Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist whose writing is always worth reading, has done a succinct must-read kind of piece in the NYTimes
. I think you should read the whole brief essay, but will paste in a few clips:
When I compare Mr. Musk, Mr. Trump and Kayne West, I see a convergence of personalities that were once distinct. The garish celebrity playboy, the obsessive engineer and the young artist, as different from one another as they could be, have all veered not in the direction of becoming grumpy old men, but into being bratty little boys in a schoolyard. Maybe we should look at what social media has done to these men.
I believe “Twitter poisoning” is a real thing. It is a side effect that appears when people are acting under an algorithmic system that is designed to engage them to the max. It’s a symptom of being part of a behavior-modification scheme.
The human brain did not evolve to handle modern chemicals or modern media technology and is vulnerable to addiction. That is true for me and for us all.
Behavioral changes occur as a side effect of something called operant conditioning, which is the underlying mechanism of social media addiction. This is the core mechanism analogous to the role alcohol plays in alcoholism...What happened was that the algorithms that optimized the individualized advertising model found their way into it automatically, unintentionally rediscovering methods that had been tested on dogs and pigeons.
What do I think are the symptoms of Twitter poisoning? There is a childish insecurity, where before there was pride. Instead of being above it all, like traditional strongmen throughout history, the modern social media-poisoned alpha male whines and frets. This works because his followers are similarly poisoned and can relate so well.
I’ll suggest a hypothesis about the childishness that comes to the surface in social media addicts. When we were children, we all had to negotiate our way through the jungle of human power relationships at the playground. When we feel those old humiliations, anxieties and sadisms again as adults — over and over, because the algorithm has settled on that pattern as a powerful way to engage us — habit formation restimulates old patterns that had been dormant. We become children again, not in a positive, imaginative sense, but in a pathetic way.
Modern techies have revived a technocratic sensibility: a belief that great engineers can and should guide society. Whether that idea appeals or not, when technology degrades the minds of those same engineers, then the result can only be dysfunction.
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