Introducing the Virian Project.
The bit, increasingly, has replaced the atom. This we learn from Andrew McAfee's More From Less, and with this paradigm shift—one from scarcity to one of abundance—the role of content curation has become key. Much of the success of various tech companies that will go unnamed is built upon precisely this: successful content curation. Successful by what metric, though? In the case of our capitalist society, market cap and growth is the answer. Notions of untaxed negative externalities from economics does introduce nuance, and perhaps even hesitation, in labelling of various endeavours as being successful (we are speaking now from a societal perspective). The examples of externalities that come to mind are, due to the recentness of the bit having replaced the atom, largely of a materialist nature: car pollution is a particularly frequent and prescient example. This example should not be overlooked, but rather tackled and used as a tool for furthering our understanding on how to deal with externalities in general.
Virian does not pertain to physical pollution per se, but rather cultural pollution, from which the physical, it could be argued, is down stream. So much of our collective attention, the themes present in the shared narratives of our culture, is dictated programatically. These programs are thusly, to a significant extent, at the hand of the wheel of civilisation. However, at the wheel as they might be, their focus *is* profit—not civilisational health. It ought not necessarily be expected of the organisations developing and deploying these programs to automatically concern themselves with issues of this scale. Firstly, much, if not all, of the cultural effect of these programs is unintended. Secondly, something as important as our collective focus ought to be guarded by a structure whose primary purpose it is to sustain its health (we will leave "healthy collective focus" undefined for now, though we do believe—and this is a core assumption of the Virian Project—that this can be defined empirically using modern computational linguistics).
With the thought above in our shared mind, we can proceed to describe the purposes of The Virian Project, as we envision them now:
- To make explicit that states of culture in arbitrary geographical regions and time scales.
- To communicate in significant detail the technology underpinning the effects that we measure (here we mean both the tools we develop and the tools that shape the phenomena we analyse).
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