Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

We Haven’t A Clue – So Give Us Lots Of Power

This is the demand of a group of scientists. They’ve not the first clue about the subject under discussion therefore they should be given lots of power. Power to regulate the thing they’ve no clue about.

The thing is social media. They posit, rightly, that being able to communicate with millions near instantly is different from being able to grunt at the 15 others you’ve gone mammoth hunting with. Therefore this ability to communicate with millions near instantly must be studied. Well, OK.

We could and probably should answer with Chesterton’s Fence. Why is it that being able to communicate with millions near instantly over social media so popular? Because to the human bits of our brains this is in fact very like being able to grunt at the 15 we’re mammoth hunting with. It appeals to humans because it’s very like what makes humans human.

But then comes the big switch:

The emergent functional consequences are unknown. We lack the scientific framework we would need to answer even the most basic questions that technology companies and their regulators face.

OK, so we’re all clueless.

In response, regulators and the public have doubled down on calls for reforming our social media ecosystem, with demands ranging from increased transparency and user controls to legal liability and public ownership. The basic debate is an ancient one: Are large-scale behavioral processes self-sustaining and self-correcting, or do they require active management and guidance to promote sustainable and equitable wellbeing (2, 19)? Historically, these questions have been addressed in philosophical or normative terms. Here, we build on our understanding of disturbed complex systems to argue that human social dynamics cannot be expected to yield solutions to global issues or to promote human wellbeing without evidence-based policy and ethical stewardship.

We’re clueless but it is really, no, seriously, important that us scientists be given power over social media so that it can be properly controlled. Even though, did we already say this?, we’re clueless.

And that’s science that is so shut up and agree.

There is no viable hands-off approach. Inaction on the part of scientists and regulators will hand the reins of our collective behavior over to a small number of individuals at for-profit companies. Despite the scientific and ethical challenges, the risks of inaction both in the present and for future generations necessitate stewardship of collective behavior.

Quite so, put the wise people in power, eh? What could go wrong?

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Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat
3 months ago

Inaction on the part of scientists and regulators will hand the reins of our collective behavior over to a small number of individuals at for-profit companies.

Yes, I’m absolutely horrified how MySpace has controlled the thoughts and minds of billions of users for nearly two decades.

Spike
Spike
3 months ago

“Promote human wellbeing” assumes a set of values, though in the same sentence he trots out “ethical stewardship.” (“Okay, we’ll just use mine.”)

Snarkus
Snarkus
3 months ago
Reply to  Spike

Good point. Ethics in societies simply means what the common and sometimes ruling groups deem to be important. 20th century demonstrated where that could take us. Unfortunately, one can see why history is no longer taught, only selected proof points, consisting mostly of misrepresentations with the odd big Lie. Being humans, prone to stuff up, facts do slip thru, but this is not proof of academic rigour

Spike
Spike
3 months ago

Yes, a lot has changed in the century when we could talk to people without going there. We insist on anonymity, we then find we desire moderation, and the moderators are necessarily biased, partly because Marxists rush in to fill those slots. That sums up the “problem” pretty well.

jgh
jgh
3 months ago

How dare humans be humans, humans must be stopped from being humans, part 74538462.

TD
TD
3 months ago

These would create some heady jobs for people who don’t have the imagination or creativity to actually invent or do something new but who would like to have the ability to squelch those who do. The pay would be good; the benefits great; the security almost unparalleled, and the power – oh the power. From their point of view that would probably, in fact, create the type of world they want to live in. That may be why it is so difficult to achieve more libertarian oriented policies. If politics is about one group trying to impose its will upon… Read more »

MrVeryAngry
MrVeryAngry
3 months ago

The English language, being a market language and rather like the interweb not actually under any on persons (or group of persons) control has developed the precise and apposite phrase for them. Just what part of f**k off don’t they understand?

Snarkus
Snarkus
3 months ago

“Scientists” arguments in this case are common bureaucratic phrasing. Something is happening, therefore Something Must Be Done. The usual appeal to FUD, so beloved of the timid souls in the ruins of Western intellect. So what do we do ? Satire seems best. If you can laugh at claims, you can assess them better. Facts dont matter any more.

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