Schönes Interview von Tyler Cowen mit Neal Stephenson über sein neues Buch Fall or, Dodge in Hell, in dem er unter anderem auch den Realitätsverlust durch soziale Medien untersucht.
Stephenson führt den Realitätsverlust durch soziale Medien vor allem auf algorithmische Kuration der Inhalte zurück, die durch Bad Actors manipuliert wird, Cowen hingegen vermutet, dass in dezentralisierten Soziale Medien zuviele gleichberechtigte Stimmen nebeneinander existieren. Meines Erachtens haben beide Recht: Zuviele Stimmen beschreiben und kommentieren die Realität aus der Sicht aller formulierbaren Perspektiven, der digitale Ausdruck einer prismatischen Wahrheit, so dass sich die extremstmöglichen Standpunkte im globalen Medienraum der Plattformen realisieren. Die Algorithmen sorgen durch Engagement (Outrage) für deren Sichtbarkeit in der Breite.
COWEN: You saw some of the downsides of social media earlier than most people did in Seveneves. It’s also in your new book, Fall. What’s the worst-case scenario for how social media evolved? And what’s the institutional failure? Why do many people think they’re screwing things up?
STEPHENSON: I think we’re actually living through the worst-case scenario right now, so look about you, and that’s what we’ve got. Our civil institutions were founded upon an assumption that people would be able to agree on what reality is, agree on facts, and that they would then make rational, good-faith decisions based on that. They might disagree as to how to interpret those facts or what their political philosophy was, but it was all founded on a shared understanding of reality.
And that’s now been dissolved out from under us, and we don’t have a mechanism to address that problem.
COWEN: But what’s the fundamental problem there? Is it that decentralized communications media intrinsically fail because there are too many voices? Is there something about the particular structure of social media now?
STEPHENSON: The problem seems to be the fact that it’s algorithmically driven, and that there are not humans in the loop making decisions, making editorial, sort of curatorial decisions about what is going to be disseminated on those networks.
As such, it’s very easy for people who are acting in bad faith to game that system and produce whatever kind of depiction of reality best suits them. Sometimes that may be something that drives people in a particular direction politically, but there’s also just a completely nihilistic, let-it-all-burn kind of approach that some of these actors are taking, which is just to destroy people’s faith in any kind of information and create a kind of gridlock in which nobody can agree on anything.
COWEN: If we go back to the world of 2006, where there’s Google Reader, there’s plenty of blogs, RSS is significant, algorithms are much, much less important — does that work well in your view? Or is the problem more deeply rooted than that?
STEPHENSON: Well, I think, at the end of the day, people are not going to agree on facts unless there’s a reason for them to do so. I’ve been talking about a really interesting book called A Culture of Fact by Barbara Shapiro, which is a sort of academic-style book that discusses how the idea of facts entered our minds in the first place because we didn’t always have it. Procedures were developed that would enable people to agree on what was factual, and that had a huge impact on culture and on the economy and everything else.
And now that’s, as I said, going away, and the only way to bring it back is, first, to have a situation where people need and want to agree on facts.