The Feed Bites Back, Followup

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post on the Facebook feed.

A few things:

  1. Filter bubbles matter
  2. Cybersecurity matters
  3. Wealth inequality matters

The first just had its first real moment. We're severely underestimating the effects of filter bubbles in social media, because we have an outdated notion of how people form opinions and how manipulable we really are, as well as not understanding what the true effects are of the information systems we use. Recently our ability to distort information seems to have grown faster than our ability to correct distortion. The entropy is increasing. Our expectation is that we're getting the truth from what we read. The reality is that we often don't.

The second has just moved from 'annoying that I have to remember these darn passwords' to 'they can read this, can't they?'. Legitimate cybersecurity chops are now a must have for future candidates. Code and exploits - not guns or men or physical things - are the battlefield of the 21st century, and we struggle to reason about it. As computing spreads to more and more things, the attack surface increases, and the ways these attacks can affect and disrupt us multiply. Our expectation was that things were private and safe, the reality is they're not and anything can happen at any moment.

The third has been brushed aside for too long. In a way the 2008 recession is like the Treaty of Versailles post-WW1, in that the aftereffects of the recession created a massive wealth transfer to the top (through r>g, regulatory capture, campaign finance laws, etc), and that helped create the conditions for this election that the above two then ran with. We talk about wealth inequality as an abstract concept but do almost nothing structurally to resolve it, and now it bites. Our expectation was we'd continue the growth path and opportunities of post-war America, and the reality is that we didn't, and we have no new broadly-accessible paradigm to pivot to.

There are many more takeaways from this election, but I think these are the most novel ones that come to mind. All three of them are about the mismatch of reality and expectation. We've clung to our 20th century safety blanket for too long into this century, and now it's been taken away.


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