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The Analog Guideline

Often when I think of a philosophical or moral or behavioral issue related to online, a guideline I use is “how would we have done this before the internet?” In the sixties, seventies, early eighties when even long-distance phonecalls were expensive and noisy.

Conversations would’ve happened around the kitchen table or at parties between people who knew each other, and exchange of ideas would be at clubs or in the library or in the letters pages of magazines, like cooking magazines for example.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of encrypted email but a lot more indifferent on or even reluctant towards encrypted anonymous publishing. People were able to speak freely and try out ideas fearlessly when talking to their own friends, but you didn’t have to fear a dog-pile of two hundred anonymous sealions everytime you left your house.

Now, a guideline is just a guideline and shouldn’t replace actual thought and care. There are plenty of things that might become improved by the internet, plenty of old hierarchies and oppressions that are being eroded as the voiceless are finding strength with each other. There were plenty of suffucating cultural homogenization that was going on when there were only a handful of TV channels.

But, given how much I hate online, and have been reluctantly driven online because of the pandemic, in desperate search for company as everyone else bubbled up as I was rotting away, it’s no wonder that I gaze longingly at the pre-modem past for inspiration on how to make online more cozy.