Thanks to Penguin Random House Audio for the free listen! Roger McNamee has written a partial insider's look at the world of Facebook, from the early beginnings to what we see with Russian influence in elections and Cambridge Analytics. I feel like the boy who cried wolf: Read this book! Read this book!
As a society, we really need to wake up and educate ourselves on how these technologies are influencing not only ourselves but society in general. Influencing may be too weak of a term. Fundamentally shifting might be a better way to describe it.
Consider this idea brought forward by Eli Pariser in 2011. Check out his amazing Ted Talk here!
Algorithms behind the scenes are monitoring all of our data in order to continue to improve our engagement and ultimately turn what we see into ad revenue. We tend to forget that this is all for money at the end of the day. Eli noted the idea of filter bubbles that begin to develop when you allow computers to generate the content you see next. We continue to like what we like, unbeknownst to us that the algorithms are trying to find more photos and stories it thinks we will like. He noted, "...giving algorithms gatekeeping power without also requiring civic responsibility would lead to unexpected, negative consequences." If you are sitting there clicking 'like' on flat earth conspiracy topics then you are going to get fed more flat earth conspiracy articles. It creates a bubble of information that people are unwittingly living in because all they are seeing reinforces what they are liking and looking at. As a human being, it can be hard to separate ourselves from this idea and recognize that our feeds may be slowly shifting our views and beliefs in one way or another.
We have all seen how this plays out in the recent election as we are watching groups and tribes grow from nothing into staunch critics of everyone who doesn't share their view. A false article spreads like wildfire because the algorithms already know who will like and share. This is how Russian interference took hold. Do you even know what your filter bubble would look like?
I encourage you to look up a study called Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks. A study published by Facebook whereby they manipulated the number of positive and negative messages shown in a feed of 700,000 unwitting users and came back noting that there was evidence provided that emotion can be spread over its platform.
Yikes. So we have algorithms, programmed by who knows, generating our feed and potentially manipulating our emotions without our knowledge or consent. Consider that across all of the social media platforms and you begin to wonder where this will all end.
I've picked up two more books since reading this because I'm truly fascinated by this. We are living in a global psychological experiment and the people who are running the experiment don't have control. That is terrifying.
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