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Posts Tagged ‘Jaron Lanier

“Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it”*…

Nicolás Ortega. Source: “Turris Babel,” Coenraet Decker, 1679

Jonathan Haidt ponders the poisonous impact of social media, arguing that “It’s not just a phase,” and what considers we might do about it…

… It’s been clear for quite a while now that red America and blue America are becoming like two different countries claiming the same territory, with two different versions of the Constitution, economics, and American history. But Babel is not a story about tribalism; it’s a story about the fragmentation of everything. It’s about the shattering of all that had seemed solid, the scattering of people who had been a community. It’s a metaphor for what is happening not only between red and blue, but within the left and within the right, as well as within universities, companies, professional associations, museums, and even families.

Babel is a metaphor for what some forms of social media have done to nearly all of the groups and institutions most important to the country’s future—and to us as a people. How did this happen? And what does it portend for American life?

The high point of techno-democratic optimism was arguably 2011, a year that began with the Arab Spring and ended with the global Occupy movement. That is also when Google Translate became available on virtually all smartphones, so you could say that 2011 was the year that humanity rebuilt the Tower of Babel. We were closer than we had ever been to being “one people,” and we had effectively overcome the curse of division by language. For techno-democratic optimists, it seemed to be only the beginning of what humanity could do.

In February 2012, as he prepared to take Facebook public, Mark Zuckerberg reflected on those extraordinary times and set forth his plans. “Today, our society has reached another tipping point,” he wrote in a letter to investors. Facebook hoped “to rewire the way people spread and consume information.” By giving them “the power to share,” it would help them to “once again transform many of our core institutions and industries.”

In the 10 years since then, Zuckerberg did exactly what he said he would do. He did rewire the way we spread and consume information; he did transform our institutions, and he pushed us past the tipping point. It has not worked out as he expected…

Social media and society: “Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid,” from @JonHaidt in @TheAtlantic. Eminently worth reading in full.

See also: “The big idea: how to win the fight against disinformation.”

* Clay Shirky

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As we follow Jaron Lanier‘s advice to “go to where you are kindest,” we might recall that it was on this date 1397 that Geoffrey Chaucer “told” (read aloud) The Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

220px-Canterbury_Tales
A woodcut from William Caxton‘s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, printed in 1483

source

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