And that is a tough question, who determines what is true and false in this complex world of different ideas meming around.* 

An Agenda for Disinformation Research has been set up and the first sentences read* : “In the 21st century Information environment, adverbial actors use disinformation to manipulate public opinion. The distribution of false, misleading, or inaccurate information with the intent to deceive is an existential threat to the United States – distortion of information erodes trust in social-political institutions  that the fundamental fabric of democracy: legitimate news sources, scientists, experts and even fellow citizens.” The leading scientists who have written this agenda come up with a six step strategy as a recommendation for policymakers to remedy this situation. 

I agree, the speed and scale at which this spread occurs can be frightening. The phenomenon however is not new and part of the human condition, spreading lies about people and situations that are uncomfortable for your own condition happens throughout our history. Take the invention of the printing press, it not only brought us the beauty of reading for all, but also the possibility of spreading propaganda, a tool for reimagining identity, such as discussed by Benjamin Schmidt, in Innocence Abroad, about how the Dutch used the printing press to create a national  identity.  The title referring to how printing could  also be successfully used -as I interpret his work- to wipe their colonial identity clean. ***

But that aside, to come back to our gut community and their ability to change our personality. How some malevolent hosts now cause the “Klyntars” to spread misinformation and lies like wildfire, facilitated by tech giants. Like I said, I try to keep my microbial- Klyntar  community healthy and happy, but in this day and age that is not so easy either. Not just the fault of Big Tech, more of Big Pharma and Big Ag. It is therefore a bit puzzling to me that we go after Big Tech with such a vengeance while we leave Big Pharma and Big Ag in power, to do as they please, and control and ruin our worlds, our GUTS. 

 * https://www.santafe.edu/news-center/news/drowning-disinformation 

 ** https://cra.org/ccc/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/11/An-agenda-for-disinformation-research.pdf 

*** https://history.washington.edu/research/books/innocence-abroad-dutch-imagination-and-new-world-1570-1670

https://www.technologyreview.com/2019/06/04/103008/breaking-up-big-tech-will-be-really-hard-to-do/