Herr Bischoff

Facebook Deploys Smokescreen

Cal Newport:

Making Facebook good for democracy is not entirely altruistic. It is, in many ways, also a smoke screen meant to obscure the fundamental reality that this service, like many social media products, depends for its very survival on its ability to exploit its users’ time and attention.

This is why all forms of what is today called “social media” are broken by design and essentially unfixable: the very things that would need to get fixed are fundamental to their operation.

I see only a handful of ways this plays out in the long run:

  • All forms of today’s social media get regulated, eventually to a degree that resembles utilities like water, power and postal service. At this point, they formally become a domestic intelligence gathering mechanism.
  • All forms of today’s social media get shut down because their harm to society is deemed too great to accept. This of course will happen only after irreparable harm has already been inflicted.
  • They get replaced by other services, promising better protection against the known issues. New issues crop up, the services are unable to deal with them for their own systemic reasons and the cycle starts anew.
  • The flood of misinformation, spying and cracking eventually leads to the collapse of the internet. After a time of limited connectivity, a fundamentally new network is created, one based on AI and VR technology, heavily backed by commercial interests.