How the Internet Normalized Donald Trump and Broke American Politics
The distinction between the online world and real life is thinner than we imagine. So when comment trolls run rampant, our national discourse cannot help but be changed.
Mary Aiken specializes in the impact of technology on human behaviour, and has written extensively on issues relating to the intersection between humankind and technology — or as she describes it "where humans and technology collide." She appears regularly on radio and television and frequently gives talks to the public and private sector on an international basis. Dr. Mary Aiken is an Adjunct Associate Professor at University College Dublin, Geary Institute for Public Policy, and Academic Advisor (Psychology) to the European Cyber Crime Centre (EC3) at Europol. She is a lecturer in Criminology and Research Fellow at the School of Law, Middlesex University, a Fellow of the Society for Chartered IT Professionals, a Sensemaking Fellow at the IBM Network Science Research Centre, and Distinguished Professor of the Practice of Cyber Analytics at AIRS Hawaii Pacific University. She is a member of the Hague Justice Portal advisory board and Director of the Cyberpsychology Research Network. Her groundbreaking work inspired the CBS television series "CSI: Cyber."
Mary Aiken: So in Europe we’re fascinated with your election – Hillary and Trump. Goodness. And everybody that you talk to says well how is Trump being so successful? Why on earth are people tolerating sexist, racist, hate speech? And there’s a good answer for it. I wrote a piece recently for Time and I discussed why Trump is having the sort of success that he’s having at the moment. And it comes down to one thing. Trump is a troll that has jumped off the Internet and into the real world. And the reason that so many people are tolerant of his extreme statements, this name calling, this horrible, nasty, even sadistic behavior is because the online environment has normalized this type of behavior. In cyberpsychology we point out that what happens in the cyber world impacts on the real world. What happens in the real world impacts on the cyber world. And this is certainly true in terms of Trump’s behavior. There’s a great study titled "Trolls Just Want to Have Fun" and you should read it because it talks about the dark tetrad of personality. The study found that people who say that they like to troll actually score high on an index that measures Machiavellianism, an index that measures psychopathic traits, an index that measures narcissistic traits and sadism. And the study found that trolling was a manifestation of everyday sadism. And election aside I know it’s important but I’m more concerned about a bigger issue. The issue is that people like me spend our time trying to teach kids to be nice to each other online. But it’s very hard for us to win that battle when politicians use cruelty and sadism as a strategy and appear to gain ground because of it.
So cyberspace is an environment. It’s somewhere where you go. It’s an immersive environment – chat room, forum, it’s a place. And what happens there is that behavior can become normalized. So as human beings we’re social creatures and we learn from others. So if it appears that everybody is doing something it can seem that it’s okay. And it’s become very difficult with the pervasive penetration and accessibility of the internet to draw the line between something that’s an evolving behavior and that’s become almost a social norm. And sadly online trolling has become almost a social norm. The problem is when that behavior cyber migrates into the real world. And Trump and the way he behaves is a classic example of cyber migration.
The distinction frequently made between the online world and real life doesn't hold up under scrutiny, says cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken. What we do in the real world reflects online, and what happens online invariably seeps into our daily life, if not overwhelming it from time to time. This plasma membrane, which separates online and real life, is mediated in one direction by what is called "cyber migration," i.e. the transaction in which what we do on the Internet affects our real lives.
So how has the dampening, or completely destruction, of civic discourse in online comment forums changed the way we act in normal life? For starters, more and more websites are removing their comments section, so filled have they become with vitriol and every kind of offense imaginable. National Public Radio recently made headlines by removing its comments sections; Big Think removed ours several months prior.
Still, extremely offensive discourse IRL has been normalized by rude behavior online, says Aiken. And while we may disagree with the use of such language now as we did before, we no longer find it shocking, and our disapprobation of it has been overwhelmed by its frequency. That shift in our civic tone has, via cyber migration, made its way into the highest level of our political arena. Yes, the race to become the next President of the United States of America is infected with stinging insults and crude insinuation like never before.
Here Aiken discusses an influential study into the psychology of Internet trolls — titled Trolls Just Want to Have Fun — in which rude commenters were found to have personality characteristics similar to psychopaths and Machiavellian individuals. What is frightening is how widespread a phenomenon trolling has become. And the more it spreads, the more it becomes normalized, and the less likely we are to object to it. When uncivil discourse is accepted online, it is difficult to partition real life as a place where that level of malice is unacceptable.
Mary Aiken's most recent book is The Cyber Effect: A Pioneering Cyberpsychologist Explains How Human Behavior Changes Online.
Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.
Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.
Finances can be a stressor, regardless of tax bracket. Here are tips for making better money decisions.
- Whether you have a lot of money or a lot of debt, it matters how you handle your personal finances. A crucial step when it comes to saving is to reassess your relationship with money and to learn to adopt a broader, more logical point of view.
- In this video, social innovator and activist Vicki Robin, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton, and author Bruce Feiler offer advice on achieving financial independence, learning to control your emotions, spending smarter, and teaching children about money.
- It all starts with education and understanding. The more you know about how money works, the better you will be at avoiding mistakes and the easier it will be to take control of your financial circumstances.
Astronomers spot an object heading into Earth orbit.
Minimoons<p>Scientists have confirmed just two prior minimoons. One was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_RH120" target="_blank">2006 RH120</a>, which orbited us from September 2006 to June 2007. The other was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_CD3" target="_blank">2020 CD3</a>, which got stuck in the 2015–2016 timeframe, and is believed to gotten away in May 2020.</p><p>2020 SO, the new kid on the block, is expected to arrive in October 2020 and pop out of orbit in May 2021.</p><div id="37962" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4c0fc8a2cba6536ea4cd960ebed3e6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307729521869611008" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Asteroid 2020 SO may get captured by Earth from Oct 2020 - May 2021. Current nominal trajectory shows shows capture… https://t.co/F5utxRvN6Z</div> — Tony Dunn (@Tony Dunn)<a href="https://twitter.com/tony873004/statuses/1307729521869611008">1600621989.0</a></blockquote></div>
Identifying 2020 SO<p>The first clue 2020 SO isn't your ordinary asteroid is its exceptionally low velocity. It's traveling much more slowly that a typical asteroid — their <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank">average rate of travel</a> <a href="https://www.lpi.usra.edu/exploration/training/illustrations/craterMechanics/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"></a>is 18 kilometers (58,000 feet) per second. Even <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_rock" target="_blank">moon rocks</a> sent careening into Earth orbit by impacts on the lunar surface outpace pokey 2020 SO.</p><p>For another thing, 2020 SO has an orbital path very similar to Earth's, lasting about one Earth year. It's also just slightly less circular than our own orbit, from which it's barely tilted off-axis.</p><p>So, what is it? <a href="https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/ca/" target="_blank">NASA estimates</a> that the object has dimensions very reminiscent of a discarded Centaur rocket stage from the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveyor_2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Surveyor 2 mission</a> that landed an unmanned craft on the moon. Back in the day, rocket stages were jettisoned as craft were aimed toward their desired position. This stuff, if released high enough, remains in space. It appears that this Centaur rocket, launched in September 1966, is now making its way back homeward, at least for a little bit.</p><p>When 2020 SO arrives at its closest point in December, the rocket is expected to be about 50,000 kilometers from Earth. Its next closest approach is much further: 220,000 kilometers, in February 2010.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzMDk3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyODg1MTQ1MX0.HGknDwqp0GmeuczKY_AS7vrPG7KMFUc_XO95tNoI2xo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e5cda" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85eb1f790d8c3ee5b261f7ba13eaa5e1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Centaur rocket stage" />
Centaur rocket stage
What we may be able to learn<p>Earthly space programs being as young as they are, scientists would love to know what's happened to our rocket during a half century in space.</p><p>While 2020 SO won't get close enough to drop into our atmosphere, its slow progress has scientists hopeful that they'll still get some kind of a decent look at it.</p><p>Spectroscopy may be able to reveal what the rocket's surface is like now — has any of its paint survived, for example? Of course, being out in space, it's likely to have been hit by lots of dust and micrometeorites, so the current state of its surfaces is also of interest. Experts are curious to know how reflective the rocket is at this point, valuable information that can help planners of future long-term missions anticipate how well a craft out in space for extended periods will remain able to reflect sunlight.</p>
The electric car manufacturer says updates to its battery design and manufacturing process will help lower production costs.
- The high cost of batteries is the main reason why electric vehicles cost more than gas-powered cars.
- At the company's 'Battery Day' event on Tuesday, Tesla announced a new battery design that will give its cars more power and a longer range.
- The success of Tesla's plan depends on its ability to scale up production.
Screenshot of Tesla's 'Battery Day' presentation
Tesla<p>It's unclear when Tesla will stop using cobalt, or when it will stop sourcing its batteries from Panasonic. But Tesla claims that its new battery design and manufacturing changes will allow it to cut the cost per kilowatt-hour in half. If Tesla can successfully scale up production, the company could hit its goal of $100 per kilowatt-hour sooner than expected.</p><p>Hitting that mark could usher in the electric-car revolution, considering $100 per kilowatt-hour is <a href="https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/How-Soon-Can-Tesla-Get-Battery-Cell-Cost-Below-100-per-Kilowatt-Hour" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">generally regarded as the threshold</a> the industry needs to reach in order to make electric vehicles cost competitive with gas-powered cars. </p><p>A $25,000 electric car would also be Tesla's cheapest offering by far. The company had previously promised a $35,000 car, but only offered one at that price for a limited time. Tesla's website says its Model 3, its cheapest car, starts at about <a href="https://www.industryweek.com/leadership/article/22027923/tesla-declines-as-model-3-price-cut-renews-demand-concerns" target="_blank">$39,000.</a></p>
Photo of Tesla's new battery design
Tesla<p>To be sure, Musk is known for promising big on his projects, but not always following through on the promised timetable. But despite having an "insanely hard" 2020, as Musk said, Tesla's had a good past couple years.<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"In 2019, we had 50% growth," Musk said at the event. "And I think we'll do really pretty well in 2020, probably somewhere between 30 to 40 percent growth, despite a lot of very difficult circumstances."</p>