'Zucked: Waking up to the Facebook Catastrophe,' by Roger McNamee [BOOKS]


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/02/05/books-zucked-waking-up-to.html

“The time has come to accept that in its current mode of operation, Facebook’s flaws outweigh its considerable benefits”.
— Roger McNamee in ZUCKED.



He… isn’t suggesting that everyone unplug and run to the hills to off-grid Unabomber cabins.

I’m sure there is a good reason…?

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So Facebook totally messed it up. What would be the correct system. Why hasn’t anybody built it, or if they have why has it not made progress into killing off Facebook? Is the problem that ultimately people can’t handle social media? That position seems extreme but I wouldn’t be the first to suggest it.

Or is this like credit cards, where the majority of the population manage them just fine, but a nontrivial percent of the people are just not capable of being responsible and make a huge mess that gets blamed on society at large?



“The time has come to accept that in its current mode of operation, Facebook’s flaws outweigh its considerable benefits”.

I came to that very conclusion some time ago.



The problem is people who have been led to believe that Facebook is a suitable alternative to all (or most) other sources of information. If they accept this, then their world view becomes very distorted without them realising that it’s happened. Facebook becomes an enormous echo-chamber where you hear how great facebook is over and over.



Annnnd, therein lies the fundamental problem. College “facebooks” were designed purely to help kids meet other kids. Facebook the social media site more or less started out that way, morphed into “you can share anything you want with your pals and your groups,” and then in came the completely irrelevant “Hey, here are a bunch of news articles from godknowswhat sources.” Other than making FB rich, that last part - - and in fact pretty much any admission of businesses rather than people as “friends” – is what has made FB a hairy mess.



Roger that.

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This is such a weak sauce solution, no amount of legislation is gonna fix facebook - the infrastructure should be completely ripped out from everywhere. It’s like windows 10, they’re both built from the ground up with telemetry and advertising in mind and the only sure fire way is to nuke them from orbit and start again. And yes, he should absolutely be telling people to delete them and not offer this half-assed measure.



I can’t find the exact reference but there’s a line in the 1991 movie Kafka where the writer says to an authoritarian doctor something along the lines of…

“I merely wrote about nightmares. You built one.”

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I did too, albeit a slightly different one,

“The time has come to accept that in its current mode of operation, Facebook’s flaws grossly outweigh its considerable marginal benefits.”



I think this is another of the hundred or so books published each year that concentrates on a specific scandal and fails to see the big picture. The excerpt starts with “The people at Facebook live in their own bubble.”
No: the people is all large capitalist organizations live in their own bubble. That is a direct consequence of these organizations being constructed like a cult. You cannot work for a cult if you do not believe in the cult particular religion and that makes you think in a bubble. It is the system.



The problem is that, ultimately, democracy is an unstable equilibrium which needs constant fight and effort to keep it working. History shows ample evidence of this. Social media mimics previous attempts at undermining democracy. It just automatise the attempts instead of organising the same social exchanges with political rallies, displays of power and the army parading in the streets.

The problem is not the technology.



The correct system would be a social media network that doesn’t aspire to become the one and only web site on which its users spend their spare time. Connecting you to your friends and relatives, providing a blogging platform designed to update the people you know on how things are in your life, these are fairly simple things that many web sites have striven to do over the years. In the Before Times, we updated our status on places like Livejournal, read our friends list, and then, being finished with the social media thing, we would use browser bookmarks or Google or a news reader app to go visit other sites, where we would interact with other groups of people and do other things.

Nobody has built it largely because Facebook has devoted huge amounts of resources to ensuring that none of its rivals are permitted to grow into serious contenders for its crown. Also, absent some kind of regulation, the surveillance capitalism adopted by all social media contenders these days is designed to work best when your network becomes the primary place people spend time on, to the exclusion of all others. So the incentives to build your simple little app where people can socialize into a monstrosity like Facebook are extremely high.



unless it’s some sort of cult situation where they need the money to be able to pursue the noble goal of connecting everyone I think it is quite obvious from various incidents too numerous to mention here that they do not think they are in pursuit of connecting everyone and that anything is worth the price of doing so, but rather they are in the pursuit of money and nothing is worth more than money is.



I don’t agree. The problem with psychopaths is that they are capable to think at the same time

  • that they are in pursuit of the noble cause of connecting people
  • that they are going to get immensely rich at the same time and
  • that people suffering from collateral damages were chosen by God to help them in their noble cause.
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Reminds me of Theranos where the noble goal was expressed as “democratizing medicine.”

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I think social media tends towards a monopoly, just like the old telephone companies did. You pick the same one as your friends did. When one company has more connections than the others, it becomes the natural choice. So, I look at FB to see what my friends are doing, because that’s where they are, and I guess they are doing the same.

What would the solution be? I would like to see some vanilla version where we can see each other’s posts, but without the creepy friendship videos, the unsolicited anti-Europe propaganda, and stuff like that. However, unless you can get a huge army to police it, but without the FB budget, then it will be a Wild Wild West Troll-Town, with memes and fake news running around the world while the truth is getting its boots on.

People should learn that every fantastic fact from the internet is probably false, and they should check the sources where they can. But tabloid newspapers still sell, so that’s not about to happen.



Funnily enough, I expressed that conclusion only yesterday:



Up to a point… but the technology IS the problem when it acts as a huge amplifier/multiplier that vastly outweighs/outcompetes any human attempts to protect democracy. Without this technology giving Fuckbook the power it has, ordinary humans would be able to better fight back to protect democracy, and the threats would not be so hugely amplified.

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