Real Silicon Valley News Predicts the Future

July 1, 2021

I read “Why Some Biologists and Ecologists Think Social Media Is a Risk to Humanity.” I thought this was an amusing essay because the company publishing it is very much a social media thing. Clicks equal fame, money, and influence. These are potent motivators, and the essay is cheerfully ignorant of the irony of the Apocalypse foretold in the write up.

I learned:

One of the real challenges that we’re facing is that we don’t have a lot of information

But who is “we”? I can name several entities which have quite comprehensive information. Obviously these entities are not part of the royal “we”. I have plenty of information and some of it is proprietary. There are areas about which I would like to know more, but overall, I think I have what I need to critique thumbtyper-infused portents of doom.

Here’s another passage:

Seventeen researchers who specialize in widely different fields, from climate science to philosophy, make the case that academics should treat the study of technology’s large-scale impact on society as a “crisis discipline.” A crisis discipline is a field in which scientists across different fields work quickly to address an urgent societal problem — like how conservation biology tries to protect endangered species or climate science research aims to stop global warming. The paper argues that our lack of understanding about the collective behavioral effects of new technology is a danger to democracy and scientific progress.

I assume the Silicon Valley “real” news outfit and the experts cited in the write up are familiar with the work of J. Ellul? If not, some time invested in reading it might be helpful. As a side note, Google Books thinks that the prescient and insightful analysis of technology is about “religion.” Because Google, of course.

The write up adds:

Most major social media companies work with academics who research their platforms’ effects on society, but the companies restrict and control how much information researchers can use.

Remarkable insight. Why pray tell?

Several observations:

  • Technology is not well understood
  • Flows of information are destructive in many situations
  • Access to information spawns false conclusions
  • Bias distorts logic even among the informed.

Well, this is a pickle barrel and “we” are in it. What is making my sides ache from laughter is that advocates of social media in particular and technology in general are now asking, “Now what?”

Few like China’s approach or that of other authoritarian entities who want to preserve the way it was.

Cue Barbara’s “The Way We Were.” Oh, right. Blocked by YouTube. Do ecologists and others understand cancer?

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2021

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