Why I Left WhatsApp -- The Fallacy of Progression (AKA Appeal to Novelty)
Updated: Nov 25
The fallacy of progression (AKA the appeal to novelty) is one that many of us may not be aware of that is even a fallacy. This perhaps may be true, especially among the younger demographics. The fallacy occurs when we assume that progression is good just because of itself, AKA, because it's progressive, new and so on.
It is mainly a fallacy because it is wrong, technically, to assume that any kind of progression in any field is a good one, or even beneficial in any way. It does not mean that progression did not create benefit to humanity. However, one should consider not generalizing any kind of progression as beneficial, just because of these specific benefits, achieved throughout history. Any invention or new idea may have its benefits as well as its drawbacks. Nuclear arms, for example, caused countless deaths in Japan in WW2. However, nowadays, due to the idea of "Mutually-Assured Destruction", many wars are technically prevented from even happening because countries would just blow each other out of existence.
The reason as to why North Korea is so powerful is because she's a great nuclear power, despite being a very poor country economically. Imagine a world where the atom bomb was never invented... What if then the enslaved people of that miserable country, could've been liberated?
After all, the North Korean plan, is to protect itself from the outside world as much as possible, so it would not intervene with their abuse of human rights and of humans in general. Perhaps if the world wasn't nuclear, Trump would have no reason to meet Kim Jong-il in a diplomatic manner years ago?
What is progression? We seem to associate it with success, as in getting better at something, or as something is getting better or "evolving". However, not every progression is towards a greater development. Progression is simply an advancement of something, of something going forward. It does not imply that the advancement is great, for deterioration can be progress as of itself.
It can be observed in the seasons, for example. The progress of spring is summer, and many of the blooming flowers and plants will die out because progression does not have to be towards a certain development of greater feats. Progression in this sense can also be in a circular manner. Therefore, there are various ways in which progression is expressed and not all of them are towards an evolving, general "good".
Furthermore, not every progress necessarily has an end goal, like a "one hundred percent" completion, where the progression eventually stops. Our survival, for example, does not have a precise end-goal. We survive generation after generation as long as possible with the only way to end it is a theoratical mass extinction.
Evolution, by the way, is not about developing into something greater, but about adjusting to our environment. It is an extremely slow, imperfect process that is there to improve the probability of a species surviving. It isn't about becoming better nor about improvement. The "progress" or continuation of evolution is, therefore, a genetic attempt to better survive. It does not ensure survival, and only the most adaptable of species will preservere.
The same reasoning of biological evolution can be applied to technological and financial evolutions. Companies that fail to adjust to the demands of their consumers will eventually die out by going bankrupt. Technologies that will serve their purpose less than other forms of technologies will become irrelevant to the vast majority of humankind. In geopolitics, countries that will fail forming alliances with stronger nations will be less likely to be protected or supported by said nations at times of war.
The progression fallacy/appeal to novelty fallacy is fallacious because our conception of progression is unnecessarily fixated towards one specific model. Progression is not always about constant development and improvement but also about decline. In fiction, plots are progressed even when certain concepts in it are deteriorating. When the antagonist wins over the protagonist in a battle, the story still progresses towards an eventual conclusion at its end. Progression is about continuation and not about improvement towards a greater and better novelty.
Some progressions of things and beings, are either indefinite, or infinite. Therefore, the universe by itself is in a constant state of progress, as it continues to exist in the flow of time and space, and not necessarily towards a specific end-goal. Maybe it does not have intended goals at all. The destination can simply be the result, or the outcome. Reality is dynamic and ever-changing. Those who will fail to accept this reality and adapt will suffer unnecessarily due to their dependancy on fixations and patterns.
When it comes to technology, this fallacy works out greatly. A few years ago, the Playstation 5 gaming console was released to the public. I heard that, at first, it was intended to run far-older games. In practice, it didn't, and in my opinion, became redundant; Redundant, because its predecessor, the PS4, is not only cheaper, but also runs tons of identical games already.
Therefore, by this logic, even if the PS5 is the newer model, the one that is more recent, it's far-more beneficial to buy a PS4, simply because it's cheaper, and is already a decent console. See how the appeal to novelty can unnecessarily make you spend excessively on things you can already afford for far cheaper. I call this idea the same results problem.
And that redundancy, I have found to exist in many other communication technologies, and yet, they are desired, probably because "everyone else uses them" and because "they are contemporary". When you claim that something should be used because it is commonly used, you adhere to the ad-populum fallacy. The need to adjust stems from the need to stay relevant, not from the need to be popular. You don't need to be popular to be relevant and these concepts are different. A business for example needs to be relevant because it will only survive if its services is neeeded by demand. It does not need to be popular, or even admired or glorified, in order to fulfill this basic function.
Take WhatsApp as an example. It is a messaging application that allows people to chat through text, speech and images. Nothing exactly new was invented here, and yet it seems to be a far more preferable choice of virtual chat, than sending SMS. We can all just send SMS messages to each other, but due to the appeal to novelty we are normalized to use this redundant service.
(The same goes for Spotify, by the way. You don't need spotify to listen to music. The relevant service it provides is nothing revolutionary. It is simply modern, so many flock to it. It's ironic because there are far more songs on Youtube, because spotify content relies heavily on rights from musicians, but I digress).
This is a bit strange, considering that regular sending and receiving SMS on your phone, does not require an internet connection, while one needs to be online to be on WhatsApp. Some jobs require you to have a smartphone and a WhatsApp, simply because on the latter, one can create groups for co-workers and such.
Regardless, I'd argue that the group feature encourages laziness because one can simply send the same message to the necessary recipients instead, instead of flowing a chat group with indefinite chatter and regular conversations. It's not like work could've not been done before the days of WhatsApp, correct?
I've been using "dumb" phone myself, because I have realized the existence of this logical fallacy on my own. I was told the same philosophy which this fallacy criticizes: That smartphone's are contemporary, so you should not "devolve" your phone; That everyone uses a smartphone and so on. In reality the lack of a smartphone in my life allows my to work on Philosocom better, focus better and sleep better.
In reality the dominance of smartphones have created a new type of phobia called Nomophobia, or the fear of being without a smartphone. Some people, and perhaps you included, may fear being without a smartphone and be too anxious, depressed and bored without one at your fingertips. This is very unfortunate considering we can spend time with one another instead and thus reduce our chances of being lonely. And it isn't like the notifications are going to vanish. The existence of smartphones, while far more handy than a computer, has made us even more addicted to technology as we are normalized to be addicted.
I don't really mind conformity because it is I who knows better what is good for me, and not a set of norms who might not even care if I die if I stay insignificant.
It was only by chance that a supply of such phones came to town, and to my surprise, not only they usually get malfunction less often, but also cost far less than a smartphone. And yes, dear readers, the dark truth of smartphones is that they are designed to malfunction for us to buy them again.
So, here is also another, underrated counterargument against progression: Sometimes the older products, older technologies and so on, have merits which the other ones, have not. Replacing a smartphone is very expensive, and not everyone can always afford it. But in comparison, older, "ancient" products, that serve the same functionality, can do just as fine and even more.
I was told by one of my newer readers, that the fact that I now have a "dumb" phone, is not something to be proud of, as if I am a "boomer". In practice, I already know that I am weird. I prefer being weird than committing a logical fallacy, just because "the rest of society" does. Calling people names is in general an ad-hominem. Disregarding someone for their actions by pulling off an ad-hominem is known as the strawman's fallacy. Ad-hominem is solved by speaking on ideas, not on the people involved.
I believe it goes against my morality as a philosopher, to know that I am wrong logically, and not change that mistake in me. It isn't to say that I am purely a logical being, I just am not fond of fallacies, as one who realizes them to better understand reality. Fallacies are there to be learned from, not to be repeated.