The Social Dilemma crafts a compelling argument for the need for oversight over technologists. It tells the story of the decade, that technology is have too much of an subliminal and undue influence on life as we know it.
What stuck with me was how Tristan Harris differentiated between when technology can overcome humans’ strengths with technology overcoming human weaknesses. The popular narrative is that while machines can influence what we do, they are far from being able to materialise in a way that Sci-Fi’s Skynet did in Terminator. Believing this leads to a false sense of security, that we are still autonomous in our decision-making. The exploration into how natural human behaviour is manipulated shattered this belief within me immediately. We are already taking losses i.e. thinking about checking social media over real-world pressing concerns of spending time with family or friends. What is difficult to internalise is how dangerous this is when operating at the scale at which social media does. Individually, most people are bullish on the overall impact of it because our lived experiences of the effects seem so marginal.
All this is well and good, but what is left to interpretation is how the consumer should proceed with information. The practicality of isolating ourselves from all social media is a daunting proposition, especially for those in Gen Z that grew up with it. I am afraid that this is one of those documentaries that lives in the mindspace of the mainstream for a week, and slowly fades into black. It is released at an interesting point in time too, contending with perhaps the most active social media population in the history of mankind.
One thing I am grateful for is to be able to put a face to the dissenting voices in technology. While academics have been front-and-centre advocating for the restraint on technology companies, it is rare to see ex-tech folk in the spotlight on these matters, at least in a mainstream way.