An interesting lesson from The Social Dilemma

Written by

Tom Ootes


September 23, 2020

If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma, you should. In fact, it should be prescribed viewing for everyone – responsible and imposed information, as important as health warnings on ciggy packets.

I will leave commentary on the provocation of the program to the viewer, but it does raise an interesting, perhaps greater idea. Through the influence of technology and specifically, the undiminished power of AI, young people all over the world, can have the most extraordinary ability to ‘influence’ their own lives and the lives of others, for better or for worse. It suggests that the days of total domination by politically driven or religion-driven old people are drawing to a close.

Most of my life, and the lives of my contemporaries have seen their careers, financial status, political positions and religious beliefs formed by people older than us.

Older, sometimes wiser and more experienced men (and not enough women) have decided our futures and the future of the world. They have launched wars, passed our laws, sat in judgement in our courts and generally imposed themselves and their belief systems on society. Dictators aside, they have been surrounded by like-minded supporters but have been kept in-check via various democratic structures. We vote them in, we vote them out. We go to Sunday School and then resign, or we find meaning and purpose with a myriad of suburban ‘God-botherers’.

But the game has changed.

From Zuckerberg to Dorsey, the world is now controlled by weird looking ‘kids’ – at 48, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai is positively ancient.  And although Zuckerberg appears to be a narcissist pursuing world domination, most of his contemporaries began without any ideology beyond making shitloads of money. Today, Tech is not just the most resilient and pronounced driver of ‘shareholder value’, it promises to maintain this position for the foreseeable future.

The Social Dilemma describes a sinister, shadowy shift in the control of society and its people. The growing power and influence of AI is assured. It appears to be an uncontrolled and dangerous exercise in continual improvement. Increasingly efficient in accuracy and influence, the algorithms that drive these platforms are ‘self-improvers’, unrestrained or checked as they steadily increase in their insidiousness. And apart from the addiction our society has to ‘shareholder value’, people without sufficient experience, without sufficient ‘life-skills’ and clearly without empathy, continue to obfuscate and duck any responsibility.

Someone much smarter than me, but probably about as old, said;

 ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.