As I’ve become aware of this space, I have followed, supported, and been enthralled by the Center for Humane Technology pioneering the discipline of ethical technology. Naturally, I was pumped about a docu-film on our Social (media) Dilemma directed and informed by CHT contributors, and produced by Netflix. I find the result problematic.
The Social Dilemma attacks our cultural and technological failures from within, pulling ammunition from former creators and exec’s in Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…
Tristan Harris, whom I cannot praise enough for his work reforming Silicon Valley and educating Capitol Hill, leads the charge in calling out what companies do with our personal data, attention, money, and time. We need the CHT approaching the trespasses tech companies make in our lives, but The Social Dilemma goes a step farther.
I’ve described its tone as “doom and gloom”, and “apocalyptic” also seems fitting.
I trust everything reported to be real, dangerous and in need of checks and balances, but the way this information is presented, I predict, generates one of two unhealthy outcomes: First, people shutdown. Attacking something that has been institutionalized as much as social media breeds friction. Natural defense mechanisms arise within us when actions we have contributed to directly are villainized. Look at the current polarization of racial injustice conversations.
Second, it runs the risk of becoming merely a hashtag to hound an institution that bandwagoners have been looking for reason to take shots at for years. I’m not saying hipsters are bad for veritable movement’s momentum, but the phasal and ‘fizzle out’ nature of their support wanes when needing wax.
Maybe this is the only way to approach this subject in our time, and in that, The Social Dilemma gets it right.
Ultimately, I believe the CHT plans to release a second campaign focusing on holistic and redemptive technology, and how we can use tech to grow closer to each other and more aware. I also believe a coalition of so many of these ethically-centric technology companies needs to be created to bring resources to a unified location. With these two things, I can understand and still support the grim scenario The Social Dilemma portrays, and we can all remember that this is not the end of technology’s progress in our world.
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