Conspiracy theories as memes: the following explanation I published 29 January 2021 on DeCorrespondent as reaction to a piece by Dimitri Tokmetzis (Conspiracy theorists are more normal than you think), based on an earlier version in the listserve Global Brain:
".. the algorithms that create parallel online worlds, drawing people down rabbit holes. No guarantee that a rabbit hole has anything to do with the real world.
Parallel worlds create themselves, and provoke strong emotions – that is what the algorithms are designed to do as that attracts people (they are not aiming to reflect reality). Current algorithms may cause a kind of collective online psychosis, as they seem to reduce crosscutting cognitive connections between parallel worlds.
The reality check is gone.
Psychosis is just that: psychotic delusions are not grounded in reality, as strong emotions suppress cognitive dissonance: awareness that 2 things cannot be true at the same time. Only this time, the delusion originates in the rabbit hole. People infect other people online with delusional, emotion spreading, memes, like viruses that make you mad.
These algorithms then suppress cognitive dissonances not only in the online world, but indirectly, via the emotions they provoke, also in the minds that are connected to the parallel online worlds.
Social psychosis; and when it becomes hardwired after a while: social schizophrenia, structural political polarisation. For example, fear, finding a false collective sense of security by accusing a scape goat (“The government has done it”).
A co-evolution between the online, the cognitive (soft/hard wired) and the real world. Social construction in high gear.
A global brain in its infant stage? Could algorithms be equipped with defenses against social psychosis, making the global brain more mature? Perhaps analogous to those healthy minds have?
You need a team of psychologists, neurologists and algorithm specialists I suppose."
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