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Why Is the World Going to Hell? Netflix’s the Social Dilemma Tells Only Half the Story
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If you find yourself wondering what the hell is going on right now – the “Why is the world turning to shit?” thought – you may find Netflix’s new documentary The Social Dilemma a good starting point for clarifying your thinking. I say “starting point” because, as we shall see, the film suffers from two major limitations: one in its analysis and the other in its conclusion. Nonetheless, the film is good at exploring the contours of the major social crises we currently face – epitomised both by our addiction to the mobile phone and by its ability to rewire our consciousness and our personalities.

The film makes a convincing case that this is not simply an example of old wine in new bottles. This isn’t the Generation Z equivalent of parents telling their children to stop watching so much TV and play outside. Social media is not simply a more sophisticated platform for Edward Bernays-inspired advertising. It is a new kind of assault on who we are, not just what we think.

According to The Social Dilemma, we are fast reaching a kind of human “event horizon”, with our societies standing on the brink of collapse. We face what several interviewees term an “existential threat” from the way the internet, and particularly social media, are rapidly developing.

I don’t think they are being alarmist. Or rather I think they are right to be alarmist, even if their alarm is not entirely for the right reasons. We will get to the limitations in their thinking in a moment.

Like many documentaries of this kind, The Social Dilemma is deeply tied to the shared perspective of its many participants. In most cases, they are richly disillusioned, former executives and senior software engineers from Silicon Valley. They understand that their once-cherished creations – Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat (WhatsApp seems strangely under-represented in the roll call) – have turned into a gallery of Frankenstein’s monsters.

That is typified in the plaintive story of the guy who helped invent the “Like” button for Facebook. He thought his creation would flood the world with the warm glow of brother and sisterhood, spreading love like a Coca Cola advert. In fact, it ended up inflaming our insecurities and need for social approval, and dramatically pushed up rates of suicide among teenage girls.

If the number of watches of the documentary is any measure, disillusion with social media is spreading far beyond its inventors.

Children as guinea pigs

Although not flagged as such, The Social Dilemma divides into three chapters.

The first, dealing with the argument we are already most familiar with, is that social media is a global experiment in altering our psychology and social interactions, and our children are the main guinea pigs. Millennials (those who came of age in the 2000s) are the first generation that spent their formative years with Facebook and MySpace as best friends. Their successors, Generation Z, barely know a world without social media at its forefront.

The film makes a relatively easy case forcefully: that our children are not only addicted to their shiny phones and what lies inside the packaging, but that their minds are being aggressively rewired to hold their attention and then make them pliable for corporations to sell things.

Each child is not just locked in a solitary battle to stay in control of his or her mind against the skills of hundreds of the world’s greatest software engineers. The fight to change their perspective and ours – the sense of who we are – is now in the hands of algorithms that are refined every second of every day by AI, artificial intelligence. As one interviewee observes, social media is not going to become less expert at manipulating our thinking and emotions, it’s going to keep getting much, much better at doing it.

Jaron Lanier, one of the computing pioneers of virtual reality, explains what Google and the rest of these digital corporations are really selling: “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception – that is the product.” That is also how these corporations make their money, by “changing what you do, what you think, who you are.”

They make profits, big profits, from the predictions business – predicting what you will think and how you will behave so that you are more easily persuaded to buy what their advertisers want to sell you. To have great predictions, these corporations have had to amass vast quantities of data on each of us – what is sometimes called “surveillance capitalism”.

And, though the film does not quite spell it out, there is another implication. The best formula for tech giants to maximise their predictions is this: as well as processing lots of data on us, they must gradually grind down our distinctiveness, our individuality, our eccentricities so that we become a series of archetypes. Then, our emotions – our fears, insecurities, desires, cravings – can be more easily gauged, exploited and plundered by advertisers.

These new corporations trade in human futures, just as other corporations have long traded in oil futures and pork-belly futures, notes Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus at Harvard business school. Those markets “have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity”.

Flat Earthers and Pizzagate

The second chapter explains that, as we get herded into our echo chambers of self-reinforcing information, we lose more and more sense of the real world and of each other. With it, our ability to empathise and compromise is eroded. We live in different information universes, chosen for us by algorithms whose only criterion is how to maximise our attention for advertisers’ products to generate greater profits for the internet giants.

Anyone who has spent any time on social media, especially a combative platform like Twitter, will sense that there is a truth to this claim. Social cohesion, empathy, fair play, morality are not in the algorithm. Our separate information universes mean we are increasingly prone to misunderstanding and confrontation.

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And there is a further problem, as one interviewee states: “The truth is boring.” Simple or fanciful ideas are easier to grasp and more fun. People prefer to share what’s exciting, what’s novel, what’s unexpected, what’s shocking. “It’s a disinformation-for-profit model,” as another interviewee observes, stating that research shows false information is six times more likely to spread on social media platforms than true information.

And as governments and politicians work more closely with these tech companies – a well-documented fact the film entirely fails to explore – our rulers are better positioned than ever to manipulate our thinking and control what we do. They can dictate the political discourse more quickly, more comprehensively, more cheaply than ever before.

This section of the film, however, is the least successful. True, our societies are riven by increasing polarisation and conflict, and feel more tribal. But the film implies that all forms of social tension – from the paranoid paedophile conspiracy theory of Pizzagate to the Black Lives Matter protests – are the result of social media’s harmful influence.

And though it is easy to know that Flat Earthers are spreading misinformation, it is far harder to be sure what is true and what is false in many others areas of life. Recent history suggests our yardsticks cannot be simply what governments say is true – or Mark Zuckerberg, or even “experts”. It may be a while since doctors were telling us that cigarettes were safe, but millions of Americans were told only a few years ago that opiates would help them – until an opiate addiction crisis erupted across the US.

This section falls into making a category error of the kind set out by one of the interviewees early in the film. Despite all the drawbacks, the internet and social media have an undoubted upside when used simply as a tool, argues Tristan Harris, Google’s former design ethicist and the soul of the film. He gives the example of being able to hail a cab almost instantly at the press of a phone button. That, of course, highlights something about the materialist priorities of most of Silicon Valley’s leading lights.

But the tool box nestled in our phones, full of apps, does not just satisfy our craving for material comfort and security. It has also fuelled a craving to understand the world and our place in it, and offered tools to help us do that.

Phones have made it possible for ordinary people to film and share scenes once witnessed by only a handful of disbelieved passers-by. We can all see for ourselves a white police officer dispassionately kneeling on the neck of a black man for nine minutes, while the victim cries out he cannot breathe, until he expires. And we can then judge the values and priorities of our leaders when they decide to do as little as possible to prevent such incidents occurring again.

The internet has created a platform from which not only disillusioned former Silicon Valley execs can blow the whistle on what the Mark Zuckerbergs are up to, but so can a US army private like Chelsea Manning, by exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so can a national security tech insider like Edward Snowden, by revealing the way we are being secretly surveilled by our own governments.

Technological digital breakthroughs allowed someone like Julian Assange to set up a site, Wikileaks, that offered us a window on the real political world – a window through we could see our leaders behaving more like psychopaths than humanitarians. A window those same leaders are now fighting tooth and nail to close by putting him on trial.

A small window on reality

The Social Dilemma ignores all of this to focus on the dangers of so-called “fake news”. It dramatises a scene suggesting that only those sucked into information blackholes and conspiracy sites end up taking to the street to protest – and when they do, the film hints, it will not end well for them.

Apps allowing us to hail a taxi or navigate our way to a destination are undoubtedly useful tools. But being able to find out what our leaders are really doing – whether they are committing crimes against others or against us – is an even more useful tool. In fact, it is a vital one if we want to stop the kind of self-destructive behaviours The Social Dilemma is concerned about, not least our destruction of the planet’s life systems (an issue that, except for one interviewee’s final comment, the film leaves untouched).

Use of social media does not mean one necessarily loses touch with the real world. For a minority, social media has deepened their understanding of reality. For those tired of having the real world mediated for them by a bunch of billionaires and traditional media corporations, the chaotic social media platforms have provided an opportunity to gain insights into a reality that was obscured before.

The paradox, of course, is that these new social media corporations are no less billionaire-owned, no less power-hungry, no less manipulative than the old media corporations. The AI algorithms they are rapidly refining are being used – under the rubric of “fake news” – to drive out this new marketplace in whistleblowing, in citizen journalism, in dissident ideas.

Social media corporations are quickly getting better at distinguishing the baby from the bathwater, so they can throw out the baby. After all, like their forebears, the new media platforms are in the business of business, not of waking us up to the fact that they are embedded in a corporate world that has plundered the planet for profit.

Much of our current social polarisation and conflict is not, as The Social Dilemma suggests, between those influenced by social media’s “fake news” and those influenced by corporate media’s “real news”. It is between, on the one hand, those who have managed to find oases of critical thinking and transparency in the new media and, on the other, those trapped in the old media model or those who, unable to think critically after a lifetime of consuming corporate media, have been easily and profitably sucked into nihilistic, online conspiracies.

Our mental black boxes

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The third chapter gets to the nub of the problem without indicating exactly what that nub is. That is because The Social Dilemma cannot properly draw from its already faulty premises the necessary conclusion to indict a system in which the Netflix corporation that funded the documentary and is televising it is so deeply embedded itself.

For all its heart-on-its-sleeve anxieties about the “existential threat” we face as a species, The Social Dilemma is strangely quiet about what needs to change – aside from limiting our kids’ exposure to Youtube and Facebook. It is a deflating ending to the rollercoaster ride that preceded it.

Here I want to backtrack a little. The film’s first chapter makes it sound as though social media’s rewiring of our brains to sell us advertising is something entirely new. The second chapter treats our society’s growing loss of empathy, and the rapid rise in an individualistic narcissism, as something entirely new. But very obviously neither proposition is true.

Advertisers have been playing with our brains in sophisticated ways for at least a century. And social atomisation – individualism, selfishness and consumerism – have been a feature of western life for at least as long. These aren’t new phenomena. It’s just that these long-term, negative aspects of western society are growing exponentially, at a seemingly unstoppable rate.

We’ve been heading towards dystopia for decades, as should be obvious to anyone who has been tracking the lack of political urgency to deal with climate change since the problem became obvious to scientists back in the 1970s.

The multiple ways in which we are damaging the planet – destroying forests and natural habitats, pushing species towards extinction, polluting the air and water, melting the ice-caps, generating a climate crisis – have been increasingly evident since our societies turned everything into a commodity that could be bought and sold in the marketplace. We began on the slippery slope towards the problems highlighted by The Social Dilemma the moment we collectively decided that nothing was sacred, that nothing was more sacrosanct than our desire to turn a quick buck.

It is true that social media is pushing us towards an event horizon. But then so is climate change, and so is our unsustainable global economy, premised on infinite growth on a finite planet. And, more importantly, these profound crises are all arising at the same time.

There is a conspiracy, but not of the Pizzagate variety. It is an ideological conspiracy, of at least two centuries’ duration, by a tiny and ever more fabulously wealth elite to further enrich themselves and to maintain their power, their dominance, at all costs.

There is a reason why, as Harvard business professor Shoshana Zuboff points out, social media corporations are the most fantastically wealthy in human history. And that reason is also why we are reaching the human “event horizon” these Silicon Valley luminaries all fear, one where our societies, our economies, the planet’s life-support systems are all on the brink of collapse together.

The cause of that full-spectrum, systemic crisis is not named, but it has a name. Its name is the ideology that has become a black box, a mental prison, in which we have become incapable of imagining any other way of organising our lives, any other future than the one we are destined for at the moment. That ideology’s name is capitalism.

Waking up from the matrix

Social media and the AI behind it are one of the multiple crises we can no longer ignore as capitalism reaches the end of a trajectory it has long been on. The seeds of neoliberalism’s current, all-too-obvious destructive nature were planted long ago, when the “civilised”, industrialised west decided its mission was to conquer and subdue the natural world, when it embraced an ideology that fetishised money and turned people into objects to be exploited.

A few of the participants in The Social Dilemma allude to this in the last moments of the final chapter. The difficulty they have in expressing the full significance of the conclusions they have drawn from two decades spent in the most predatory corporations the world has ever known could be because their minds are still black boxes, preventing them from standing outside the ideological system they, like us, were born into. Or it could be because coded language is the best one can manage if a corporate platform like Netflix is going to let a film like this one reach a mass audience.

Tristan Harris tries to articulate the difficulty by grasping for a movie allusion: “How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you’re in the matrix?” Later, he observes: “What I see is a bunch of people who are trapped by a business model, an economic incentive, shareholder pressure that makes it almost impossible to do something else.”

Although still framed in Harris’s mind as a specific critique of social media corporations, this point is very obviously true of all corporations, and of the ideological system – capitalism – that empowers all these corporations.

Another interviewee notes: “I don’t think these guys [the tech giants] set out to be evil, it’s just the business model.”

He is right. But “evilness” – the psychopathic pursuit of profit above all other values – is the business model for all corporations, not just the digital ones.

The one interviewee who manages, or is allowed, to connect the dots is Justin Rosenstein, a former engineer for Twitter and Google. He eloquently observes:

We live in a world in which a tree is worth more, financially, dead than alive. A world in which a whale is worth more dead than alive. For so long as our economy works in that way, and corporations go unregulated, they’re going to continue to destroy trees, to kill whales, to mine the earth, and to continue to pull oil out of the ground, even though we know it is destroying the planet and we know it is going to leave a worse world for future generations.

This is short-term thinking based on this religion of profit at all costs. As if somehow, magically, each corporation acting in its selfish interest is going to produce the best result. … What’s frightening – and what hopefully is the last straw and will make us wake up as a civilisation as to how flawed this theory is in the first place – is to see that now we are the tree, we are the whale. Our attention can be mined. We are more profitable to a corporation if we’re spending time staring at a screen, staring at an ad, than if we’re spending our time living our life in a rich way.

Here is the problem condensed. That unnamed “flawed theory” is capitalism. The interviewees in the film arrived at their alarming conclusion – that we are on the brink of social collapse, facing an “existential threat” – because they have worked inside the bellies of the biggest corporate beasts on the planet, like Google and Facebook.

These experiences have provided most of these Silicon Valley experts with deep, but only partial, insight. While most of us view Facebook and Youtube as little more than places to exchange news with friends or share a video, these insiders understand much more. They have seen up close the most powerful, most predatory, most all-devouring corporations in human history.

Nonetheless, most of them have mistakenly assumed that their experiences of their own corporate sector apply only to their corporate sector. They understand the “existential threat” posed by Facebook and Google without extrapolating to the identical existential threats posed by Amazon, Exxon, Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, Goldman Sachs and thousands more giant, soulless corporations.

The Social Dilemma offers us an opportunity to sense the ugly, psychopathic face shielding behind the mask of social media’s affability. But for those watching carefully the film offers more: a chance to grasp the pathology of the system itself that pushed these destructive social media giants into our lives.

(Republished from Jonathan Cook by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Conspiracy Theories, Social Media 
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  1. Mikael_ says:

    as one interviewee states: “The truth is boring.” Simple or fanciful ideas are easier to grasp and more fun.

    Well it seems both the interviewee and Jonathan haven’t thought deep enough on it.
    – The truth is usually simple, only the lies are complex.

  2. Omarion says:

    you had me until you got into the capitalism voodoo. it’s not ideological to organize one’s resources. it may verge on ideological to organize one’s resources into a massive entity with several of one’s “fellows”. But you’re only allowed to do that by decades and decades of bought and paid for congressional service. Democracy is the ideology that allows a 13% voter turnout to decide the mayor of a city like New York, for instance. Democracy is the ideology that ensconces a national lawmaking body in a gauzy haze of “legitimacy” while they clear the brush for these massive corporations to metastasize into more and more lethal tumors. Citizens need to stop accepting a vote as if it were an argument and start demanding clear and cogent arguments be made to them. they need to arm themselves to the teeth and lynch anybody who looks like they might want to form an interstate commercial enterprise, never mind an globalist one. they need to stop pretending that government sponsored education is anything other than a way to beat a child into a useless pulp ready to be advertised too. You can see what “education” is good for by how student loan stormtroopers conduct their street violence in this day and age. it’s so mind numbingly ineffective and self-defacing and the body count is apocalyptically low. None of this brutalist regression could have ever happened without mindless bullshit about extending the vote in the name of “equality”. As if equality could ever become a reality. the broad acceptance of the term tells you how thoughtless and irresponsible “the People” have already become. you can claim that that’s because of superior social media techniques in human capital organization, but it was already happening in the late 1800s. With a populace that’s become this generic and soulless it’s fair to wonder if they want anything better. they’ve already been corrupted beyond recognition by the “power” that their “vote” “gives them”. even calling the “most skilled” resource organizers “capitalist” is purposeful misdirection. they’re democratists. You can tell that by how quickly congress forces trillions of dollars into their hands when their businesses fail. Resource organization would dictate that your failed business be broken down and sold for parts. democracy dictates that you are “too big to fail.” etcetera

    • Agree: Drapetomaniac
    • Replies: @showmethereal
    , @scowie
  3. Bill H says:

    It never fails to astound me that someone can write a sentence such as, “…kneeling on the neck of a black man for nine minutes, while the victim cries out he cannot breathe, until he expires.”

    If the “victim” expires due to being unable to breathe, how can that “victim” repeatedly “cry out” about being unable to breathe. The officer in question can even be heard responding to the “victim” that, “You’re talking to me just fine, there, buddy.”

    • Replies: @GamecockJerry
    , @Sollipsist
  4. Patricus says:

    Maybe one can be immune from the ravages of Silicon Valley. I never visit Facebook or Twitter. If someone writes an article containing copies of “tweets” I stop reading. Any comments posted on Facebook are ignored by me. If Google is avoided one can dry out the e-mail flood.

    Can’t really understand how this artificial intelligence controls our minds.

  5. @Bill H

    Plus, he died at the hospital, but who cares about details. Repeat the lie.

  6. @Bill H

    Not to mention that Floyd was already complaining about not being able to breathe before the neck restraint.

    Yeah, the writer lost almost all the ground he’d gained in the first part of the article when he proved that he was inside one of those bubbles of misinformation that he was so upset about.

  7. What happens when the psychopathic firms and institutions come to be entirely composed of these manufactured minds. Civilization only works because of a critical mass of reciprocally altruistic humane humans. The parasitization of the humane by the inhumane will destroy civilization and possibly human life. Civilization is much more fragile than these social engineers understand.

  8. jsinton says:

    “Pizzagate” is a lot more than a “paranoid conspiracy theory”. The more you look at it, the more you realize there is too many “coincidences”. And Manning didn’t expose any “war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan”. Manning is much more more myth without substance than anything else, a trans icon would should still be rotting is jail. Demonstrates to me how Jonathan Cook knows little about that which he pretends to be an expert. But I digress. Your overall conclusion of the “pathology of the system” is well taken, and your distortion of truth should not detract from that.

    • Replies: @Antiwar7
  9. polistra says:

    I would never think of consulting a movie about the condition of the world, even long before the current mess. All big-budget media is made with the strict approval and guidance of Deepstate.

    That’s not a conspiracy, it’s just math. It takes a lot of money and regulatory approval to run a newspaper or a TV station or a movie studio. You don’t get big money and regulatory approval by disobeying Deepstate.

  10. JimDandy says:

    “We can all see for ourselves a white police officer dispassionately kneeling on the neck of a black man for nine minutes, while the victim cries out he cannot breathe, until he expires. And we can then judge the values and priorities of our leaders when they decide to do as little as possible to prevent such incidents occurring again.”

    I stopped reading at this point. An article about the perils of the internet written by a guy who has become so dumbed-down and intellectually-lazy as a result of today’s clip-culture that he continues to spread the ignorant canard that the police were somehow to blame for Floyd’s death? Or the fact that he said he couldn’t breathe? Or that the burden is somehow on “our leaders” to keep career criminal scumbags from swallowing their stash?

    Pathetic.

  11. Vinnie O says:

    Yeah, well, I never really got into the whole Floyd media lie, but the author COMPLETELY lost me when he came out UNRELIEVEDLY in favor of the Global Warming nonsense. If you check ANY of the long term weather data, warm weather for the current cycle (Earth’s weather is CLOSELY linked to Sunspot cycles) ended several years ago. We’re in a cooling cycle that will probably run 20 years or so before temperatures build back up again.

    So, if you’re trying to recruit an army of Volunteers to fight for your cause, you better be REALLY sure YOU really understand your CAUSE.

    • Replies: @anon
  12. They make profits, big profits, from the predictions business – predicting what you will think and how you will behave so that you are more easily persuaded to buy what their advertisers want to sell you.

    This is a silly thing to say.

    They (FB, GOOG, TWTR etc) make their money by selling the promise of your attention, to corporations who want to sell stuff to consumers.

    They’re advertising companies, and nothing more. To a much lesser extent, they sell the promise that they can dumb the user down – another empty promise, given how dumb the user is already.

    The mooks here are not social media users (who are the cognitive dross of the human herd – no disagreement there).

    The mooks are the C-suite: the elderly dimbulbs who use corporate funds to pay for advertising, thinking that doing so is EPS-accretive. The elderly overpaid schmoozers who are misled to believe that people are sensibly-discriminating until they are subjected to the Jedi Mind Tricks of the ad-hucksters.

    This is why a fundamental part of marketing, is distributing in-kind shit to C-suiters: sportsball tickets and so forth.

    It’s also why C-suiters line up to pay for sportsball sponsorships (and billboards, and smart-arse ads by ‘creatives’): it all seems so tangible… but I doubt anyone’s ever heard anyone say “I bought insurance from AIG because they sponsor [name a team sponsored by AIG]” or “I bought the new [iDreck] because of that ad with the multicoloured flashing background and the whimsical beige chick with the afro

    Anyone who has ever done any quantitative analysis of the efficacy of advertising (specifically, the contribution, in terms of NPAT, of increases in advertising spend) will know that everyone involved – from ad buyers, to marketing teams, to advertising companies – torture the data in order to make the claim that ad-spend Granger-causes future sales.

    This enables innumerate sexagenarians to tick a box marked “due diligence” when the proposed ad-spend budget is an agenda items at a board meeting.

    Anyone who spends 2 minutes thinking about it, realises that in order to be NPAT-accretive, $1 of advertising spend must generate 1/x in new revenue, where x is the firm’s EBIT margin. Only then will the firm be in the same position as the status quo ante.

    Since nobody in their right minds would ever dare to claim that ad-spend has a RoI of 1/x, they pay large amounts for people sorta-like me[1] to build complex distributed-lead models – in which ad-spend generates an impulse to revenue, and that this impulse becomes stronger if ad-spend is maintained.

    So rather than generating 1/x in the period in which the advertising spend happens, ad-spend generates an uncertain stream of future additional revenue… where the uncertainty is only reduced by increases in the amount of ad-spend, and where the impulse to revenue conveniently, rapidly goes to zero if the ad-spend ever stops. (This is “brand awareness”).

    And then there’s all the misdirection: encourage the C-suite to focus on market share (and changes in the slope of market share); get them to focus on sales growth (not NPAT growth) and attribute all sales growth to advertising… and so on.

    Even funnier: the people spending the most on ‘AI’ to supposedly drive ‘customer engagement’, are firms like Amazon.

    Amazon funded and built their own recommender, with their own money (so they didn’t pay margins to anyone)… and they got something that recommends fridges to people who literally bought a fucking fridge yesterday.

    (That’s OK, because Amazon’s business model is based on forcing producers to share their NPAT margin, in exchange for exposure to AMZN’s distribution: AMZN doesn’t give a fuck who buys what, so long as consumers buy something).

    [1] “People sorta-like me”: quantitatively-capable people, who differ from me in that they are prepared to build these models knowing full well that the models are hogwash… laughing behind the back of the client. (You can actually be honest about it to the client: the people you’re dealing with know it’s all bullshit: they don’t care… the quant is to bamboozle the C-suite, not the VP of Marketing, who is in on the grift)

  13. Avianthro says:

    “And do you know what “the world” is to me? Shall I show it to you in my mirror? This world: a monster of energy, without beginning, without end; a firm, iron magnitude of force that does not grow bigger or smaller, that does not expend itself but only transforms itself; as a whole, of unalterable size, a household without expenses or losses, but likewise without increase or income; enclosed by “nothingness” as by a boundary; not something blurry or wasted, not something endlessly extended, but set in a definite space as a definite force, and not a space that might be “empty” here or there, but rather as force throughout, as a play of forces and waves of forces, at the same time one and many, increasing here and at the same time decreasing there; a sea of forces flowing and rushing together, eternally changing, eternally flooding back, with tremendous years of recurrence, with an ebb and a flood of its forms; out of the simplest forms striving toward the most complex, out of the stillest, most rigid, coldest forms striving toward the hottest, most turbulent, most self-contradictory, and then again returning home to the simple out of this abundance, out of the play of contradictions back to the joy of concord, still affirming itself in this uniformity of its courses and its years, blessing itself as that which must return eternally, as a becoming that knows no satiety, no disgust, no weariness: this, my Dionysian world of the eternally self- creating, the eternally self-destroying, this mystery world of the twofold voluptuous delight, my “beyond good and evil,” without goal, unless the joy of the circle is itself a goal; without will, unless a ring feels good will toward itself— do you want a name for this world? A solution for all of its riddles? A light for you, too, you best-concealed, strongest, most intrepid, most midnightly men?— This world is the will to power—and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will to power—and nothing besides!”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

    Social media is just a new tool to serve the human lifeform’s power drive, and Yes, it is also an experiment we have set in motion, like so many other techs before, without knowing what its full results would be, but one thing is for sure: Like all other tech before, it has been carrying us on a road to becoming less human, less natural, more domesticated, more Borglike. Such as road ultimately leads to what? AI and robotics replacing humanity? A “Terminator” scenario in literal or in more subtle and gradual fashion?

    Capitalism is nothing but our nature as lifeforms…best to just call it “power growthism”. Socialists can be every bit as “guilty” as capitalists in being lifeforms seeking higher levels of power.

    Humans, as with all lifeforms, will go on seeking to increase their power (ability to acquire, control and consume resources) until their tech + resource paradigm (TRP) has reached its limits. We will then seek a new paradigm with higher limits. If we fail in that, then we will be forced, via Malthusian-type mechanisms, back to a previous paradigm that can at least sustain life. The current social stresses we are experiencing are a response to the awareness, actually more subconscious than conscious, that our current TRP is hitting its limits…It is hitting its limits on sources and sinks and this is inducing very real pressures, forced reductions, on economic performance…real resource, not just currency, throughputs per capita. We, especially the elites (be they capitalistic or socialistic), are for the most part very much aware of this and are actively seeking to establish the next-TRP that will be able to carry us to a higher level, but heavy investments are needed for that at the very time when it’s also getting harder just to maintain the ability to meet our current levels of economic power. Exacerbating the situation, we have allowed an overly wide power gap, aka wealth gap, to develop between the elites and the masses. We are in a turbulent period of transition between TRPs…Fasten seatbelts and keep your scientific brain in gear when looking at social media.

  14. Its name is the ideology that has become a black box, a mental prison, in which we have become incapable of imagining any other way of organising our lives, any other future than the one we are destined for at the moment. That ideology’s name is capitalism.

    No, that ideology’s name is the so-called “Enlightenment”. Capitalism is only a manifestation of it. The author has rejected capitalism without rejecting the Enlightenment. He is unaware of the way he has been brainwashed. He thinks he is outside the matrix but he is inside it.

    The Enlightenment stated that the man is naturally good (Rousseau) so evil is caused by the political, economical or cultural systems. In fact, evil is intrinsic to human nature (what Christians call “original sin”).

    The last centuries (and especially, the last decades) have had the following characteristics:

    1. The search for “freedom”, which is a fancy word for “selfishness” (which was traditionally called “sin”). People consider themselves as good so don’t want to be subjected to their conscience, stigma, social rules. Nothing but “do what you will” will do. Then, they virtual signal with a fashionable progressive cause to feel that they are virtuous and not selfish.

    2. This produces an increasing anarchy (please see the crime rate in London at the beginning of the XX century), which is managed by technology and the wealth that technology produces. So there is an army of bureaucrats (social workers, civil servants, etc.) that try to manage the dysfunction of our society.

    The outcomes are bad so people look for a solution. But the people have been brainwashed by the Enlightenment ideology, which works as a secular religion, so the only way out they see is to change the system (in this case, capitalism). We have seen how well this has worked.

    People don’t think they have to change themselves because they see themselves as good, although they are more selfish than any other generation in history. The thing that has to change is the system, that is, the other people. But you can’t make a good building (system) with defective bricks (people), no matter how you arrange these bricks.

    • Replies: @kikz
  15. Antiwar7 says:
    @jsinton

    You’re saying targeting civilians that way, whether intentionally or through extreme negligence, is not a war crime?

  16. Antiwar7 says:

    People need to realize that corporations are robots made of people.

    Shouldn’t we care about what programs they’re following?

    Legally, in many countries, corporations already have some of the same rights as individuals. And they clearly have much power over our lives and governments. They have goal-oriented actions that may not be decided by any one individual. They have lifetimes beyond individuals. Their workers are like the cells in a body: individually alive or dead, but not individually in control of the body.

    • Replies: @c matt
  17. anon[611] • Disclaimer says:
    @Vinnie O

    We’re in a cooling cycle? Liar, liar. You should take your own advice and check ANY of the long term weather data. Although such a task has already been accomplished by the global warming naysayers at BerkleyEarth who, after checking the climate data with a highly critical eye, honestly admit that global warming is real.

  18. c matt says:

    Phones have made it possible for ordinary people to film and share scenes once witnessed by only a handful of disbelieved passers-by

    As well as edit and manipulate the images like an amateur Michael Moore.

    Man has been seeking profit from the Earth as long as man has been around. His real beef is not with seeking profit, but with seeking short term profit over long term financial well being. That is a fair criticism, but it has more to do with financialization of the economy rather than capitalism itself.

  19. c matt says:

    If you really want to know why the world is going to shit, it has to do with pushing equality uber alles. As Milton Friedman rightly observed, you can have freedom or you can have equality. Granted, while they are opposed forces, they can co-exist on a sliding scale. Pure communism would mean ultimate equality; pure capitalism, ultimate freedom. Not sure “pure” either is desirable, but being closer to the freedom end of the spectrum seems to have worked out best.

    The only things social media has done are increase the speed of information, and lower the quality of contributors, making herd manipulation easier.

  20. c matt says:
    @Antiwar7

    Have to disagree with you. There is not one single corporation in the world that is not controlled by a human person or group of persons. What the corporation does is super-leverage the power of that human or group of humans; like those robot battle suits that make the human soldier inside of it 100x more powerful and destructive. Like Tony Stark to Stark Industries/Iron Man.

    • Replies: @Antiwar7
  21. RodW says:

    Oh yes, life was so rich on rainy days before the Internet.

  22. anon[199] • Disclaimer says:

    I never got on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and I don’t feel like my life is diminished in any way.

    Since last year I’ve switched from Google Chrome to Firefox and use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine. Again, don’t feel like I’ve missed anything.

    I’ve also cancelled Netflix three years ago. When they asked me why, I told them “Hollywood and Netflix original content have been nothing but garbage.” Have not missed it whatsoever. The few movies I want to watch, I get it through the local library. I would’ve gladly cancelled Amazon Prime Video if it weren’t lumped in with Amazon Prime. I think Congress needs to make Amazon split the two businesses and make it illegal for them to lump it in.

    YouTube produces a vast amount of garbage as well. I try to steer clear of it and only watch what I’m interested in.

    These days, I make a point of being online no more than 3 to 4 hours a day, and never after dinner. I sleep better when not in front of a screen a couple of hours before bedtime. Every Sunday I do a “Digital Sabbath” and do not go online whatsoever, simply read(physical books), do yard work, exercise, cook, spend time with family. Sundays are now my favorite, a much needed respite from information overload and all the hate online. No news is good news.

    • Thanks: showmethereal
  23. @Omarion

    The NYC mayoral race is indeed peculiar… Record low (for modern times) voter turnout yielded the maligned De Blasio… So what did they do 4 years later? low voter turnout again

  24. kikz says:

    sigh…just what we need.. more ‘jewsplaining’. i’ll pass, thaaaanks.

    to encompass the scope of the issue…… there can be no light w/o dark. we inhabit, we exist in a plane of duality, w/extremes of polar opposites and countless degrees between. there are no mono-poles in Nature.

    did/do these ‘tech giants’ suffer such megalomania that they think they can actively avert Nature’s design?

  25. kikz says:
    @imnobody00

    “The Enlightenment stated that the man is naturally good (Rousseau) so evil is caused by the political, economical or cultural systems.

    In fact, evil is intrinsic to human nature (what Christians call “original sin”).”

    Original sin? what utter BS. Original Sin… Fact? no. Original Sin implies choice, discernment among behaviors/modes of being. we have no knowledge as to whether we had a choice to be here; wished or dispatched.

    Evil is the ill reasoned use of Man’s freewill and its logical consequences; usually due to the underdevelopment of the logical/reasoned mind. ‘Evil’ is the object lesson we are to learn to avoid.

    The Enlightenment acknowledges God’s greatest gifts to humanity; Reason, and our Freewill, our ability to discern, to choose.

    don’t bother going for the BS Equality trope. Reason knows all men are not created equal, but also acknowledges certain Men(humans) are created equal by virtue of their Reason, they are equals in cultural and universal values/morals.

  26. Antiwar7 says:
    @c matt

    But the corporation lives on beyond those people. Those people maybe are akin to the brains of the robot, but they’re not the robot.

  27. xcd says:

    Naming the central dogma of usury, growth and “prosperity” still upsets some people. Even a simple video of brutality cannot break the spell. It will have to get a lot worse before the Matrix losens its hold.

  28. scowie says:
    @Omarion

    democracy dictates that you are “too big to fail.”

    No, any government under the thumb of the capitalists would do that. How that government is organised is largely irrelevant. “Democracies” just tend to be where these corporations are based and have [or can print] the currency the capitalists are interested in. Replacing democracy with something else wouldn’t fix the problem, unless you could manage to achieve full transparency meaning zero privacy [and zero censorship] for those running government (so they can’t be bribed/threatened without the world knowing about it). It would probably be simpler to just end private capital.

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