Responding to “The Social Dilemma”
“The Social Dilemma” is a film on Netflix that is the cyber equivalent of the revelations about our financial robbery by international criminal corporations. Both were there all the time, people can estimate a time-line, and the consequences are devastating.
The idea at the core is that by managing huge data banks created by social media, operators can control how we think and what we do. This is certainly true. I feel a little arrogant about it because I’m so atypical that I fall off the curves at every turn. My “worst” characteristic is that I’m not “like” but that probably means that I still fall into some silo or other.
The thing that thwarts the categories is that they come from a certain kind of culture:
Other-directed but ironically narcissistic
White Brit class assumptions about meritocracy
or Asian conformity?
In the past I’ve begged my relatives and the churches I know to leave Facebook. They look worried but don’t do it. They say, “But my family . . .” When I try to explain the concerns in this film, they can’t get it. Everyone they know uses Facebook. Anyway, their use of the computer has moved from the tabletop console and has merged with smart phones — a necessity if your basic group is spread around. They depend on them in the most elemental way.
I signed up for Medium because Blogger was morphing in an uncomfortably unfriendly way. My use of the computer is based on writing and self-publishing, plus a bit of research. I object to all the groups and apps that talk about doing something but never do it. Medium promised to pay if you were read by many. But you cannot be paid if you are on landline — only if you have a mobile phone.
I call it the “insectification” of humans, but I could refer to as becoming “borgs” which is more grandiose and has a media reference, which techies like. Insects are standardized and communicating through shared and probably genetically based understanding of a varied world. They are at the mercy of their environment as the collapse of bee hives show.
Actual government has little to do with it since I see that most of the old white legislators can’t operate even a tabletop antique like mine. Many don’t carry laptops because that’s for aides. They have no idea how the internet or apps work. No need. They have no interest in any realm except how to stay in office and how to secure power.
I did get interested in “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”, the data-mining that revealed what people found to be attractive pornography, because it was so unexpected, esp. to an old white vanilla female like me. I’ll never be able to think of octopi the same way again! Our solution to the pandemic depends on data mining, as does so much medical research.
In fact, the evil consequences of social media on kids, pushing the suicide rates higher and so on, are only perceptible through data mining, collected through computers. But they don’t work on the atypical, and whole categories of people are not this kind of typical. No insect or computer can shingle a roof or fix plumbing. You Tube can help you out, and those vids are social media in a sense, but they are unique, independent, and personally made. A little rough.
The best possible pushback to this domination by little rectangles of exotic metals with a screen or an ear bud is strong sensory connection to the world through more senses than sight and sound. More than brain, besides the physiological response to watching action, the body registering movement, smell, surfaces (haptic), taste, balance, and on and on. Some things just can’t be cyberized.
One of the most crucial foundation damages for humans is that for the most part the reciprocal sharing of a created space is distorted. “The emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational that regulates energy and information flow within and among us” — which is one way to define a human — is replaced by a machine-and-algorithmic determined system that has no senses. With no senses, it has no experience of the world.
This may work pretty well for urban people interfacing with transportation, sales and distribution systems, advertising — but it leaves out far too much of life. It mechanizes humans instead of the other way around. It limits awareness and therefore concepts.
So many a film or series I watch depends for its plot on smart phones and computer indicators. The cell phones are never out of their hands or pockets. The model is so stylish. Crucial decisions depend on them. They show just where you are, how to get at you. They overhear your conversations and record all phone calls. In the course of solving criminal problems, they reveal personal relationships that are then damaged by the lack of privacy.
Everything from the refrigerator to the Bonneville Dam powerplant is regulated and monitored by computers, meaning that a foreign hacker can turn off the electricity as effectively as a hurricane could. Right now we’re obsessed with the possibility of them changing vote counts without considering how their clever persuasions of whole silos of thinkers can affect a vote.
But the algorithm makers are hampered by having to think inside the silos invented by a monoculture. The wild card can evade them. We can leave the pack, abandon meritocracy, just go a different way. For lack of detectability, many have already escaped, gone “off the grid” and technology has made it possible to generate one’s own energy from sun or wind.
The reward system of attention management is pretty much power and sex, but notice that the people in this film go right away to touting auto-generation of chemicals, talking about dopamine as though they really understood the pathways a hormone might take. The younger people in this film are more likely to be into math than literature and therefore think they have basic stories of the world that are not ambiguous and conditional the way people really are. “I had no choice,” they say.
These folks probably had achieving parents who weren’t consistently with them even in the earliest years when they were left in child care centers with a dozen or more other kids. They are not used to creating the liminal space between two actual people sitting together and merging with each other. I’ve always remembered Sylvia Ashton-Warner remarking that American children are raised by big dogs and television. No wonder when it comes to times of divorce it is the dog that both people want so badly.
This imposed particulization of society will be pretty revealing. Already it has proven in detail money laundering on a planetary scale and the ineptitude of our legislators. I suspect that some people will discover they don’t like their children very much, and others will discover for the first time that they love these developing people they never paid attention to in the past.