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25 July, 2017

How social media loops lead to cultural stagnation

Τhis is a terrifying picture of a culture that is trapped in powerful vicious circles and loops that lead to further cultural stagnation and make cultural progress more and more difficult

In another interesting interview to Russell Brand, Adam Curtis describes a certain phenomenon in social media. He speaks about how the web and the social media are creating loops that actually isolate certain groups of individuals with common characteristics and interests. Curtis supports that this is a form of power which essentially prevents real progress.

As he says:

If you have something like Facebook, which in its news feeds increasingly gives you what it knows you like and what you hear is what you like, then that's incredibly powerful.

Those who run social media will say 'this is efficient'. They are not ideologists. They are not saying we must tell them this, and in fact it's the algorithms that are doing that. Of course they design the algorithms, but the algorithm's function is to give you more of what it knows you like because that's efficient.

But look at what that means: that means that you only know what others like you know, and then there is another group over there who know what the others in their group know, and they never meet.

There is a fascinating quote of the day after Brexit from a social media activist who was a Remainer. He wanted to remain, but he wanted to find out what the other lot felt like, who had that triumphant that day. And he went onto Facebook and he tried to find through the custom feeds people like that. He couldn't do it! And he was actually shocked. It's a man realizing that there are two halves of the world, now so separated from eachother, that one half can't actually go and find out what the other half is feeling. Now, that's called power.

I don't think that in facebook there is anyone saying 'this is the world we want', they are saying 'this is efficient'. But look what that efficiency is: it's a conservative world that holds things stable. And implicitly, what that means, is that things aren't going to change. And what that means is that those who are in power, remain in power.

The description is impressive because it shows that even those who design the algorithms are occupied with a specific way of thinking that diffuses throughout societies. It is a type of thinking that is based not in morality, or other principles, but rather in a kind of mechanistic perception that dominates the minds of individuals and their activities in everyday life. In capitalism, this is translated into one thing: endless chase for profit.

Essentially, this is a terrifying picture of a culture that is trapped in powerful vicious circles and loops that lead to further cultural stagnation and make cultural progress more and more difficult.

Well, stagnation leads to degeneration, and degeneration leads to death ...

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