The Marketplace of Ideas

“The philosopher Simone Weil (1909–1943) crisply explained why what we have come to call a “free market of ideas” must fail: facts cost labor, fictions do not. “

“We embrace the notion of a “free market of ideas” because it appeals to our egos. It bubbles to the top of the trope froth because it appeals to a human weakness: our overestimation of our expertise in areas where we lack it. For just this reason, we are vulnerable to people who tell us that we are smart enough to discern the truth from overwhelming stimuli”

Timothy Snyder on the Turing Test as a parable on the multiple dimensions of human mind showing us how how digital is threatening our future. It’s not simply a computer we mistake as human, it’s sexuality, rationality, empathy and the sheer possibility to find truth in facts in a digital world

What Turing Told Us About the Digital Threat to a Human Future

“From Milton’s Areopagitica (1644) to Twitter’s post-Trump apologia, an Anglo-Saxon tradition holds that truth emerges from unhindered exposure to whatever happens to be in the culture at a given moment. This is an error. Free speech is a necessary condition of truth, but it is not a sufficient one. The right to speak does not teach us how to speak, nor how to hear what others say. We can only gain the analytical capacity of C as a result of education, which competition itself never provides. Even if we are analytic like C, we also need A’s empathy to judge motivations and contexts. And even if we have the qualities of both C and A, we are powerless without B, the caretaker of facts. We can only reason from the facts we are given, which competition itself never generates. The philosopher Simone Weil (1909–1943) crisply explained why what we have come to call a “free market of ideas” must fail: facts cost labor, fictions do not.”

Related, Morozov on Joi Ito – MIT – Epstein

The Epstein scandal at MIT shows the moral bankruptcy of techno-elites

“For one, we are no longer in 2009: Mark Zuckerberg’s sophomoric musings on transparency or the global village impress very few.”

The Third Culture – Brockman (1991)

(forgive me starting with Simone Weil and ending with Brockman “As Brockman himself put it after one such dinner in 2004, “last year we tried ‘The Science Dinner’. Everyone yawned. So this year, it’s back to the money-sex-power thing with ‘The Billionaires’ Dinner’.”)

UPDATE 13/11/19 Stratechery on the Marketplace of Ideas  re the debate on Facebook and free speech

UPDATE 01/03/20 ideas market failure leads of  ideology sovereignty “If all information is seen as part of a war, out go any dreams of a global information space where ideas flow freely, bolstering deliberative democracy. Instead, the best future one can hope for is an ‘information peace’, in which each side respects the other’s ‘information sovereignty’: a favoured concept of both Beijing and Moscow, and essentially a cover for enforcing censorship.”

This is Not Propaganda – Peter Pomerantsev

UPDATE 19/01/21 excerpt from How Fascism Works, The Politics of Us and Them – Jason Stanley

Whether rightly or wrongly, many associate Mill’s On Liberty with the motif of a “marketplace of ideas,” a realm that, if left to operate on its own, will drive out prejudice and falsehood and produce knowledge. But the notion of a “marketplace of ideas,” like that of a free market generally, is predicated on a utopian conception of consumers. pag.59

The argument from the “marketplace of ideas” model for free speech works only if the underlying disposition of the society is to accept the force of reason over the power of irrational resentments and prejudice. pag.60

UPDATE 15/02/21 from Soshana Zuboff on Facebook and the coup, opinion on the NYTimes

For many who hold freedom of speech as a sacred right, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1919 dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States is a touchstone. “The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas,” he wrote. “The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.”

Tyler Cowen gets asked why he thinks important thinkes of the future will be religious ones, he gives 6 reasons why and numebr, while not worded so, it the right one: “facts cost labor, fiction do not”


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