Facebook just declared war against "disruptive" information. In addition to hundreds of new human censors, they are training AI censors capable of identifying and deleting 'unacceptable' information found in the discussions of all two billion members in real time. This development highlights what the real danger posed by a socially networked world actually is.
The REAL danger facing a world interconnected by social networking isn't disruption. As we have seen on numerous occasions, the danger posed by disruptive information and events is fleeting. Disruption, although potentially painful in the short term, doesn't last, nor is it truly damaging over the long term. In fact, the true danger posed by an internetworked world is just the opposite of disruption.
This danger is an all encompassing online orthodoxy. A sameness of thought and approach enforced by hundreds of millions of socially internetworked adherents. A global orthodoxy that ruthless narrows public thought down to a single, barren, ideological framework. A ruling network that prevents dissent and locks us into stagnation and inevitable failure as it runs afoul of reality and human nature.
This orthodoxy has already extended its tendrils into the media, the civil service, tech companies, and academia and over time it will eventually exert decisive influence over the entire government as well. However in order to really exert control, it needs control over the flow of information in our society. Merely controlling the online debate is insufficient. For real power, the ruling network needs to control the information flows on our information infrastructure -- Facebook, Google, and Amazon -- and that's exactly the power it is now getting.
However, as large and powerful as this network already is, I still believe this future is reversible. We still have a short time before a long night descends across the world.
Writing on a cool New England afternoon.
PS: As if on cue, authoritarianism that diminishes the role of the individual is in the wind:
- a majority of US students now oppose free speech on campus.
- a free fall in support for democracy as a preferred form of governance among young people.
- a majority of young people now oppose capitalism.