Big Data, Robo-Nanny, and The Battle for The Buttons

The Social Contract is broken.
The state can no longer uphold its side of the bargain.
For deep state to maintain power,
for the good of all,
it must act.
And it must choose.
And the choice it faces
is between coercion
or the control of opinion.
The latter power,
to control mass behaviour and opinion
comes with the ability to harvest and digest big data,
with control of social media.
And a battle is being fought.
We experience it in the developing narrative
that surrounds us,
that portrays social media as the agent
of our social problems;
responsible for extremism, social dislocation etc
and in the growing calls for a fix –
that will hold the access gateways responsible for their content,
a thinly veiled attempt to retain power
through censorship.
And more dangerously
as the power extends into social engineering.
the problem is that we may not produce the results that we expect
or even desire.
Whilst social media
may function efficiently as a mirror,
we might be unwise to think that it will do well as a nanny!

There is a solution and it’s easy!
We just need to grow up, and take responsibility for our own opinions,
our own emotional roller coaster,
and to cast aside rhetoric and manipulation.
That way we can hold the kind of adult conversations we need to,
to suitably scale to the global problems we face today.
But the work starts at home, and it starts now…

Some of the things to hit me
this week?
Jonathan Pie’s piece on the social contract.
And Brexit,
And Deep
and irretrievable differences, of course.
We are all so stuck in it!
But also a tiny shift in the mainstream,
towards more tolerance,
one tiny micro-step away from the narrative
of division
and fear.
And toward an acceptance,
at least in some part.
that what we consume,
day after day,
is who we become.
That we are what we eat.
That mainstream politics,
and mainstream media,
print and broadcast
have been providing encoded support for terrorism for years,
promoting violence,
and profiting from it.

And that we as individuals
have been trained,
Like Pavlovs dogs,
slowly but surely
to do the same thing…

Take the phrase “The War on Terror”, for example,
its a phrase demanding fear…
promoting xenophobia in us
encouraging us to jump,
Shooting first, and asking questions later…
to Pavlovian behaviours.

There are consequences…
The majority of xenophobic tragedies
in the West,
are initiated by white people.

Over the last week MSM has reeled its neck in
at least in some small way.
If not all of it.
Going so far to recognise the effect that this
constant psychological nudging can have,
but not so far that they
won’t blame social media for it.
In a simple act of hypocrisy, or blatant Idiocy,
or possibly both.
Well, might we ask why?
Because these are clever people involved,
And I have one idea for why
the blame game points a finger at Social Media.

How about Deep State?
deep state operates the state,
and needs control of the media to do it?

And Social media
is the new kid on the block.
It’s a pretty big influential kid too.
Just moved in and took over.
If it wasn’t for social media
we wouldn’t even understand deep state existed.

But he doesn’t have the connections.
Doesn’t know how things work,
Doesn’t have any respect for who’s in charge
And so there is a battle going on,
to bring him in line.
There has to be.

So, whilst MSM forgets to get its own house in order
thinks it’s OK to pull people’s levers with
an inflammatory perspective on everything,
it points the finger at social media.

And so we see the recent moves to censor the internet.
by making the access gateways,
that is Facebook, or Youtube, or Google
responsible for the content that gets uploaded.
And it is being achieved,
piece by piece,
in reaction to events like the New Zealand Mosque Tragedy.

But as I said
small steps can be seen
trying to get to the source.

Last week, Sir Mark Rowley, on Radio 4
ex-Chief of Scotland Yard Counter Terrorist Section was
clear about the role of media in the creation of extremist potential.
His analysis recognised the role for social media echo chambers,
but he also called out populist politics,
for providing coded support for extremist behaviour.

And this week it was the current chief of Counter Terrorism Policing,
Niel Basu, shaming
the National Newspapers that published the manifesto of the shooter, whilst
blaming social media
for the radicalisation of terrorists –
A suggestion being that they might want to look to themselves,
and review their own hypocrisy.
He pointed out that the Finsbury Park tragedy
had little to no connection
with the echo chambers.
The radicalisation had been entirely mainstream.

And Jacinda Ardern didn’t call for a new “War on Terror”,
for Vengeance, or a witch hunt…

Gun law yes,
but also a personal responsibility for language, yes…
Self censorship… yes.
But with an awareness of the dangers of perpetuating
the narrative of fear and division.

There seems to be a small but important shift, this time around.
to take the xenophobia out of the discussion,
a refusal to name the shooter,
an insistence on inclusion,
and a desire to take responsibility,
on some part,
for the complicity of our own media channels in
the rise of extremism,
and Jacinda Ardern’s approach to that tragedy,
has been
a masterpiece,
leading by example,
where our conversation needs to go.

And her words and actions,
let’s hope,
might continue to be remembered.

There is a desperate need
for new ways of understanding our narrative.
For deconstructing our differences,
and our rhetoric,
and creating a mindfulness of language
so that we might clear the way of
xenophobic, fear and division.

There are problems in the world today that are global,
that need to be tackled at a global scale.
Fear and division will not bring about the conditions required
for people to solve them.

On the face of this,
it appears we might have learned something…
The current climate is saying lets be careful about what we say
But and a big but is .
it is in general
against a background with a whole different agenda
One marking the social media giants out for a fall.

A new, conversational rule book.
Self control… yes!
But censorship?
Do we link this with censorship
And do we put censorship into the hands
of commercial enterprise
as recent international regulation suggests.
It is one thing to be careful about the things we say,
another to call for mass censorship…

Seems to me that is nothing more than a smokescreen.
Set to conceal the greater battle
for control of our minds.
And that is a problem.
And that is happening,
And it is happening now.

So much to get through.
Let’s see where we get to.

What we have seen,
in the recent years,
of mainstream propaganda
is innate human xenophobia,
being manipulated
in the cause of deep state,
to maintain the power base.

This can be done,
with any issue.
Focus on
any difference,
Name it,
and give it a veneer of moral disgust.
Report it
with populist rhetoric,
and transmit it through a compliant media.

You can call it what you want to,
just so long as there’s a label to hang some fear on,
We are divided,
and if we’re divided we’re busy,
distracted, vulnerable.
Covert government
that is deep state, wins.

OK, say… chicken and egg maybe
the fear might exist,
but its divide and conquer certainly,
writ large…
Why else a consistent attempt to exacerbate the fears
when so many other avenues exist?

But if it goes too far?
If it gets out of hand?

In a brilliantly perceptive
Jonathan Pie video released just a few days ago
“Brexit: What the f**k is going on?”
Tom Walker nails the zeitgeist,

“They broke the contract” he says…

That’s Parliament, of course.
But the contract?
what’s the contract?

Pie is referring to the social contract.

He’s referring to an idea that came about during the enlightenment
concerning the question of why anyone would consent to give away their natural rights.
What gives the state a legitimate claim to power over an individual?

And the question can be answered on many levels
but bear with me.

If you ever asked where Parliament gets its power from?
Ever wondered how come they can just sit in the Palace,
demand taxes from us, give themselves a pay rise,
and generally put us through misery…
then here is your answer.

There’s an imaginary contract exists between people and government,
in that you, me and any other commoner out there essentially consent
and that is the important part,
we consent
to give up our natural rights,
in order that we benefit from the organisation,
that government might provide.

So government requests taxes,
government requires obedience to laws
and government in return guarantees a certain level of protection,
or in evolutionary terms, an advantage.
It isn’t too difficult I think to recognise the biological narrative.

So is it broken?
And how so?

Well, the point is,
that this contract is built
depending upon where you stand
upon faith, and trust, or maybe fear.

And feeling irrelevant, demonised, unfulfilled…
repressed, depressed,
and having no control over your future,
no hope of raising a family
that tends to alert people
to the fact that something needs to change.

Rousseau the French enlightenment Philosopher
thought that a human state of nature,
was a far superior state
than that which was being provided by
government at that time.
We’re talking France, at the end of the 18th Century.

Consider a world with no boundaries,
a world of plentiful natural resources
at your disposal.
So that,
As an individual,
when resources become limited,
or you feel threatened,
you have choices…
What would you do?
You would change something.
Move maybe to the next valley,
where you can chop down a tree
Create your own shelter,
and hunt and fish and secure your family…

If you contract with a government,
that you’ll forgo these natural rights for the good of all,
in return for better conditions for your nearest and dearest,
What happens when government fails to do so?

What happens is It is a deal breaker.
And it doesn’t come down to a philosophical choice.
And all it takes is for an individual to know it.
To feel it.
It is pure survival.

If your natural rights present a better deal,
that is what you will insist on.

Rousseau said…

“we are obliged to obey only legitimate powers”,

On the other hand though,
We don’t know what the true state of nature really was,
we can’t do,
and so it would be unwise not, to consider the options.
without considering the natural state to be one of fear,
or of chaos.
Which was the position of another earlier philosopher
Thomas Hobbes
He thought that the natural state of man would be

“solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”

that unlimited natural freedom,
would by definition include the “right to all things”
and therefore
the freedom to plunder, to rape and murder;
so that there would be an endless “war of all against all”
we’re looking Mad Max! 

From Hobbes a man would contract with the state
for protection, in fear
and in so doing submit to
absolute authority in government.
Not quite what we’re experiencing right now in the UK
but still an argument that,
bubbles away under the surface,
and where deep state might find legitimacy.

It remains an option,
for the state with absolute authority
to be justified in a use of violence,

According to Rousseau however

“force does not create right”

“a state has no right to enslave a conquered people.”

For Rousseau,
the ability to coerce is not a legitimate power of government.

We remember it being used,
during The Miner’s Strike of the 1984-5 for example,
we understand,
that in a liberal democracy there is no rightful duty to submit to it.

And look at a recent example,
in the UK,
where members of parliament
have taken control of government,
that’s a revolution, there has been a coup!
But Parliament even is not duty bound to support a dysfunctional government.

And we have our narrative,
giving us, of course,
The Flag
Western democracy,
And freedom,
and social mobility, and equal opportunity,
and a parliament that works for its electorate.
We vote it in, we have that choice,
or at least it’s illusion.

But increasingly,
with the help of social media,
that illusion becomes more transparent,
and experience
contradicts the narrative we are familiar with.

People feel,
people know,
that the contract is broken.
And people turn away.
It’s not, as I say, a philosophical choice.
This is the biological option.
Game theory, Survival.

The State is Broken.
So, what about deep state..?

Deep state must understand now
that its role
is to hold onto that power.
It would be failing us, if it did not.
And deep state needs the state
in order to function.
The choice is not about whether to take control but
about how?

We see through Hobbes and Rousseau the justification
of both the will of the people and the power of force.
But the state would be unwise to turn to coercion,
so what remains is persuasion.
Power is to be retained
by control
of the most effective channels of persuasion.

If we call the next thing,
it will be the push to disempower our social media platforms,
so that control can be maintained
in the ivory towers of the elites.
This isn’t to say that the push hasn’t already begun.
Just to say that it will begin to become more mainstream.
Start to pervade the media.
We will begin to notice this new zeitgeist…
asking us to come along.

Facebook, Google, YouTube,
collecting your details?
Spying on you…
Listening to you,
tracking your movements…
Invading your privacy?

And destroying lives,
and destroying democracy,
creating extremism,
islamaphobia, anti-semitism,
knife crime.
And addictive,
and socially destructive.
Essentially evil

There are a number of narratives
concerning Social Media.
But I’m going to look at this big data thing.

It goes like this.

Social Media companies make money,
because that is what they must do,
by selling our data…
and really we kind of
can’t complain about this.
Because, what do you expect?
All of the stuff we get for free.
Has to be paid for somehow!

Isn’t that the narrative we live by?
Our landscape defined by
the economy,
and growth,
We understand that growth
will solve all of the ills of the world.
It will eradicate poverty,
ill health, inequality, and give us all of the prizes we can imagine
as long as we make the right sacrifices.

We must do our part,
accept our place,
We must consume and
we must make sacrifice,
and we sacrifice our children,
and our natural freedoms
So that money can be exchanged in a quest for a better life for all,
a promised land…

This narrative
assumes we come into the deal
supposedly, eyes open…
assumes we agreed on it,
so we give our data freely,
for unlimited knowledge
in the cause of progress.

And for their part, the network monopolies,
need a way to get value out of the deal.
And who can blame them?

This isn’t really about bank account details.
Like we hear on the news.
It’s not about getting ripped off
for a few quid
that the bank will reimburse,
It’s not about the millions
of sets of personal data
we hear getting hacked,
the email addresses,
nor even the difficulties caused by identity fraud.

Yes, these are the issues we hear about.
These the issues that we are asked to react to
Fears and worries fed us to trigger
our unconscious go to reactions.

But if you’re anything like me
then in reality
you probably couldn’t really give a monkeys
if someone hacks your personal details.
All of the details in the world wouldn’t get anything
out of my bank.

So is it really so bad?
This big Data thing?
It seems according to the news,
pretty tame, pretty benign stuff,
nothing to get paranoid about.

Well listen up!
What social media is really so good at
is taking what we do,
then serving it straight back at us,
measuring our likes and clicks and interactions
and predicting what we’ll do next.
Taking those predictions and moulding them,
so that if the statistics say we ought to be investing in a new fridge in the next few weeks.
80% likely
then guess what starts to fill your feed up.
Perhaps you hadn’t thought about it yet?

And all they are trying to do is get that accuracy up
but as we know this has the ability,
if manipulated like that,
to affect people’s decisions in many ways.
Yes they are after all working for the marketing companies
but the influence needn’t stop there.

And we can label this as Social Engineering.
Sounds like another buzzword,
designed to generate fear,
but let’s just see if we can’t see our way out of that too…

We can’t decide social engineering doesn’t exist.
We are social animals.
Its persuasion, opinion,
foundation of social behaviour

We can’t say it’s all bad.
Society is formed on it.

And we can’t wind back the clock.
Because it’s been around from day dot anyway…

And let’s be clear
Nudging people to think as we want them to, is nothing new.

Hey, we don’t talk politics at the dinner table,
or money.
We don’t talk someones weight.
Or sex in front of the kids…
At least that’s where I come from,

These things are culturally enforced,
and become natural…
It wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I realised other people did things differently.
I had no idea of the limitless possibilities.

None of us are somehow immune,
to the power of suggestion,
immune to being manipulated by group think,
or cognitive biases,
even to the point of blindness.

To all intents and purposes
we have always been susceptible to being controlled,
and manipulated.

We are all capable of it,
and we have all done it,

Simply changing the subject
when we feel it is inappropriate,
for example,
At the bus stop maybe.

But, in that small personable
group there are perhaps only minor consequences
in having shut down
what might have otherwise have been a fruitful conversation.
We evolved to be effective in small groups.
That’s key to the story.

So, Is there a problem with social engineering?
Because if there is we ought to know about it.

Consider the salmon… and the mainstream.
We all know that the salmon returns to the stream in which it hatches,
it returns to breed and to die.
This is a simple cultural narrative, for a salmon.
The question that it begs though is how come there are salmon in more than one stream?
And the answer has to be that must be an evolutionary advantage to breaking out of the mainstream.
Out of the standard cultural narrative,
and to explore the new.

We share that need to explore, to make mistakes and to learn.
That’s what makes us human,
and it is what makes us thrive.

But this has evolved as an advantage for small groups…
And what we have here
is a supercharged,
ability to manipulate and control minds,
on a mass scale…
to keep us all thinking on the right track,
in the same direction.

Like we’ve been supplied with a moral Sat Nav…
a totalitarian route planner,
with three options maybe but
the destination is set.
In the words of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke
“no alarms and no surprises”.

And this supercharged ability to sift through the big data,
and manipulate behaviour so the argument goes,
can be left to an artificial intelligence.
This being for a number of reasons of course.
Hey, look what happens when we put humans in charge…
It will just be manipulated anyway.
Use the machines. They can’t be corrupted…

but to ask that our social media companies become responsible for the content they carry
is to insist that they begin
to monitor and to censor what we might see.
And in order to do that we ask that they
make decisions as to what is acceptable or not.
Yes they are perfectly placed for the job.
But it doesn’t make them ideal for it.

We see already what is going on in China, and Russia…
as these less covert totalitarian systems
announce their own versions of the web,
And this is to see in no small measure
where we are all heading.

Giving AI the reins may appear to be a quick and superficially effective solution but
our main problem is that we are not not tackling the issue in a
pro-active way,
we are pushing it away,
so that what we might not in years to come reap what we were expecting.

We sleepwalk into this addicted state,
into a deeply rooted
socially engineered solution,
created, policed and maintained by an artificial intelligence,
that is in itself
rooted in what?

Well that would be,
the ideas and frameworks of its creators…

We must recognise
that the intrinsic power of social media is as a mirror.
To expect our Social Media to reflect our narrative is not out of the way.
This has been its driving force and its appeal.

We are, they say,
in a post-truth world…
a world which has emerged out of,
and in response to,
corporate bullshit,
It is a populist world
in which non-truths are only one step away,
from the weasel words of party politics,
or of commercial advertising.
And AI is born out of that.

And to understand its power to influence, and to control,
is also a rational response.
And so, to wish for a world in which evil might be eliminated,
it is only natural to want to enlist that power.

The problem is that social media is not moral.
If it has any godlike power
it is only in deciding for you,
which toaster you should buy.
It can not tell us whether to run over your brother, and his 6 friends,
or to choose a stranger instead, a pregnant mother.

As even, our own guardians we have been less than astute
in determining how our world might function.
To expect that we put our moral existence
into the hands of an
incorruptible power that has
essentially evolved to mirror us,
is surely a mistake,
and a derogation of our human duty.

Yes, It is here
and can not be unmade,
But it is a concern
that it is not in our hands,
It exists not for the benefit of mankind,
but for the benefit of an elite, corporate few,
And this is not some sort of conspiratorial worry
this is a concern for philosophers, and politicians,
psychologists, and neurologists
and evolutionary biologists

And if it is not enough that academics and scientists are worried,
how about Silicon Valley itself?
This is a concern that has led to a number of
high profile resignations,
and mass walkouts
amongst the staff of the social media giants themselves.
We’re talking even chief executives,
from the different companies
standing down, getting out,
and standing up to be counted,
finding themselves unable to be complicit.

The bottom line is that
we must, as individuals,
take responsibility for our own behaviour,
for our own complicity.
A total rejection of the system is impractical
but we can
learn to see through the rhetoric and bias
of our outdated labels.
and stop thinking with the minds of children,
waiting to be provided with a solution.
We can step outside of this cultural language
of fear and division,
to move towards our own.
Toward a new conversation,
of unity,
and human progress.
That is where freedom lies, and where the path to survival starts.

I’ve been Ant Biggs,
and this has been COW – the podcast.
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All much appreciated
and thanks for listening.

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