…and he is us.

Narrator: [opening narration] You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. [source]

So this week we had this warning:

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.”

And a few days later, another:

“Imagine a future where your life is measured by a number — three digits that dictate your place in society,” the latest cover of Wired declares. “That future is now.” The accompanying piece, written by Mara Hvistendahl, details the Chinese government’s attempts — with occasional assistance from private companies — to develop a system of “social credit,” using digital data to rank every citizen based on every aspect of his life. “The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020, and for those files to be searchable by fingerprints and other biometric characteristics,” according to the story.

What could possibly go wrong? Already, Hvistendahl notes, private ranking systems in China can penalize poor scorers, relegating them to second-class treatment when it comes to various services. Users can even face a downgrade for associating with low-scoring friends. “For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism,” the article notes. “The State Council has signaled that under the national social credit system people will be penalized for the crime of spreading online rumors, among other offenses, and that those deemed ‘seriously untrustworthy’ can expect to receive substandard services.”

Well, never mind. That’s China. America is the land of the free, the home of the brave! It is also, however, the home of millions of people giving up boatloads of private data and personal information to random corporations on a completely voluntary basis! Here’s looking at you, Alexa. “The US government can’t legally compel me to participate in some massive data-driven social experiment,” Hvistendahl points out, “but I give up my data to private companies every day.”

Yesterday I saw this video posted by Obianuju Ekeocha (@obianuju) before seeing it posted by others. [For the record, I recommend her Twitter account as one worthy of a “follow”.]

It wasn’t that long ago that the Netherlands fought against the Nazi’s and their eugenicist ideals. But that was then, and this is now.

To recap we are able to distill the costs each one of us has upon society and use it to determine “worth”. Worth as it is measured in costs to taxpayers, or social credits, or our guilt (or innocence) as judged by the frothing, incoherent social media mob who themselves are not so different from the torch and pitchfork crowd that marched many an innocent to the guillotines of France during its revolution just a few short centuries ago.

There is no tinfoil hat ensconced my head. I’m just well-read, continue to read and study history, and am distressingly aware of what humanity is capable of while the masses are distracted by shiny objects and the pursuit of more comfort.

I am just one man making an observation.

We have met the enemy…

Narrator: [closing narration] The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He *was* obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under “M” for Mankind – in The Twilight Zone.

2 thoughts on “…and he is us.

  1. Wow, Jeff. I read — or skimmed and meant to read fully later — Chamath’s article, too. The whole thing scares me. Every day it’s something else tech-related that’s out to get me… Makes me want to disengage from “modern life” entirely, but I can’t. I’m locked in. We all are… This was really well-written and laid out. Your analogy of the social media masses at the end to a torch and pitchfork crowd is dead on. It IS scary. I’m not sure how to fight it or what to do.

    Like

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