Episode from the podcastThe Gentle Rebel Podcast

315 | The Social Dilemma

Released Friday, 25th September 2020
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It seems like everyone is talking about The Social Dilemma at the moment. It's likely that most people have never heard of it. And yet the perception I have through my own Reality Feed is that this movie is being talked about everywhere. Though seriously, I believe it's in the top 10 things watched on Netflix this week.

I'll be honest. When I first heard about it, I had no interest. It didn't appeal to me because the premise appeared to be going over old ground. Truths about the way we have sold ourselves to technology and social media. And the hype around this notion that we have bought a one way ticket to the annihilation of humanity. Do I really want to watch that?

But then my friend Jas mentioned he had also heard it was worth checking out. So I opened Netflix. Wow, there it was. Top of the page, full width spread. As if it had been expecting me. 😳

If you've not heard of The Social Dilemma, it is a documentary that blows the whistle on the Persuasion Technology industry. It revolves around testimonies, reflections, and laments, from some of Silicon Valley's leaders. Those who have been instrumental in creating the biggest platforms and technological features we all know (and most of us use).

No Great Surprises
There was nothing in the film that surprised me. No great revelations that I hadn't already been at least partially aware of. But the way The Social Dilemma presents the situation felt pretty fresh, and will hopefully pave the way for some good conversations.

I never intended to write and share thoughts on this, but my morning pages got a little bit overtaken by my own reflections on what I'd watched. Not least because it is another piece in the jigsaw I've been putting together in the wake of information burnout and news fatigue that really took hold of me about 4 months ago.
Weirdly Reassuring
Maybe you've been feeling similar. Exhausted by the onslaught of news that makes you simultaneously furious and hopeless. The links, videos, and trending topics, you know will take you into a rabbit hole that leaves you feeling dirty and used, but you just can't help yourself. And it's made all the worse by the fact that you know it's bad for you, but something pulls you in and you just can't help yourself.

The Social Dilemma is a reminder that this is probably not an accident. We are moving deeper and deeper into a system which requires us to do what it manipulates us into doing.

When I finished the movie I couldn't help but wonder if I'm being farmed like an animal.

I also began to wonder...is Artificial Intelligence really driving us towards self-obliteration , or does it simply bring into the open the stuff that is already lurking around, beneath, and within me. Is it what already makes up the fabric of society? And it only makes it more visible.

I have loads of questions. And I'm interested in the power of resources like this, to stimulate healthy conversations. I've already seen the cynical, the dualistic, and the ideological tear downs. I have nothing invested in this film. I don't think hype is the best reaction we can have to it (I've seen plenty of that too). It's unhelpful, not least because it just feeds the very beast we're looking at exposing.

Well I found a bunch of ideas really interesting to think about and reflect on...
What (or Who) Is The Product?
The idea that, "if you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold" has been around for a while. Of course by definition, if you're not paying for something, you are not a customer. And we don't have to look far to see examples of companies collecting data on its users and building accurate profiles to sell to.

For some people this is seen as a positive. Targeted advertising means they only see things they might actually be interested in buying. Gone are the days of being shown irrelevant adverts and posts. Isn't that something to celebrate?

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