A review of The Age of AI and Our Human Future by Henry A. Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher. Little, Brown and Company, 272 pages (November, 2021).
Potential bridges across the menacing chasm of incompatible ideas are being demolished by a generation of wannabe autocrats presenting alternative facts as objective knowledge. This is not new. The twist is that modern network-delivery platforms can insert, at scale, absurd information into national discourse. In fact, sovereign countries intent on political mischief and social disruption already do this to their adversaries by manipulating the stories they see on the Internet.
About half the country gets its news from social media. These digital platforms dynamically tune the content they suggest according to age, gender, race, geography, family status, income, purchase history, and, of course, user clicks and cliques. We know that their algorithms demote and promote perspectives that may come from opposing viewpoints and amplify like-minded “us-against-them” stories, further exacerbating emotional response on their websites and in the real world. Even long-established and once-reputable outlets capture attention by manufactured outrage and fabricated scandal. Advertising revenue pays for it all, but the real products here are the hundreds of millions of users who think they are getting a free service. Their profiles are sold by marketeers to the highest corporate bidder.