At around the same time, the former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya held a public interview at Stanford University in which he did not exactly mince his words. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works,” he said. “No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth … So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion.”
No civil discourse, no cooperation.
Two billion people actively use Facebook; at least 3.5 billion are now reckoned to be online. Their shared habits, compulsions and susceptibilities will clearly have a huge influence on the world’s progress, or lack of it.
So that’ll be civil discourse and cooperation between some 2 to 3.5 billion people then, eh?
But this is the truly scary bit and the one which is really the point of what is being said:
So we ought to listen to Tristan Harris and his campaign. “Religions and governments don’t have that much influence over people’s daily thoughts,” he recently told Wired magazine. “But we have three technology companies” – he meant Facebook, Google and Apple – “who have this system that frankly they don’t even have control over … Right now, 2 billion people’s minds are already jacked in to this automated system, and it’s steering people’s thoughts toward either personalised paid advertising or misinformation or conspiracy theories. And it’s all automated; the owners of the system can’t possibly monitor everything that’s going on, and they can’t control it.”
And then came the kicker. “This isn’t some kind of philosophical conversation. This is an urgent concern happening right now.” Amid an ocean of corporate sophistry and doublethink, those words have the distinct ring of truth.
No one controls what these 2 to 3.5 billion people do. They get to just discourse and cooperate among themselves as they see fit, with no guidance from government, politicians or a priestly caste.
It’s the classical liberal fantasy come true and the progressive liberal nightmare. For if the people can do it for themselves what need of the caste of progressive liberals to tell them what to do?