How to be a free-thinker, part one

Throwing off shackles is a two-stage process:

  1. Recognise the problem.
  2. Act to address it.

One has to acknowledge that a box exists before being able to think outside it.

Me, 2021

Google and Facebook track you, learn how you think, and seek to manipulate you in pursuit of the Great God Profit. In Netflix’s documentary ‘The Social Dilemma‘, some of the designers of social [sic] media systems openly admit as much – and express serious misgivings about their involvement.

The Social Dilemma | Official Trailer | Netflix
Transcript below (so as not to spoil the flow)

I was using the World Wide Web before either Google or Facebook arrived on the scene. Whenever I registered on a new site, I did so using an email & password combination, at the time using my ‘One Ring‘ system to generate unique passwords for each one.

I got into the habit of doing that. When Google and Facebook began offering the option of logging in to sites using their credentials, I did consider it briefly as it offered greater convenience. However, I decided to continue with my original plan, as I suspected that these corporations probably had an ulterior motive. Anything ‘free’ is worth what you pay for it. TANSTAAFL.

If you’re going to put all of your eggs into one basket, make certain that you control the basket.

Me, just now.

Fast forward to now, and I’m so very glad that I decided not to be seduced. Those businesses have become megacorporations, ‘Big Tech’, and they earn their billions by manipulating us all. My lack of connection to their systems means that they can’t ‘learn me’ as well as they can someone who has chosen to effectively allow them access to information about what they do and where and when they do it.

Back in February last year, I deleted my faecesbook account. That in itself was (unsurprisingly) not as easy to do as it should have been – and I still have doubts that they have actually deleted the data they held on me; I suspect that they probably consider all those particular bits and bytes to be ‘their property’. (I’ve no doubt that the click-thru ‘agreement’ I clicked though without reading when I first registered years ago said as much, or if it didn’t then it was amended at some point – using the ‘we reserve the right to alter this agreement whenever we choose’ clause – so that it does now.)

Others are doing likewise; Paul Handover of Learning from Dogs, for instance. I urge you to check out Paul’s recent post ‘Goodbye to Facebook‘, which features an illuminating TED talk by Carole Cadwalladr entitled ‘Facebook’s role in Brexit – and the threat to democracy‘. Governments around the world seem unable, or unwilling, to rein in Big Tech’s influence. It seems to me that the only way to curb its power is for others to quit, in droves… but it too few see the chaos it’s creating, let alone recognise the danger of allowing that to continue.

Had I got into the habit of logging in to other sites using my Facebook login credentials, deleting my account there would have effectively locked me out of those, albeit temporarily. I’m glad that wasn’t a factor for me. Perhaps that’s something that makes those who think about leaving faecesbook pause? If that’s the case for you, then it might be wise to consider setting up separate email & password access to those systems you feel you can’t live without, in preparation for kicking fakebook into touch.

And then there’s the ubiquitous Google, whose subtle impact is reflected in the fact that its name has become a synonym for ‘search’. However, I’ll wibble a little about that next week, because as the old joke goes:

Q: How do you eat an elephant?
A: One bite at a time.


Netflix’s ‘The Social Dilemma’ (transcript)

When you go to Google and type in ‘climate change is’, you’re going to see different results depending on where you live and the particular things that Google knows about your interests. That’s not by accident; that’s a design technique.

What I want people to know is that everything they’re doing online is being watched, is being tracked; every single action you take is carefully monitored and recorded. A lot of people think Google’s just a search box, and Facebook’s just a place to see what my friends are doing. What they don’t realize is there’s entire teams of engineers whose job is to use your psychology against you.

“I was the co-inventor of the Facebook ‘like’ button.”

“I was the president of Pinterest.”

“… Google.”

“… Twitter.”

“… Instagram.”

There were meaningful changes happening around the world because of these platforms. I think we were naïve about the flip side of that coin.

We get rewarded by ‘hearts’, ‘likes’, ‘thumbs up’, and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth.

A whole generation is more anxious, more depressed.

I always felt like fundamentally it was the force for good. I don’t know if I feel that way anymore.

Facebook discovered that they were able to affect real world behaviour and emotions without ever triggering the user’s awareness. They are completely clueless.

Fake news spreads six times faster than true news. We’re being bombarded with rumours.

If everyone’s entitled to their own facts, there’s really no need for people to come together – in fact, there’s really no need for people to interact.

We have less control over who we are and what we really believe.

If you want to control the population of your country, there has never been a tool as effective as Facebook.

We built these things and we have a responsibility to change it. The intention could be: how do we make the world better? If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, more polarization, more election hacking, more inability to focus on the real issues, we’re toast.

This is checkmate on humanity.

The Social Dilemma | Official Trailer | Netflix

The transcript above was made with the help of Sonix, which did most of the donkey work for a tiny fee (I did have to spend some time tidying it up). Note that I do not have the copyright owner’s permission to publish this transcript here. I’ve investigated the copyright rules regarding transcriptions (more about that here), and one thing I’ve learned is that it’s no defence to make a disclaimer like “these aren’t my words, no copyright infringement intended.” However, I offer the transcription here as a service to society (especially the deaf community). I do hope the copyright owner won’t object. And I hope that you find this video as interesting as I did.

About peNdantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Communication, Computers and Internet, Core thought, Culture, Strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to How to be a free-thinker, part one

  1. Tom says:

    I deleted my face book account several years ago now, peNdantry, and have never missed it, although they tried very hard at the time to convince me otherwise. I didn’t like the platform and something about the whole thing felt ‘off’. One event became the catalyst for my departure, and it was swiftly kicked in touch! Twitter followed shortly afterwards. And as for Google, I’m currently having great fun searching for the most random of things, throwing its profile-building mechanisms all over the place 🤣! I did a quick search for ‘catalyst’ earlier just to make sure it was the word I wanted to use, and Google instantly listed the catalyst museum.
    It’s just a bit of fun, but if it can’t predict what I’m after, I’m in charge and therefore less likely to be manipulated.
    That said, I think I’ll check out that museum…. 🤔…. or not!

    Liked by 3 people

    • peNdantry says:

      If you watch ‘The Social Dilemma’ I think you may come away concluding that three pounds of meat can’t compete with AI systems the size of small cities.

      I would recommend trying DuckDuckGo instead. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Tracked!“. More on that in next week’s wibblette.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Forestwood says:

        Google awards for people who search that phrase first, is just plain strange.
        The Social Dilemma was a very worrisome documentary.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Dear Colin,

        Unfortunately, most if not all wordpress.com hosted blogs cannot be found in duckduckgo search results.

        Yours sincerely,
        SoundEagle

        Liked by 1 person

        • peNdantry says:

          Not entirely true. While it is the case that (for some reason) sites on WordPress.com don’t feature highly in a straightforward search, they can be found if you specify ‘site:wordpress.com’, as, for example, here.

          PS … and it would appear that sites hosted on WordPress.com that have a custom domain set as the main domain aren’t penalised in this way; see for instance here – the native address of phlyarology.com is actually phlyarology.wordpress.com. I admit I don’t understand why DuckDuckGo splits the word into two, bizarrely imbuing the site with the title ‘Phly Arology’ (?) in its results; but no software is without its foibles: a go ogle search for ‘phlyarology’ asks me whether I meant to search for ‘pharology’ instead. It’s all nonsense!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Dear Colin,

            That is neither ideal nor reasonable at all, considering that most users simply would not have the knowledge to circumvent the quirks or inadequacies of duckduckgo.

            Yours sincerely,
            SoundEagle

            Like

          • peNdantry says:

            There’s not a lot in this world, in my experience, that is ideal, my friend; and a great deal of it is also unreasonable. Go ogle has its quirks and inadequacies too (not the least of which being its slack attitude towards personal privacy).

            Liked by 1 person

  2. mistermuse says:

    I’ve never used Facebook, but I do rely on Google for searches. Is there a good alternative to Google, or is one just as “bad’ as another?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. The whole notion of data mining (which EVERYBODY does) is most depressing. I hate FB because…well…I mean, it is Facebook afterall and who doesn’t like to harsh on that smug-faced devil who thinks he’s smarter than everyone? And don’t get me started on the whole Google stalking thing. Not sure what kind of ‘solution’ there is to dealing with these mega giants short of closing the barn door now that the horses have been let out. Whoops. Ok, maybe I should just crawl back into my cave now. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree entirely and would never use one site’s format to log into all other sites (especially FB or google). I also turned off all advertising. I don’t need any suggestions on how to spend my money. :)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: How to be a free-thinker, part two | Wibble

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