Limit the evils you are willing to embrace

Andrew Keen has generated several books focused on the Internet (e.g., The Internet is Not the Answer) and seems to be saying that Internet companies operating in their own interest have to work against working in our best interests. They must find ways to attract our attention. The commitment of our attention is necessary for their success. When considering what can be done, he offers the following.

According to Harris, there are two critical strategies for fixing these problems. The first is for all of us to recognize that we are all vulnerable and for us to all “curate our own lives.”

And the second is for the platform companies to recognize that their users have “vulnerable minds” and for them to make a conscious effort to avoid feeding our “lizard brains,” Harris says.

Since the middle of the 2016 election season, I have fallen into the attention trap – I have started posting to Facebook. The way Facebook works is quite scary. It tends to tell us what we want to hear partly because of the individuals we friend AND it does not make clear what of the content we might see appears on our timeline. It is likely this combination influenced this election.

I have no easy technical solutions to offer, but I would make this logical suggestion. It amounts to accepting the lesser of two evils. If we can be misled by our own selection of biased sources and by the lack of awareness of the content Facebook selects to forward to us, it seems to me we would be better off at least eliminating the Facebook awareness issue. We would be somewhat better off limiting the problem to the personal willingness to select our content sources. We have abandoned what used to be the way to do this – RSS (my suggestion would be Feedly). This would seem similar to the proposed approach of curating your own life.

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