2024-02-01 Sky Falling - Huxiu

Sky Falling - Huxiu#



People tend to pay more attention to and respond to information that may pose a threat to them, while positive information, although popular, may not evoke the same sense of urgency or the need to share. ⤴️ ^93201dde

This is the reason why negative information is easily spread, and why the strategy of selling anxiety is so successful.

Because it has its survival significance in evolution: knowing how to avoid the attack of jackals and wolves is much more important than knowing how to appreciate the beauty of the sunset. ⤴️ ^09b94f35

A fitting metaphor indeed.

Sky Falling#

This article mainly discusses the negative impact of the mobile internet era on the world, as well as the intensification of the spread of negative information on social media. The article points out the problem of imbalanced information dissemination between individuals and explores the influence of group dynamics and psychological factors on information dissemination. Finally, the article uses the metaphor of a pyramid structure to describe the inequality between social groups and the challenges of information dissemination.

• 🌍 The mobile internet era has accelerated the speed and scale of negative information dissemination.

• 😢 Individuals play the role of amplifiers in information dissemination, making negative information more easily spread.

• 📱 Negative information is more attractive on social media, while positive information faces difficulties in dissemination.

"Why is the world getting worse?"

Perhaps the world is not actually getting worse, but people do believe that it is. And this belief actually leads to the world getting worse: various populists coming to power, the clouds of war between nations, and the irreparable tearing of people's ideologies.

Why is this happening?

The main culprit is likely the mobile internet.

In the era of traditional media, information dissemination relied more on centralized media channels such as television and newspapers. At that time, individuals had a very limited role in the process of information transmission.

In the internet era, the speed of negative information dissemination has grown exponentially, far surpassing that of positive information. Because everyone is an amplifier for the spread of negative information, allowing it to achieve the effect of "one to ten, ten to a hundred" in a short period of time. In comparison, positive information often lacks the power to quickly attract attention in the digital world.

I. Node Dynamics

Now, I am trying to create "node dynamics" and "propagation dynamics" to model and analyze.

  • Node Dynamics: Each node has different response probabilities and propagation potentials.
  • Propagation Dynamics: Information dissemination can be modeled as a dynamic process influenced by various factors, such as the strength of node connections, the attractiveness of information, external interference, etc.

We can use a series of differential equations or difference equations to describe the dynamic behavior of this system.

  • Network Structure: The network can be represented as a graph G=(V, E), where V is the set of nodes and E is the set of edges. Each node represents an individual, and the edges represent interactions between individuals.
  • Node States: Each node v∈V is in one of the following three states at any given time t:
    • Susceptible state S(t): Individuals who have not yet received the information.
    • Infected state I(t): Individuals who have received the information and are spreading it.
    • Recovered state R(t): Individuals who have stopped spreading the information.
  • Propagation Dynamics: Let β be the probability of transitioning from the susceptible state to the infected state, and γ be the probability of transitioning from the infected state to the recovered state. The model can be represented by the following system of differential or difference equations:


However, this model has an important flaw, which is the neglect of differences between different groups: such as the differences between ordinary people and elite groups, different religious groups, or differences between Eastern and Western people, and so on.

II. Group Dynamics

So let's make some improvements and introduce "group dynamics".

  • Multilayer Network Structure: Suppose we have a multilayer network, where each layer represents a different social group or religious and political faction. Let G1, G2, ..., Gn be these network layers, each containing several nodes representing individuals.
  • Interconnections between Groups: Let Eij be the set of edges from layer Gi to Gj, representing the flow of information between different groups.
  • Transition Rates: Define the probabilities of state transitions between different groups. Let βi be the probability that an individual in layer Gi becomes infected due to the influence of layer Gj, and γi be the probability that an individual in layer Gi transitions from the infected state to the recovered state.
  • Model Equations: For each group Gi, we can write the following system of equations:


The main challenge of group dynamics lies in how to integrate these psychological and social factors with the behavioral states of groups in the network, so we need to study psychology as well.

III. Psychology of Love and Hate

Now, anyone can post information on social media, and this information often attracts attention through emotional manipulation, exaggeration, and misinformation. This allows hate speech to spread quickly and influence more people. We see a lot of group hatred targeting foreigners or people from different ethnicities whom they have never met, and it becomes an indelible mark on their minds.

So why is it difficult for love-related information to spread? Because negative information has a stronger impact on the human psyche. ==People tend to pay more attention to and respond to information that may pose a threat to them, while positive information, although popular, may not evoke the same sense of urgency or the need to share.== This phenomenon is known as "negativity bias" in social psychology, which means that people tend to pay more attention to and respond to negative information, ==because it has its survival significance in evolution: knowing how to avoid the attack of jackals and wolves is much more important than knowing how to appreciate the beauty of the sunset.==

So the problem becomes more complex, and we need to quantify psychological factors: we need to determine which psychological factors have a significant impact on information dissemination and can be quantified. For example, we can consider the individual's trust in information, the intensity of emotional reactions, the level of anxiety or fear related to the information, etc., to establish parameter models. For example, trust can be represented by a value between 0 and 1, and the intensity of emotional reactions can be quantified by measuring physiological responses.

The related dynamic equations also need to be modified: based on psychological parameters, modify the dynamic equations to reflect the influence of psychological factors on the dissemination of different types of information. For example, the propagation rate can be set to be proportional to the trust and intensity of emotional reactions.

IV. The Eternal Selfishness

Does the modeling above seem interesting? However, I don't have the data to verify and improve it. Perhaps, for social media giants, they have massive amounts of data to conduct psychological and dynamic analysis, but I cannot do that.

So after all the futile efforts, I can only return to the first principles of thought experiments.

What is the most basic thing that has remained unchanged for thousands of years in humanity?

I believe it should be the pursuit of safety and sustenance by individuals, and this pursuit is selfish.

Ironically, it is because of selfishness that individuals are bound to be widely exploited and become expendable. Who exploits them? Perhaps it is power, perhaps it is corporations, perhaps it is bad people, perhaps it is culture...

Countless blood and tears shed in movements throughout history have told us that this selfishness of individuals can lead to great evil.

Friedman had an old theory that the world is flat: competition is fair, and opportunities are equal. Now it seems a bit outdated. Individual nodes have always been relays or expendables, and even obtaining more information equally does not necessarily bring value to the individual itself. The result of information overload is that the brain retreats to its comfort zone, scrolling through videos and watching live streams, occasionally getting excited.

V. The Metaphor of the Pyramid

We often say that social groups today have a pyramid structure. But the metaphor behind this pyramid is actually quite dark.

The famous Pyramid of Khufu, composed of 2.3 million giant stones, is over 40 stories high. Each stone weighs several tons to tens of tons and needs to be precisely cut into flat surfaces, and then stacked together purely by gravity.

Keep in mind that this was 4,500 years ago, when slaves had no iron tools and hadn't even invented the wheel. How did they cut, polish, transport, and lift these millions of giant stones?

There are over 100 pyramids in Egypt, and the number of slaves needed for their construction is astronomical. They went through hardships and in the end received a unified title: expendables.

From the perspective of group dynamics, even though the elite class has a higher blocking rate, due to their much smaller number compared to the general population, their influence on overall information dissemination is limited. This means that in the internet era, although the elite class may try to prevent the spread of negative information, it is actually difficult to do so. Therefore, they have transitioned from blockers to information disseminators, using more provocative methods to counteract the negative information. In this environment, even the dragon slayers sometimes find it difficult to resist the temptation to become dragons.

Today, people around the world holding their smartphones tirelessly spread hatred towards religions that have lasted for thousands of years, hatred between nations, and hatred between social groups. In the end, globalization recedes, populism ignites wars: whether it is a trade war or a war of weapons, the nodes will eventually become expendable cannon fodder.

VI. The Groans of Men

There is a very ancient story: a pine cone fell from a tree and hit a little chick. The little chick was extremely scared, thinking that the sky was falling. The little chick hurriedly told all its friends around, and they all ran into a cave to hide, only to be caught by a fox.

Although the ugliness of this world is fully revealed, it may just be the result of humans dramatizing their occupation of this planet. No matter what system of equations we solve, it will eventually reveal that the divisions between groups of people are increasing, and entropy is increasing irreversibly.

On the other hand, magnificent mountains, rushing rivers, stunning sunsets, magical life, and colorful cuisine, all the things we love, have not actually changed. If individuals were a little more selfish and a little more exploited, it wouldn't be a big deal; if they weren't constantly stirred up and excited, entropy could slow down.

Those familiar with this account know that from time to time, I write some incomprehensible little articles. Perhaps these words don't have much meaning, they are just the groans of a man who doesn't want to be just a node.

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