Review: The Social Dilemma

Posted by: ryze Sep 25, 2020 Category: Ryze Kōrero
Review: The Social Dilemma

When preparing to write the supporting content for our first Ryze Kōrero, I decided to check out what other critics, journalists, and blog writers said about the Social Dilemma. To say that their views left me feeling a little 'hmph' is an understatement. So, instead of letting the flavour of disappointment ruin my lunch, I decided to write a piece that would bring a little something different to the table.

But first, I need to get a little of this 'hmph' off my chest.

  • The decision to utilise a documentary-drama hybrid format was a pivotal choice that made The Social Dilemma's message more relatable and tangible to younger viewers, and therefore a valuable contribution.
  • I agree it is ironic that this is a Netflix documentary-drama considering they employ algorithms for recommended viewing. Tristan Harris has been urging for technology to realign with humanity's best interests since 2013, and I had never heard of him. I thank Netflix for bringing him and his plight to my attention.

And now, down from my soapbox!

Tristan Harris: Ex-Google Employee & President and a Co-Founder of the Center for Humane Technology.[/caption]The Social Dilemma is a docudrama that explores the rise of social media, its impact on society, the notion of data mining for capital gain, and the intricate design model that underpins the various platforms we've become so accustomed to using.

Interviews with Silicon Valley engineers, the very people behind these platforms' design - among them Tristan Harris (former design ethicist at Google) and Aza Raskin, co-founders of The Center for Humane Technology, shed light on the mechanics of an incredibly sophisticated system.

Interviewees include the Facebook Like button co-creator, psychiatrists, psychologists, computer scientist/philosopher, university professors, and tech professionals. Their insights are compelling and thought-provoking.

What fascinates me is the broader conversation that The Social Dilemma demands we have with ourselves, each other, and our children. 

Discuss, disagree, debate, argue, have it out - whatever your preference. What's important is that we talk about it.

Conversation Starters:

Discuss - terminology like the attention economy and try to understand what it means.

Ask -are we ok with the trading of our attention as a currency?

Discuss - the design of these platforms and their goal - to compete for our attention.

Ask - are we comfortable that the basis of this design centres around the human mind's inner workings and is therefore 100% intentional?

Discuss - algorithms and concepts like 'recommended viewing'.

Ask - does it sit well that A.I. is orchestrating what we see on our timelines, news, and YouTube feeds?

Discuss - this quote, "The only form of ethical persuasion that exists is when the goals of the persuader align with the persuadee." Tristan Harris

Ask - how does it make us feel to hear that our thoughts are being scheduled and persuaded based on the information we receive; and that it's more likely that this information will insight outrage because there's a higher chance of us sharing it.

Discuss - are these platforms having a negative influence over human interaction? Are they changing society's fabric, our conversations, and are they disrupting the values of democracy?

Ask - what do we as consumers want? Do we demand change, or are we comfortable with the status quo?

Technology is exciting and social media has enabled so much good. I don't think that's the argument here. I think the hot topic is, are we falling victim to a stacked system? A system with little regard for our fundamental human values or our need to bond emotionally.

I'm crushing hard on Tristan Harris - equal parts hot ginger and ethical messiah - for me, his message, and there are many of value, is straightforward. He advocates for a shift in focus from time spent to Time Well Spent. Time that focuses on human values. He believes that technology has the necessary tools to drive this shift, but there is no impetus for change to result without consumer demand or awareness.

"What we need to recognise is that human architecture is limited. We have certain boundaries or dimensions of our lives that we want to be honoured and respected. Technology can help to do this." Tristan Harris

Warning - controversial close: In a 2017 TED Talk, one of Tristan's closing statements describes the attention economy as a race toward the bottom. Competing for our attention, these platforms know full well; they need to delve into the workings of the oldest part of our brain, our lizard brain - responsible for primitive survival instincts such as aggression and fear. When I look around the world, I can't help but feel that this is less statement and more fact!

Our promise - as digital marketers, we take our role seriously. Ryze is committed to best practice in every manner of our service. We will always be what the people need, and by the people, we mean humanity!

Before you go - check out our kōrero if you haven't already!


Inspiring Resources:

Website - Center for Humane Technology

Podcast - Your Undivided Attention

And the star of the show - The Social Dilemma.


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