Did democracy just get downgraded (yet again)?
Social engineering is now a dated practice, that has undoubtedly influenced nearly all our lives for the past century in ways that many of us perhaps don’t notice.
I have a book titled Social Control from 1901, by Edward Alsworth Ross, that as the dust jacket explains, “formulated (and gave an answer to) the problems of the massive transformation of the American society by industrialization” where Ross “analyzed the dynamics of social change for modern socieities in general and for America in particular.” The book was a hit, and influenced economists, scholars, politicians and Progressives.
In the decades that followed, P.R. gurus like Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee pioneered the use of spin, advertising, propaganda, cross-branding and quite a few subtle tricks of undue persuasion to sell a consumerist society to the masses, and create a marriage of the mind between their clients and the people who would come to depend upon and identify with their products.
The BBC has an excellent mini-series called the Century of the Self that explains the huge impact that Edward Bernays and Madison Avenue had in transforming America. Using psychology to fuel market research and advertising to reach customers on a more potent level, society became populated with suggestible, obedient naive sheep, with critically thinking citizens fewer and further between.
The success at penetrating the minds of the masses was so successful that the same approach used by advertisers – to target unconscious desires and emotional appeal – with politicians and campaigns for important public policy issues.
Fast forward to more recent times, where the public relations-laundered official version of events has become a staple substitute for reality, airing 24 hours a day on sanitized news networks and appearing in every stale scripted soundbite uttered by officials and authorities in our lives. The phoniness is inescapable.
Things are now so advanced, that Politico is blowing the whistle on how much influence technology has gained in its ability to steer a “democratic” society that believes in the illusion of choice, elections and voting.
A simple algorithm could allow Google to swing popular opinion on election candidates or issues by as much as 20%, and beyond according to this report. That’s more than enough to alter the outcome of democracy… and make our voices something of a moot point. According to Politico’s Robert Epstein:
Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated…
Research I have been directing in recent years suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had.[…]
There are at least three very real scenarios whereby Google—perhaps even without its leaders’ knowledge—could shape or even decide the election next year… the employees who constantly adjust the search giant’s algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day. The adjustments they make increasingly influence our thinking—including, it turns out, our voting preferences.
What we call in our research the Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) […]
Because SEME is virtually invisible as a form of social influence, because the effect is so large and because there are currently no specific regulations anywhere in the world that would prevent Google from using and abusing this technique, we believe SEME is a serious threat to the democratic system of government.
And so there you have it. Of course, voting was already very much a farce.
But even so, computers and Internet search engines are having new profound effects on our thinking and our opinions – enough to officially be declared a threat.
Google’s ranking system has been labeled unfair and discriminatory before, particularly since the massive company announced its plans to rank search results by perceived factual content rather than the number of relevant links.
This opens the door wide to politicized “facts” and distorted truths that can be steered and controlled by sophisticated algorithms that can in turn steer society – even against its true will.
While all technology is neutral until it is deployed, we are all wading in enough bullsh*t as it is. We don’t need to go further into the fog.
It’s officially time to face it – we are a highly manipulated society, and the game is rigged.
There is no voting. Only mega-donors, high tech organizers and algorithms.
Welcome to the Techno-Oligarchical Collectivism, i.e. an oligarchy that rules the masses with experts and technology.