Why is Xi Jinping ready to slow down the Chinese economy?
I mean, if there’s anything that poses a real threat to Facebook in the future, it’s whether or not people themselves, consumers start to opt out. Is it a place for young people all over the world or is it really just people like me who are engaged in display and all that stuff. But why do I feel this way? Well, one, because the government has no agreement on what to do.
I mean, on the right you have a lot of people who think the culture warriors are the problem. It is the politically incorrect that is not allowed. These are the right-wing people who are needlessly kidnapped. So of course it starts with Trump. It goes further with others. It’s certainly true that the most viewed sites on Facebook are still people like Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino and Fox News. It’s not consistent every day, but it’s absolutely majority. So it is difficult to make this argument overall, but certainly in terms of the individual people who are being undone and the people who are seen as putting forward, which is described as fake news and disinformation on Facebook, Whether around elections or white nationalism and supremacy, or even around vaccines and the pandemic response, there has been more sensitivity to both the actions and responses from the right than from the left.
On the other hand, on the left, you have people who say that there is too much power. It is bad for civil society. It pushes people to extremes. He encouraged all kinds of stopping behavior and encouraged violence accordingly. And so it’s a whole lot different from what … When the country is as tribal as it is, the answers to where you see a lot of that tribalism are very, very different.
Second, the company itself is of course not interested in taking primary responsibility for solving regulatory challenges. I mean, companies always say they prefer to self-regulate functionally, but they don’t want to have direct responsibility for it because that implies direct responsibility with the people for it. So in other words, it reminds me of what you used to hear from China 10 or 20 years ago, which is, “hey, we’re little. We are poor. We are weak. global solutions, look to the US for global solutions. “Facebook is doing kind of the same thing. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve read Axios this morning, but Facebook is sponsoring it. And they’re basically saying, hey , we want regulations. We want the government to tell us that there are issues with the kind of news that is on our site and others. And we want the government to create new sets of rules that are ‘will apply to the whole internet, to all social media, which will determine how we should operate, what kind of information we should post, what we should not post. They ask for it. And in part they ask for it because they know they’re not really going to get it, but partly they’re asking for it because it doesn’t mean their responsibility. If it doesn’t work, it’s on someone else. is about the US government. Plus, Facebook, like most of these AI-driven organizations, don’t really know what their algorithms are doing, what the algorithms actually do. And that’s an AI problem. You have deep learning about massive amounts of big data. And you understand that it gives you results that drive more engagement, but you don’t really know exactly what it does.
This means nothing to you. I mean, you can figure out which models he’s getting information from, but it’s a lot different having a human sitting down and explaining, okay, here’s why we get more engagement. Here is the strategy and the logic behind it. I mean, when you program algorithms to look inside the data, to get more engagement, you’ll get this result. And this is not an effort to polarize. Nor is it an effort not to polarize. It’s just an effort to generate more engagement. And if the companies themselves don’t really know what the algos are doing, then it’s very difficult for them to say to themselves, “well, here’s what we would do if we wanted to make civil society more strong “. Because that’s not what you’re optimizing for. You are optimizing for the business model itself.
Then of course you have the point that it is the United States against China in terms of supremacy of the various technological capabilities of which Facebook is a part. And if you weaken Facebook, if you dismantle Facebook, if you set Facebook in a way that fundamentally subverts its business model, whereas in China, with a lot more citizens and a lot more data, because there is no really consolidated privacy in super apps, well, Chinese companies are going to be more successful. They will win. And if these companies are increasingly meant to be an important part of what national security means and how we compete on the world stage, the worst thing you can do is undermine American companies at the expense of their own. competitiveness vis-à-vis China.
So I think all of these things put together are reasons why we’re unlikely to see structural regulation that will significantly undermine the power of organizations like Facebook to have more and more influence over domains in which they play. And in the case of Facebook, it’s really the social interactions, information, and news that the average person in the world on the platform, 3 billion people at this point, digests in.
I think there are … Like Ian Bremmer here, there are some obvious fixes that would reduce the level of the problem. I mean, solution number one seems pretty clear to me, that choosing not to broadcast any political advertising would improve the level of information and the quality of speech about the US elections. It’s number one. Second, systematically reduce the importance of home politics, or heck, even all politics on the site so that people who go to Facebook don’t primarily get that kind of information. It is against my best interests, frankly, but nonetheless, I think it would probably help.
And third, my favorite, everyone should be checked out. Every person who is on the site should actually be a real person like on LinkedIn, for example. They need to log in and verify who they are. If they break the terms of the deal, that means they lose that. And they can’t just create another random anonymous account. Now the problem with these three fixes is that they would all undermine the business model in different ways. You will make less money if you don’t take political ads, if you don’t run them. You’ll make less money if something really popular gets a lot of engagement, like the policy that is low in prevalence on the site. You will make less money if you get rid of all the anonymous accounts, bots, and fake trolls because they drive engagement, they drive a lot of engagement.
So there are very legitimate reasons why a company run by shareholders would not take the necessary steps to make these kinds of fixes. And there are also a lot of reasons that I mentioned earlier, why the US government will not put in place the kind of regulations that would lead to fixes like this. So what does this mean? What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen is we’re going to have to adapt to an environment where tech companies are increasingly powerful in various digital spaces.
It reminds me of the first time I had the idea of ”G-Zero World”, a world without global leadership almost 10 years ago now, and immediately the response I received from people is “d ‘Okay, Ian, well, that’s bad. So how do we stop that from happening? ”And I was like,“ Well, what do you mean? How do we prevent that from happening? ”I’m telling you, I think it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen because it’s overdetermined, because the United States no longer wants to be the global policeman or the architect of world trade for deep and structural reasons. And the Europeans themselves are more divided and less able and willing to provide that kind of leadership in the absence of the United States. And the Russians are in decline, but angry with the Americans and the Europeans. They want to further undermine these countries and their ability and willingness to exercise that leadership. And China is getting stronger, but it is not aligned with the political and economic models of states United and Europe.
So that’s not how we prevent the “G-Zero” from coming. Since the “G-Zero” is coming, what do you do? How do you respond to them? How do you adapt to it? It’s like climate change. We started 27 years ago, the COP process and the people involved weren’t even talking about adaptation because that was equivalent to surrender. If you said that you were going to adapt to climate change, that meant that you refused, that you abdicated responsibility for a world to which we had to stop climate change. And yet the reasons why climate change was not going to be stopped were incredibly overdetermined. So entrenched with many players around the world, that it should have been obvious that we were heading towards one, two degrees, more and more three degrees centigrade of warming. And that’s a horrible thing for the environment, but we have to adapt to it. That’s not to say we’ve stopped trying to mitigate the consequences themselves, of course, but you can’t refuse to adapt. Coping should be a big part of how you react. And I think when we talk about Facebook, when we talk about tech companies more broadly, adaptation is increasingly a central part of the model, in part because it happens much faster than climate change. And for the reasons I put forward, I really don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that we’re going to be able to fix this in the near future.
That’s enough for me. I hope everyone is doing well. Talk to everyone soon.