Readers, I’m begging you: send me anything—evidence, studies, reports, something—showing that social media has positive effects. Heck, find me something to suggest that it’s even just neutral. Because the more I look into the growing body of research on social media, the more it looks like a full-scale public health disaster in the making, one powerful enough to shred our social fabric. (See my previous installments here, here, here, and here.)
What’s the latest?
An early Facebook executive is going public with his belief that social media is “ripping apart society.”
Chamath Palihapitiya, who previously served as Facebook’s vice president for user growth, expressed “tremendous guilt” and urged people to take a “hard break” from social media during a talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“I just don’t use these tools anymore, I haven’t for years. It’s created with a huge tension with my friends, it’s created a huge tension in my social circles,” Palihapitiya said. “If you look at my Facebook feed, I probably posted two times in the last seven years.”
Palihapitiya also said that his children “aren’t allowed to use this s**t.”
Palihapitiya’s stand comes on the heels of a similar criticism by former Facebook president Sean Parker. (There’s more coverage at the Stranger.)
The Guardian profiles lower-ranking workers in Silicon Valley—the designers, engineers and product managers—who have themselves turned away from the toxic combination of social media and smartphones, in the process likening the products they’ve created to heroin. Having designed products to, in their words, “hijack your mind,” they are also keenly worried about medium’s potential to erode democracy and civil institutions.
There’s peer-reviewed academic research to support these beliefs. For example, a recent study published by the University of Chicago finds that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity—even when they’re turned off.
And brain-drain may be the least of our problems with social media. An investigative piece at Bloomberg looks to the Philippines to examine what happens then the government turns Facebook into a weapon? It hardly seems far-fetched to imagine something similar happening in the United States.
If we really want to treat regular people as citizens, we need to “entrust them with meaningful opportunities to participate in the political process, rather than just as beings who might show up to vote for leaders every few years.” One possibility: “single-issue legislatures whose members are chosen by lottery and serve three-year staggered terms.”
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Here’s an idea: rebuild Puerto Rico’s devastated electricity grid with clean renewable energy and generate a universal dividend (part of a basic income) to boot!
Some people worry about unethical AI taking over the human world. But there’s no need to look to the future, unethical corporations have already taken over.
Corporations, just like a potential runaway AI, have no intrinsic interest in human welfare. They are legal constructions: abstract entities designed with the ultimate goal of maximizing financial returns for their investors above all else. If corporations were in fact real persons, they would be sociopaths, completely lacking the ability for empathy that is a crucial element of normal human behavior. Unlike humans, however, corporations are theoretically immortal, cannot be put in prison, and the larger multinationals are not constrained by the laws of any individual country.
With the incalculable advantage of their superhuman powers, corporations have literally taken over the world. They have grown so massive that an astonishing sixty-nine of the largest hundred economies in the world are not nation states but corporate entities.
As late-season fires rage in Southern California, indigenous forest management practices from my home state of New Mexico may just have some answers for an increasingly drought and fire-prone West.
For anyone who has ever had a climate denier claim that solar and wind are just as resource-intensive as fossil fuels: the answer is no. Not even close.
Healthy urban streams capable of supporting substantial salmon populations exist! But the requirements are very specific.
And, another reason to hate on Florida—the sunshine state uses the sun for less than half a percent of its electricity. SMH