Of course you would, because how else can you spy on people you hardly know without someone taking out a restraining order?
We know that Mark Zuckerberg has been facing the music these past two days, including some questions in Senate that would make your parents proud, but before we get onto that let’s check in with computer science philosopher Jaron Lanier.
He was talking at a TED conference in Vancouver, and some of what he had to say should resonate with us all.
Quartz has that covered:
“I can’t call them social networks anymore. I call them behavior modification empires”….
Lanier [below], who is widely credited as a founder of virtual reality, says the problem lies not with individuals, but in the core philosophy of the internet itself. “I don’t think it’s a matter of bad people who’ve done a bad thing. It’s a globally tragic, astounding ridiculous system rather than a wave of evil,” he said…
The internet was built on a socialist model that everything should be free and accessible to all. But it also celebrated visionary tech entrepreneurs who made it big with their world-changing ideas. “How do you celebrate entrepreneurship when everything is free?” he mused. Tech companies looked to advertising to fund their operations, and that’s where all the corruption began.
I think ‘behaviour modification empires’ has nailed social media on the head. Before Facebook, did people buy new cars, and then email picture of their new wheels and humblebrags to everyone in their email contact list?
So how do we fix this mess, where tech companies harvest our data and flog it to advertisers to generate profits? Simple – we pay for the services in the first place:
To fix things, Lanier proposed a provocative scenario: What if we paid for every Google search and Facebook interaction? “Sometimes if you pay for stuff, things get better,” he said, noting that HBO and Netflix’s paid subscription models have resulted in “peak TV.” Lanier suggested exploring other business models as well, including a scenario where individuals would be compensated for uploading quality content…
“We can imagine a hypothetical world of peak social media,” Lanier said. “It could mean that when you get on you can get really good, authoritative medical advice instead of cracks. It could mean that when you go online to get factual information, there’s not a bunch of weird conspiracy theories […] I’m certain that the companies—the Googles and the Facebooks—would actually do better in this world. I don’t think we need to punish Silicon Valley, we just need to remake the decision.”
That theory has its merits, but it’s also spoken from a position of financial privilege. What about those who cannot afford access – should they be excluded from social media?
This, from Lanier, also hits the spot:
“We cannot have a society where when two people wish to communicate, the only way it can happen is if it’s financed by a third person who wishes to manipulate them.”
Over on Recode they’ve surveyed Americans on how much they would be willing to pay for Facebook, and it makes for interesting reading.
This is a good starting point:
Facebook makes its money by leveraging user data in order to serve users ads it thinks are pertinent. Facebook generates about $9 a month per user in the U.S. by targeting you with ads. Theoretically, it would want about the same to offer the service ad-free.
And a pie chart, because they’re fun to look at:
Given that South Africans are already forking out ridiculous prices for mobile data, I reckon chopping on another R50+ a month for Facebook is a stretch.
I tell you what I would pay for – a program that tells people who share fake news stories on Facebook without Googling them first that they are terrible, lazy, no good idiots who need to take a hard look at themselves in the mirror.
Then again, they’d probably enjoy looking at themselves in the mirror.
It’s a vicious cycle, I tell you.
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