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    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      I read that this morning and couldn’t stop thinking about it. I didn’t make a connection with democracy as much as capitalism without guard rails

      My first thought is why does Facebook take so many chances with user privacy when so much is at stake? I always conclude that it’s because it drives so much growth.

      I tried an example myself. I started a secret Facebook group, invited some friends, got them engaged, then posted some stuff that would embarrass them. And then, as owner of the group with less than 5,000 people, I have the power to make that group public with a click. Imagine the mischief people can get up to with that.

      Why would Facebook not establish the same simple rule as Slack? What originates as secret stays secret. I think the answer in all these cases is growth.

      When Facebook’s growth flattened back in the day, their investors forced the sale to Yahoo. When Yahoo blinked, the lesson Zuck said he took away was growth is everything.

      Imagine the growth from Cambridge Analytica and the election season.

    • flei

      You certainly have a more sophisticated understanding of social media and the internet than I ever will. I do not know if it is possible, but I would hope there will be a "next generation" of social media that will not be profit-driven and that would maybe lessen the risk that things like this will happen. But I have to leave that to techies like you (and many of the next generation).

    • yaypie

      I sometimes wonder if the human race, not just democracy, will survive social media and global, instant, faceless communication.

      We're social creatures, but we evolved to be social in relatively small communities, in person. All our mechanisms for empathizing with other people are geared around being physically present with them and having some sort of social attachment to them, but as technology has increased our ability to communicate with more people over greater distances, it has also decreased our ability to naturally empathize with them.

      When you don't empathize with someone, you're quicker to judge, quicker to misunderstand, and more likely to say something hurtful, careless, or abusive, because — either consciously or subconsciously — you aren't really thinking of them as a person. Even when you're aware of this danger it can be difficult to avoid because it's such a departure from how our brains have evolved to operate.

      To make matters worse, advertisers and politicians and con artists and trolls have learned to take advantage of this to manipulate people. Resisting this kind of manipulation requires a level of awareness and personal effort that many people don't seem capable of.

      The masses have always been a target for manipulation by the powerful, but now it's as if that power itself has been democratized so that almost anyone can use it, and the result has so far been chaos.

    • flei

      I found your comments very thoughtful and articulate. And while I do not entirely disagree, I do feel it is indeed quite possible to have empathy for people we have never met (and maybe never will). I have felt great empathy towards people I have met only online when they have posted about their personal feelings or difficulties or joys or etc.. (Of course I am a psychotherapist, so supposedly somewhat of a specialist in empathy, but don't tell my spouse, lol!). I also feel that it is absolutely necessary for us to have empathy for people we are not in physical connection with; how else might we treat well those outside our immediate network? What hope could we ever have for equality or peace, etc., without the ability to empathize in that manner? And this is where I hold out hope the internet can help by electronically connecting us to those who we otherwise would never meet. Of course the results of this experiment in human relationship remain very uncertain.

    • yaypie

      Oh, it's absolutely possible! It just takes more work and doesn't come as naturally, especially when that person is a stranger who you don't know.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      On the other hand, the invention of sound systems and radio made it possible for Hitler to enrage and Churchill to inspire, no?

      Even in the age of social media, an essential part of Trump’s movement is massive rallies.

    • ia

      An essential part of any successful movement is social involvement. Just like the protests in the east bay for "free speech" were largely organized through social media. The likes of Facebook have made that more easily carried out.

      I do believe Social media has had a greater effect on polarization on many issues. That has had good and bad consequences.

    • flei

      "WHY CAN'T PEOPLE JUST GET ALONG?" The discussion about the role of the internet on this thread reminded me about an important paper I read many years ago, "Toward a Psychology of Global Interdependency: A Framework for International Collaboration." I dug it out and re-read it. The authors are noted Child Psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan and Child Psychologist and Philosopher Stuart Shanker. They wrote this brief monograph for the Council on Human Development about a year after 9/11 as a different approach to counter-terrorism, one that attempts to elucidate a way nurturing and educating children might ensure a peaceful global future. Wouldn't that be nice? Though in 2001 the authors had no vision of the possible role of the internet, as we have discussed here it might very well serve a function in doing so. While upon re-reading this from where we are today, seemingly having gone in the opposite direction, it appears blissfully naive, I think it is worth a look by anyone interested in alternatives to conflict at any level. https://www.uibk.ac.at/psychologie/mitarbeiter/leidlmair/global_nation3.pdf

      From the introduction:
      "Long-term strategies—economic, political, and social—to reduce the root causes of
      terrorism and build international collaboration confront considerable psychological
      challenges. These challenges create barriers to implementing needed ongoing efforts that
      can complement current anti-terrorism initiatives.

      To overcome these barriers and pursue long-term goals, we will need to more fully
      comprehend a new reality—the reality of the world’s greater interdependency, due to
      shared dangers as well as economies and communications. To comprehend this reality,
      we must further build our growing knowledge of peoples and cultures far removed from
      our shores and our immediate experience. We must broaden our beliefs about what
      constitutes a fellow human being and our sense of personal identity to encompass
      “others” who we may feel are very different from ourselves. We must invest emotionally
      in generations many years in the future rather than only planning for the next two to five
      years.

      Will we be able to make these changes to the extent required by our growing
      interdependency? Global interdependency creates new relationships, feelings, and
      expectations among peoples. These can breed new levels of reflective thinking and
      collaboration or increases in polarized thinking, rage, fear, and violence. Will we be able
      to learn how to engender the needed collaboration and reflection? Will we be able to
      move beyond our individual, family, community, and national identities and embrace
      new implicit assumptions on the worldwide interdependency of human survival?

      Competing with these goals is a history among some groups of denying the full extent
      of the world’s new interdependency, defining reality only in terms of immediate
      experiences, and embracing various stereotyped views of others, often excluding them
      from a shared sense of humanity or personal identity. Consequently, we have too often
      tended to construct overly narrow, short-term, self servicing “pictures” of ourselves and
      engage in polarized, all-or-nothing thinking in the here and now, rather than in reflective
      problem-solving extending into the distant future.

      Can we overcome these psychological challenges? A closer look at them may help
      determine the answer."

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      In my opinion, as fascinating and well-informed as that paper is, they are no match for the psychologists, data scientists, and investors who team up at firms like Cambridge Analytica.

      Rage creates virality, it mobilizes people, and gets leaders elected. The masters of rage get the money, the cable news channels, the armies of trolls, the enormous computing resources, etc. The well-intended psychologists like this get white papers.

    • ia

      Did you see FB banned/removed/whatever CA from Facebook?

      Personally, I have trust issues with companies like Facebook and Google because of what companies like Cambridge Analytics have been allowed to do.

    • flei

      I don't disagree. Do you think this could change? If so, how? Y'all must feel at some level that some positive social forces (like Cake?) could shift this; at least I hope there is someone out there less cynical than I!

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      I personally believe that social media is too broad a term. Pinterest and Quora are not harming us. Wikipedia has 100,000 volunteer editors who are mainly bringing good to the world. But I think Facebook is a bad actor the way Uber is.

      There is a powerful argument that Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Rush Limbaugh are bad actors, and they have done to our parents and president what they feared violent video games would do to us.

      Big money and your favorite Supreme Court decision have given bad actors tremendous power in America.

      I’m hoping Cake can be a lot more like the good actors in social media than the bad ones. Facebook’s mission is to connect the world, which is very different than ours, which is to enable great conversations. Banning people works against Facebook’s mission, but could help ours.

    • ia

      Any platform that wields power can have consequences similar to the "bad actors".

    • Roadrunner

      The book, "Haters Harassment, Abuse, and Violence On-line," by Bailey Poland is very good. The first 20 pages are available here (copy and paste the URL); https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=ywcXDQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=Haters+Harassment,+Abuse,+and+Violence+online&ots=Cj0U2wK1rA&sig=yUMdU7eIK2hPwC35axrffumRpY8#v=onepage&q=Haters Harassment, Abuse, and Violence online&f=false

      Unfortunately, it cites what we tend to see - that the internet is *not* a "level playing field," and was never designed to be that. In fact, it is being used to keep power and dominance status in the hands of those who already have it. I've read all available at the above link. It captures what we see all the time. I will read the rest of it as soon as I get my hands on a copy.

    • Roadrunner

      I'm not sure I understand the reactions. Are they toward my post, or to the subject matter?

    • Roadrunner

      I thought maybe I'd gotten out of line somehow. It does address the topics of democracy and equality on-line well enough, and was the reason for my suggestion. From what I've read and heard thus far, it identifies and categorizes the behaviors of those who do not want equality - very well. Solutions unfortunately - not so much.

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      Thanks for the book recommend, Roadrunner. I've actually watched more documentaries, listened to more audiobooks and podcasts on this topic than you can imagine. We have an entirely different approach to this than any service I know that has gone before us. Let's hope it works.

      I listened to the most fascinating podcast today related to this: Tinder and Instagram are ‘crippling’ relationships, sex therapist Esther Perel says. If you listen to it, let us know what you think.

    • Roadrunner

      Hi Chris,

      A lot of material there - so much so, that I listened to it twice, on separate days. I agreed with about 98% of what she had to say. And I'm planning to now listen to her YouTube video, and look into her books. She is very insightful.

      What did you think?

    • Chris
      Chris MacAskill

      I thought she was amazing. I agreed with most of it also. It was interesting, the notion of are you in the play you auditioned for? She was asked what about Melania, what would you tell her? She responded that she doesn't know her and know her state of mind for sure, but this sure looks like it's not the play she auditioned for.

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