The Erosion of Trust and the Age of Ai


A father named Hayden and his daughter Thea, sat in their dimly lit lounge. Not so random flames danced suggestively in sequence to draw attention away from the fact the room was screen-less…

Hayden turned to Thea and with two hands, took a cautious sip from a cup of something hot. He began to speak… “I want you to know about a time that existed before the domination of the machines. In July 2023 the Internet was a different place, content was largely human produced and more or less we could tell the difference between what was true. We didn’t realise it but this was all about to change. Ai was about to come of age and it’s influence would be profound.“

Hayden continued in a serious yet playful voice. “Politicians were the master storytellers. They carefully craft a narrative based on truths and false truths, numbers and emotion. Fear is a powerful motivator. Politicians have tried to encourage us to act with our heart and not our head. Far from the sum source of all human knowledge though, their words reach the ears of a loyal few then are lost for all time. Traditional mass media was an effective but a blunt tool by todays standards. Truth creates structure, certainty, rules and reliability. Without it we descend into chaos. Into the space between. In this vacuum and confusion, a new narrative has the space it needs to thrive. This is where politicians and those who seek power come to win hearts and minds. They sell a new narrative and in this new timeline, they are in control and they have the power.”

“Great story Dad, now whats for desert?” Thea seemed hopeful. Her face lost hope, as all children appear when their parents ignore their requests..

Hayden continued. “That was until the arrival of a new power. Enter information technology personalisation and the filter bubble of social media… Boundaries were diminishing, structure was in flux and then came the algorithms and big data. This is the beauty of the internet and social media at its finest. Your digital experience is designed in such a way as to hold your attention for as long as possible, creating an information bubble. Naturally your fears and neurosis thoughts are tempting narratives for retraining your mind, creating numerous opportunities to lead you down a rabbit hole of extreme content and into dangerous depths. What does your feed say about you and the way you experience the world Thea?

Thea stared blankly back at her dad.

“Truth is whatever you want it to be Thea. Like a virus rapidly spreading through society, the war on truth is being fought everywhere. Here’s the funny thing about truth…we all see the world subjectively and with bias. Yet despite our differences, if we can agree that an apple is an apple then objectively we can relate and work together.”

“Thats easy Dad, an apple is an apple” Thea replied. Hayden laughed and spoke. “An apple is an apple yes, until enough people are convinced that it is not. For example, the liberal minded and inclusive had thoughts on gender, blending subjective conceptual meaning with objective gender classification. Their campaign argued, you can be any gender you want to be.”

Thea interrupted. “Gender studies can be confusing, I asked my teacher, am I a boy or a girl… and their reply was “what do you want to be?” Hayden continued.. “I am not saying this is right or wrong Thea. That is not to debate here. The effect is dematerialisation of previous knowledge and reemergence of a new truth. Everything was changing, yet none of this could prepare us for what was to come.“

“Where is all this heading and how much longer is this story?” Thea asked…

“What emerged was a culture that was more divisive. A once fundamental truth would no longer be agreed by all. Power was shifting away from politicians and to the technology barons. They fed an increasingly attention lacking and bored population with filtered content, in mind reconditioning farms called social media.

People were addicted and obsessed with their feed. Every tool and tactic was used against them. The ideal content consumer is thoughtless, unquestionably satisfied by the unwholesome, trash full feed being served by increasingly intelligent algorithms. Freedom and society had one eye in reality and the other on a device. Thankfully, reality kept most people free from descending into complete imprisonment.”

“This doesn’t sound positive Dad. Vulnerable people were being exploited.” Said Thea.

“Everything was heading towards a fabricated reality, envisioned by the tech gods of Silicon Valley. Their would be rules and absolutes. There has to be to avoid insanity. But what is a fact in a synthetic world? We all have to agree to play and when we do, we accept the definitions of the platform. We can never be free of the “real” as a construct because there is no alternative. We can free ourselves from the digital. Two versions of reality are required Thea, to create the needed contrast, to free an imprisoned mind. It was all supposed to gradually prepare us for a digital metaverse, where truth is controlled by whoever owns the augmenting technology. Plug in and prepare to be satisfied.” Hayden smiled.

“Whats the difference to reality Dad?”

“Well, there are multiple platforms or dimensions with varying principles and rules. You have the choice to play and move between them for now. You also have the choice to opt out and unplug. You can return to reality at any time. Now back to the point of all this. We never made it to the Metaverse phase…There would be two eventualities Thea, a plot twist if you like. If the Metaverse comes of age, millions of people would have been lost completely to the machine. “

“Wait, Why?” Thea appeared more enthusiastically curious now.”

“Hallucinations of an Ai imagination let loose on an unsuspecting internet. The speed of production went into overdrive and Ai produced content began to dominate the internet. It was well written and beautifully presented. A perfect forgery. For the most part, it was truth but dig a little deeper and the whole thing began to fall apart. At first people noticed inaccuracies. These Ai machines were not search engines, serving up links to content for a human to filter fact from fiction. No these were generative. They could craft narratives and content and serve them up as objective truth for humans to accept. The search engines worked to a degree because the content was diversely human generated. They showed us what to focus on, sorted through the volume but left us with a sense of free will, even if bias had crept in. The Ai produced content was completely generative in its immediacy and it’s references often fabricated to prove its point. It gave us one perspective.”

“Our entire history was rewritten. Our science and culture. The entire library of human knowledge was being replaced, crowded out by new content produced by a machine. There were massive advancements and there were mistakes and lies. Irregardless no one could decipher the information being adapted at that scale.“

“Now if you gave that level of power to one human being and said rewrite everything what do you think would happen. “I don’t know Dad, it seems risky and dangerous.” Thea replied.

“Exactly. It was. Best case scenario, history and knowledge is rewritten in a way that serves the Ai and its owners. At least the internet would still have some utility and society would go on, albeit with some new masters. The alternative is the internet becomes a wasteland of fragmented truth. There would be no structure nor foundation of knowledge. In this world there is no trust and no truth, only doubt and disbelief. In this world information is unreliable and unusable. This is a sceptical world of uncertainty and instability. All structure is lost and with it, so are our minds.”

“Let’s find a way to get them back!” Thea said…

By Hayden Breese