Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Facebook: Maximizing Conflict

"The maximization of […] implied the maximization of inter-human hostility. All the existing sources of this phenomenon were tapped, and those proving particularly fruitful were patriotism, parochialism, xenophobia, ochlophobia, racial, religious and linguistic differences, and the so-called ‘gulf between the generations.’ " – John Brunner, The Jagged Orbit

In Brunner’s novels, it was arms sales, but in our world it seems to be engagement. Facebook promotes conflict. Genocide in Myanmar, violence in Kenya, India South Sudan, the United States. Brexit. Personal conflict: I’ve seen Facebook wreck long-standing friendships by throwing conflict in people’s faces.

The Jagged Orbit was one of a quartet of novels that Brunner wrote exploring future trends. The trends explored in The Jagged Orbit were racism and proliferation of lethal weaponry. The other novels in the quartet were Stand on Zanzibar (overpopulation), The Sheep Look Up (environmental destruction), The Shockwave Rider (rapid social change and ubiquitous computing.) Despite many failures and arguable sexism, Brunner got a lot right. Notably, the works are strongly anti-racist and global in perspective.

The Jagged Orbit ends on a hopeful note; the terrifying artificial intelligence goes insane and breaks down, the arms dealers suffer a setback, and one of the characters embarks on a project of unification. Our current situation…is not so hopeful. We’ve got a world of people who’ve been encouraged to be hostile to each other. Entire countries have already broken down in genocide. And there seems no-one with enough power willing to act to reduce the conflicts.


The Blog Fodder said...

Facebook's algorithms are certainly geared to reenforcing biases. I never get the terrible things other people report, mostly just progressive stuff. I do wish I got more from my friends though

Raven Onthill said...

I don't usually see it on FB, but my profile there is locked down. YouTube, now…