I’ve had a number of people ask if I have seen “the Social Dilemma.” I took the time this weekend to watch it.
On the one hand, the movie does a great servicy by revealing the tools of the trade used by the big and well known social media companies to trick us and manipulate us and steal our attention from us. But the fact is that the major premise of the movie is a lie.
Having been in the tech industry before the rise of facebook and having followed the developments of the industry even after leaving full time work in it, the movie seems on it’s face to be just another manipulative tool to cause us to put our confidence and trust in the very people who admit that they have spent their careers hacking our brains to manipulate us and make us dependent upon them and their technology. When it get’s right down to it, the movie seems to be nothing but foxes claiming to guard the hen house.
Tristan Harris, who features prominently in the film, clearly and succinctly articulates the central premise of the movie in a promotional interview he did with Ellen Degeneres. Listen as Tristan distorts reality and describes the Social Dilemma we face in a way that makes us feel helpless and afraid.
Now, remember, Tristan has admitted in the film and publicly before congress that he has been a student of deception and manipulation since he first began studying magic at age 7. We all know that magicians are hucksters – essentially they are confidence men – they sell lies as truth and trade in deceit, misdirection, and manipulation.
Notice how he frames the entire discussion. Listen as this confessed con-man and huckster lays out what he wants you to know about the problem:
“The fact that we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated... that’s what the social dilemma is.”
We don’t have a choice... “we don’t have another place to go.... we are forced to use this infrastructure.”
This is the first thing that he wants us to internalize about this issue. We are trapped. We don’t have any agency. We must submit to letting others control our lives.
This is a big, bold and bodacious lie. And the entire film seems to be designed to ensnare you into thinking you are helpless. But it’s all a trick – another manipulation – a lie told so that they can limit your options and further manipulate you.
To gain your confidence, they try to convince you that they’ve seen the light – that the very people who have studied how to hack the human brain and manipulate people at a very deep psychological level have given up their evil ways and are now on a crusade to fix the problem. --- It could happen, I suppose. But if that was the case, they wouldn’t start by trying to convincue you that, “we don’t have another place to go...” I mean, these are smart technologists who now want to save the world from evil brain hacking social media – why do they insist that we must continue to use the systems they created in their former ethically bankrupt moral depravity.
These individuals who were previously so concerned about whether they COULD do something that they didn’t stop to consider whether or not they SHOULD – the people who have spent a decade or so learning to manipulate us – the people who have spent a decade or so figuring out how to get us to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do – aren’t spending their time building a new platform – they aren’t coding a new system that doesn’t hack your brain. NO NO NO! They want you to believe, “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...”
As you think about this movie, you must come to terms with the fact that the people speaking to you are experts at manipulation and brain hacking – they have spent their entire careers figuring out how to motivate you and manipulate you – and now they’re asking you to trust them. They aren’t going to propose doing away with these unethical brain hacking devices. They’ll warn you about them. They’ll bravely tell you what they’ve created. But they still want you to use them. They still want you engaging on their platforms.
In fact, they want you to believe --- [CLIP] “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...”
But THAT’S a lie. And each and every one of these people should know better. The problems they describe are not new. Tristan may have been one of the first people to gain a wide audience as he raised the alarm – but pay careful attention to what his motivation was. Here’s what he tells Ellen about the presentation he created at Google:
[CLIP] “ we have a moral responsibility in how we are shaping the collective pool of attention”
He’s not asking whether or not they SHOULD seek the power they have. He doesn’t ask whether the system should be built. He’s only worried about what they are doing with the power they have. Tristan isn’t issuing a call to give up that power. He doesn’t claim that the tech companies should put on the brakes and make decisions in the development of the platform that so that they don’t hack people’s brains. For Tristan, brain hacking is still on the table. The question isn’t whether or not these companies SHOULD have and use this technology – it’s whether or not how they use the brain hacking is moral and ethical.
And so we come to what it sounds like they really want – remember – the presupposition is the lie that, [CLIP] “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...” --- And remember – that is a lie.
But it seems they want us to full accept this lie – and have created an entire organization and made a feature length docu-drama to convincue you it’s true. But if you accet this lie, then the real answer – the real solution to “the social dilemma” - remains hidden in plain sight.
If they can convince you that your only choice is these big players – that you have to use them – that there are no alternatives – then they have you trapped forever. Their money machine keeps printing money. What’s more – they can lock out and block competition! They can make the lie become reality and further enslave you.
Right now, the greatest fear of the tech moguls in Silicon Valley is that you will find out the truth – YOU have the ultimate power – YOU are in control of your digital destiny. Right now, you are simply unaware of this truth.
But if you look at what they are doing, it becomes apparent that they are trying to take away any remaining choices and solidify their own position – they want to make it impossible for others to offer ethical alternatives.
This seems to be the real purpose of the so-called “Center for Humane Technology” and it seems to be the driving force behind “the Social Dilemma” and the conversation that the center for humane technology wants to have.
Keep in the forefront of your mind the lie that they want you to accept [CLIP] “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...” - and listen to Harris describe what he believes needs to happen:
[CLIP – Congressional Testimony: REGULATE REGULATE REGULATE]
It’s the same trick that large corporations learned more than a century ago. If you are a dominant company and want to become an effective monopoly – EMBRACE REGULATION. Get the Government to REGULATE the industry so that only you and the few competitors you have today can actually afford to continue and lock out any future competition.
THIS is the endgame – this seems to be how they want to make true the lie that: “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...”
Whether Tristan knows it’s a lie or not – is irrelevant. It will take a LOT to convince me that these industry insiders are unaware of the existential threat to their existence posed by the many reasonable and ethical alternatives that exist today – but let’s say they are completely oblivious and totally ignorant of all the platforms that exist RIGHT NOW that can easily and quickly replace their entire empire without all of the evil practices engaged in by the existing companies. I know – it’s a stretch that people so knowledgable about their industry would be so ignorant of the threats posed by other platforms and projects – but let’s assume it’s true – Tristan and his crew are completely unaware of the many many many software projects that exist right this very minute and have existed for a decade or more that can do everything or very nearly that people WANT from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google and all the others. The question remains – WHY would Tristan and the center for humane technology want to further solidify the market dominance of the companies that have already proven to be bad stewards and implemented technology to the harm of others? Why wouldn’t these very smart and talented programmers and technilogical geniuses leave and – instead of trying to regulate the industry and make sure no other platforms could enter and compete – why wouldn’t they start a competing platform that is open and transparent – even free to install and use? Why would they seek to perpetuate the BIG BALD BODACIOUS LIE that “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...” instead of putting their time and energy and effort into making an ethical and humane alternative? Why would they seek government regulation that keeps the evil companies in place and just causes the evil companies to become better at hiding their evil instead of shining the light of freedom and choice into the world by building something different and give people a refuge to which they can flee?
The REAL “Social Dilemma” is why these people aren’t doing anything to actually FIX the problem.
Why aren’t they doing anything to actually help us rid our lives of the evil technology that they’ve created. Why do they want to convince us of the lie, “we don’t have another place to go – that we are FORCED to use this infrastructure which is contaminated...” [Which THEY Contaminated]?
The only dilemma I have after watching the movie is, why do the people who claim this technology is so bad want the government to regulate the industry and make it harder if not impossible for new platforms to be created and used that don’t have the problems of the big social media platforms of today?
THAT’S the real dilemma...