In the interview below, a Googler speaks about “the redirect method”, a technique her colleagues used to influence extremist sympathizers away from ISIS through targeted advertising. While any effort to combat extremism is good news, what the savvy young employee of the megacorporation misses is that it’s the targeted advertising itself, and the consolidation of media online, that her company and its very few rivals like Facebook have done to global society that may be the more relevant concern. As many have noted, Google and Facebook’s recommendation algorithms and market dominance create closed information systems, rabbit holes of intensification that steer viewers toward greater consumption of self-same information. So the young man who watches an ISIS video will be bombarded with more ISIS videos well before he ticks a blip on anti-ISIS algorithm, and is finally served alternative information that may pull him back from the abyss.
Alphabet and Facebook are not honest brokers. They have engineered, deliberately, media systems that offer free societies high-stakes emotional manipulation over civil discourse: propaganda over debate, all in service of that age-old, but deadly sin, avarice. This new old-reality begs a few questions: Who benefits? Can it be controlled? Would mandating a diversity of viewpoints from the algorithms be helpful? Maybe it’s time to consider breaking up businesses that control so much of what we see, what we think?
We need to deepen our understanding of how social media platforms are being weaponized-and to find technological solutions to counter this trend. MIT Technology Review’s Martin Giles and Yasmin Green of Jigsaw explore this topic.
“Everything is PR”. Peter Pomerantsev explains the transformation of Russia from an aspirational, fledgling democracy to a cynical, authoritarian quasi-oligarchy. According to Peter, a madness of sorts now pervades the culture:
I recently had to write a few paragraphs about something called a hybrid threat. Results below.
15 years ago, it was predicted…
Going to war with Iraq would mean shouldering all the responsibilities of an occupying power the moment victory was achieved. These would include running the economy, keeping domestic peace, and protecting Iraq's borders-and doing it all for years, or perhaps decades. Are we ready for this long-term relationship?
Social media, power, algorithms and politics combine to “gerrymander us down to the person”. Author, social scientist and university professor Zaynep Tufekci speaks with Sam Harris in the podcast below. Zaynep asserts that the tools of what she terms “asymmetric surveillance capitalism” — algorithms Google and Facebook build for targeted advertising — have been used by political power-brokers to micro-target individuals for persuasion and control. The click-bait politics of social media are “a perfect setup for authoritarians”, Zaynep states: algorithms stoke divisions and create closed systems that push viewers down a rabbit hole toward extreme ideas.
In this episode of the Waking Up podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Zeynep Tufekci about “surveillance capitalism,” the Trump campaign’s use of Facebook, AI-enabled marketing, the health of the press, Wikileaks, ransomware attacks, and other topics.
“I was born in North Korea and stayed loyal to the country but got treated like a criminal. I got abandoned by China because I wasn’t their citizen, but the country that was supposed to be my enemy welcomed me with open arms… I couldn’t believe it.”
— North Korean defector
Operation Surf came into existence as a result of one wounded hero’s desire to learn to surf. Now, we are helping more heroes than ever. Participants of our program experience a decrease in PTSD symptoms by 36%, a decrease in depression by 47%, and an increase in self-efficacy by 68%.
When things get broken, they can be fixed. Surfing therapy for vets reflects the warrior ethos. It speaks less of fearsomeness, more of a willingness to transcend fear and approach life with empathy, honesty, courage, goodness and humor.
“The warrior ethos is not a luxury, it is essential when you have a military.”