Not that this book has changed my opinion of social media. I am glad someone took the trouble to articulate the problems. I have, however, already reduced drastically my presence on social media.
The Ten Arguments are:
Argument One: You Are Losing Your Free Will / Welcome To The Cage That Goes Everywhere With You
Argument Two: Quitting Social Media Is The Most Finely Targeted Way To Resist The Insanity Of Our Times
Argument Three: Social Media Is Making You Into An Asshole
Argument Four: Social Media Is Undermining Truth
Argument Five: Social Media Is Making What You Say Meaningless
Argument Six: Social Media Is Destroying Your Capacity For Empathy
Argument Seven: Social Media Is Making You Unhappy
Argument Eight: Social Media Doesn’t Want You To Have Economic Dignity
Argument Nine: Social Media Is Making Politics Impossible
Argument Ten: Social Media Hates Your Soul
Some noteworthy quotes:
Seems like a good moment to coin an acronym so I don’t have to repeat, over and over, the same account of the pieces that make up the problem. How about “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”? BUMMER.
BUMMER is a machine, a statistical machine that lives in the computing clouds. To review, phenomena that are statistical and fuzzy are nevertheless real. Even at their best, BUMMER algorithms can only calculate the chances that a person will act in a particular way. But what might be only a chance for each person approaches being a certainty on the average for large numbers of people. The overall population can be affected with greater predictability than can any single person.
BUMMER is a machine with six moving parts.
Here’s a mnemonic for the six components of the BUMMER machine, in case you ever have to remember them for a test:
A is for Attention Acquisition leading to Asshole supremacy
B is for Butting into everyone’s lives
C is for Cramming content down people’s throats
D is for Directing people’s behaviors in the sneakiest way possible
E is for Earning money from letting the worst assholes secretly screw with everyone else
F is for Fake mobs and Faker society
According to reporting by the New York Times, the going rate for fake people on Twitter in early 2018 was $225 for the first 25,000 fake followers. The fake accounts might be mash-ups of accounts from real people; on casual inspection, they seem real. Celebrities, businesses, politicians, and a more modern pool of cyber-bad-actor customers all make use of fake-people factories. The companies that sell fake people are often fake as well. (The Times found that one prominent bot service listed a fake address.) Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/27/technology/social-media-bots.html
A Assholes change discourse into discharge. They turn the Solitary/Pack switch to Pack, which makes people pay so much attention to social status competition that they can become blinded to everything else, to any broader or more fundamental truth.
B Tech companies spy on you, Butting into your life. The perception of truth requires that people be authentic, so that they can perceive authentically. This principle was explained in the analogy of the jelly beans in the jar. When people are constantly prodded by spying technologies, they lose authenticity.
C Cramming experiences down your throat. When what people can be made to perceive is the product sold by some of the richest corporations, then obviously truth must suffer. The loss of truth is the product.
D Directing lives through ubiquitous behavior modification. When engineered addictions are applied to manipulate masses of people for commercial gain, obviously those masses become removed from truth. That is precisely the point.
E Earning money by letting some people, often nasty ones, secretly modify the behaviors of other people. Economic incentives tend to win over rules, policies, and good intentions, as will be explained in the Argument to come about economics. Therefore, incentives in BUMMER often disfavor truth. At best, they aren’t aligned with truth.
F Fake people have no reason to tell the truth. Indeed, truth is suicide to a fake person. But fake people have been bred and amplified by BUMMER.
Truth, meaning a claim that can be tested or events that are honestly documented—the stuff that all people can hold in common—is by definition anathema to the manipulations of BUMMER. BUMMER must often route around truth and attempt to suppress it in order to thrive.
BETTER THAN BUMMER
One way is to directly monetize services such as search and social media. You’d pay a low monthly fee to use them, but if you contributed a lot—if your posts, videos, or whatever are popular—you could also earn some money. A large number of people, instead of the tiny number of token stars in the present system, would earn money. (I acknowledge, of course, that there would have to be a way of making services available to those who couldn’t afford to pay even a small fee.)
I’m making a fuss about the potential to earn because a system like this would help address looming losses of employment due to AI and automation. We’re talking about an industry that supports some of the richest companies the world has ever known, and it’s all driven by data that comes from people who are often being told that they’re about to be obsolete, that they’ll need to go on the public dole with a basic income system. It just isn’t right to tell people they are no longer valuable to society when the biggest companies exist only because of data that comes from those same people.
The purpose of life, according to BUMMER, is to optimize. According to Google: “Organize the world’s information.” But per the typical Silicon Valley worldview, everything is information. Matter will be hacked, the human body will be hacked, and so on. Therefore, Google’s mission statement reads, within tech culture, as “Organize all reality.” That’s why Google started all those weird Alphabet companies. You might not have thought about Google’s worldview or mission, but you buy into it when you optimize your presence to rank high in search or optimize your video for views. The purpose of your life is now to optimize. You have been baptized.