The problem with social media is not content but its distortion of reality. Social media platforms target users with content that resonates specifically with them, creating a false mental model of society. This distortion of reality has harmful consequences for our collective intelligence and decision-making abilities. The biggest issue lies in the machinery of targeted distribution, which profiles users and provides them with selective content that does not represent society as a whole. This leads to an overinflated sense of our own views and values and an underdeveloped understanding of conflicting perspectives, driving polarization and destroying our collective wisdom.

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Hatched by Glasp

Sep 25, 2023

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The problem with social media is not content but its distortion of reality. Social media platforms target users with content that resonates specifically with them, creating a false mental model of society. This distortion of reality has harmful consequences for our collective intelligence and decision-making abilities. The biggest issue lies in the machinery of targeted distribution, which profiles users and provides them with selective content that does not represent society as a whole. This leads to an overinflated sense of our own views and values and an underdeveloped understanding of conflicting perspectives, driving polarization and destroying our collective wisdom.

To address this problem, we have two options. The first is to ban profiling and targeting practices, essentially cutting the strings that social media platforms use to manipulate our perceptions. The second option is to make the strings visible, allowing users to see when they are experiencing distorted views of the world. This can be achieved through transparency in targeting, requiring platforms to clearly disclose the demographic characteristics of the exposed population when targeting users with content that is not distributed broadly. The goal is not to suppress content but to make the machinery of distribution as visible as possible, enabling users to appreciate when they are being confined to narrow echo chambers.

In David Deutsch's book "The Beginning of Infinity," he explores the concept of science as the study of truth and the engine that drives humanity forward. He argues that good explanations, rooted in scientific theories, have the power to transform our understanding of the world and lead to progress. Deutsch emphasizes the importance of creativity in generating new knowledge and solving problems. He challenges the notion of induction and Bayesian reasoning as sufficient methods for predicting the future, asserting that true progress comes from imagination and the ability to come up with good explanations.

Deutsch's worldview is one of rational optimism, believing that progress is inevitable as long as we have good explanations. He sees knowledge creation as a transformative force in the universe, with humans as universal explainers capable of understanding anything that can be known. He rejects the idea that the laws of physics can predict the future, highlighting the role of human creativity and choices in shaping the course of the universe.

One of the key takeaways from Deutsch's work is the importance of being skeptical of absolute certainty. He argues that proofs are not certainties and that even the best theories can be flawed. He draws parallels to Nassim Taleb's concept of the black swan, which highlights the limitations of induction and the existence of unknown unknowns. Deutsch also explores Gregory Chaitin's perspective on GΓΆdel's incompleteness theorem, emphasizing the creativity and fallibility of mathematicians in their quest for good explanations.

Deutsch's ideas challenge conventional thinking and highlight the role of creativity and imagination in knowledge creation. He encourages us to question deeply held assumptions and embrace uncertainty as a driver of progress. By adopting a rational optimism mindset, we can continue to push the boundaries of knowledge and solve the problems that confront us.

In conclusion, the distortion of reality caused by social media platforms and the importance of creativity in knowledge creation are two interconnected issues that impact our collective intelligence and decision-making abilities. To address these issues, we should focus on making the machinery of targeted distribution visible and transparent, while also embracing creativity and rational optimism in our pursuit of knowledge. Here are three actionable advice based on these insights:

  • 1. Be aware of the potential distortions caused by social media platforms: Recognize that the content you consume on social media may not represent society as a whole. Take the time to seek out diverse perspectives and challenge your own biases.
  • 2. Demand transparency in targeting: Advocate for platforms to disclose the demographic characteristics of the exposed population when targeting you with content. This will help you understand when you are being confined to an echo chamber and broaden your exposure to different views and values.
  • 3. Embrace creativity and rational optimism: Recognize the power of imagination and the ability to come up with good explanations. Be open to questioning deeply held assumptions and embrace uncertainty as a driver of progress. Foster a mindset that believes in the potential for continuous improvement and the transformative power of knowledge creation.

By taking these actions, we can work towards a more informed and collectively intelligent society, where the distortion of reality is minimized, and progress is driven by good explanations and rational optimism.

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