How has the internet splintered our democracy? | Ramesh Srinivasan


What has occurred is the internet, which was
a publicly funded infrastructure, the web was also a nonprofit initiative. These technologies took all of our public
input and monetized that and we directed that content in ways that suited these corporate
interests. The intention wasn’t to necessarily threaten
our democracy or any other institutions that we rely on as Americans and many citizens
across the world, but that’s been the effect of all of this. And the reason why is the principles of democracy
rely on a very open sort of media environment and also factuality. And what has occurred through these technology
platforms is not only have they become the places we’ve gone to to democratically communicate,
to access news, specifically Facebook in this case, but what has been made visible to us
is dependent on choices that are hidden from plain sight. They are choices that are not even made by
the technology companies themselves. They are made by complex computer systems
that are optimized for one output and one output only which is to keep us glued, to
keep our attention, to keep us online. So that actually has a splintering effect
on a democracy because in a democracy all of us expect some sort of common baseline
of information. We expect some exposure to facts. We expect some exposure to a range of different
opinions. We do expect though that has eroded a sort
of civil sense of dialogue though that does exist but it’s less so the case. What we don’t expect and represents a threat
to democracy are invisible silos where we are exposed to inflammatory, trolling, gaslighting
and at times deliberately false content. But that’s the new normal when it comes
to algorithmic platforms and that’s why this all needs to be dealt with right now. So a digital economy and world that work for
the 99 percent are one where, is one where technologies don’t support the interests
of some at the cost of others. They’re sort of a zero sum mentality that
can end up costing all of us actually at the end of the day. A digital economy produces prosperity and
value for all. It does support business interests. It does support the great developments for
consumers that a lot of digital platforms have provided, but that doesn’t come at
the cost of economic security, of worker security, of diverse opinions, of racial minorities,
of indigenous peoples, of women. The issue is that right now our digital world
through the technologies that have globalized to the world are more or less structured,
influenced and dominated by a few technology companies that are located in a small sliver
of the world – Silicon Valley, in Seattle and also actually in China. And they all have different kind of outcomes. But the people who are leading these companies
not only are they supposed to develop technologies for their private interest, never mind the
effects on the rest of us, but they tend to be in terms of demographics not representative
of the vast majority of their users. We don’t see many women. We don’t see many racial minorities. We do see some Asian and white males. And so as a result intentionally or not they
are coding into the digital world outcomes that are generative of greater inequality. And it’s really important to just situate
this on top of what our world looks like right now and even our country looks like. Three people or so with the equivalent wealth
to 195 million in this country. Whoever would have imagined that. That all has happened in the past few decades. Globally seven or eight people depending on
what estimates you look at with equivalent wealth to 3.9 to 4 billion people approximately. These are different estimates on this. That wasn’t even created by the internet
and digital technology. But the internet and digital technology are
amplifying these problems. So how can we arrive at such a world. That’s bad for everybody. And again that’s why we have to do something
about these issues right now and there’s a lot we can do and that’s what I’m trying
to argue for in this book. So what can we do about these inequalities
that we face right now. On the one hand we can see these inequalities
as reasons to be upset, concerned, anxious, nervous and critical. And that’s fine. I understand where that comes from. But, to me they represent alternatives and
opportunities for us to actually engage in productive, progressive, pragmatic action. And some of those possible outcomes or pathways
can emerge. So first of all every single person who is
in danger of losing their job, losing their economic security which is already happening
needs to be acknowledged, addressed and humanized not just through lip service but by actually
presenting economic opportunities for those people. So in other words what I’m getting at on
the economic level are jobs that are shifting to the gig economy, right like Uber drivers
and so on, that many sort of studies are showing are likely the gateway to an automated world. Those people need to be protected. They either need to be presented with new
types of jobs that are dignified, that are economically secure or we need to figure out
other outcomes. Imagine if Uber was at least partially, if
not completely, owned or an Uber type model by its drivers, by its laborers. The entire model of technology corporations
right now is to make labor and costs of all forms an afterthought, to basically disregard
those sorts of costs to maximize profit and valuation. And that’s a very toxic model on a social
level. So that’s one. That’s on the economic level. Politically there’s no question in my mind
that what we need are not just independent auditors – and we have to not just say independent. We have to actually make transparent who these
journalists are that are actually in charge of these algorithmic systems that people basically
use to access news. For example, on Facebook, right. So we should actually bring reputable journalists
across the political spectrum to actually design these algorithms and audit these algorithms
with engineers. So there has to be public-private partnerships. That’s the only way it’s not going to
turn into a complete implosion for Facebook, for example, which is getting so much criticism
right now. But this is symptomatic of a larger problem
and an opportunity for us to actually develop real solutions to these issues. So that’s a second issue on the political
and democratic level I think a third element which is both economic and political is the
question of making sure that we support small businesses in the digital economy and even
alternative technology platforms to create a more competitive environment. That’s going to allow what we see now which
is horizontal integration across the board. Monopolistic type behavior by Facebook but
also Google, Amazon and so on to actually be stemmed a little bit. Don’t claim the language of a marketplace
without actually supporting an open marketplace. But an open marketplace just like free speech
doesn’t mean that it’s just presumed. Everybody has to have an equal opportunity
to participate in these shifts. And then the last point I want to make which
I think is very important is that vulnerable people and vulnerable communities in our world
who have been historically discriminated against need to be first and foremost part of these
solutions. Part of where we go and what we consider moving
forward. Workers should have power over designing platforms
that define the future of work. Black and brown communities including like
Black Lives Matter type communities that are victims of AI’s algorithmic systems that
are turning out to be racist across the board whether it’s predictive policing or courtroom
algorithmic systems. They should be designing those systems or
even making decisions whether those systems should exist. So what I’m getting at is we have to completely
open up the palette socially, politically and cultural over who has power and governance
over technologies. That can coexist with Silicon Valley. That can coexist with Amazon, but it’s not
this blindness. What has basically happened is we’ve all
become more or less blind lemmings in this socially engineered game that is now disrupting
in a very negative way all of our lives. And that’s why we have to do something about
it right now.

77 thoughts on “How has the internet splintered our democracy? | Ramesh Srinivasan

  1. It would be great for drivers of Uber to own a part of the company. Their job performance would improve if they owned a part of their job.

  2. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free……… AND I'LL SEND EM BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM!!!

  3. Everybody has a concern in their area . So the internet has further exasperated things . Everybody is talking at the same time . About their issues . You should hear the cb band am to understand . Am cbers who schedual their time when nobody else is on get to socialize .

  4. ☝️😑SMUG ALERT!!! We have never had more equality of opportunity! I wish I was as terrific as this guy thinks he is. How is he merging the big tech monopoly issue with his regressive values?

  5. What a simplistic and ridiculous explanation. How about the truths uncovered never heard before. Go back to your cinder block prison you mentally live in fool.

  6. Not the internet, but social platform business models have certainly amplified the bipolarization problem, but before the internet, the amount of information people could get from TV, newspaper and books were far less and less efficient than now. The problem with this splintering of the democracy seems to do more with those few social platforms but they are infecting the the rest of the society

  7. the internet splintered our democracy… says the internet. this is stupid, the internet is known to bring about democracy, it's the enemy of authoritarian states and all that

  8. This is all true but it it's still part of us – this is how we were in nature before the internet. The internet just enhanced the worst part of who we are.
    Name me something good on the internet…

  9. I've come to believe that the modern day Internet was invented to spy on people and ultimately control the consumer market or at least that was why it was financed. Where did these big tech companies get all their billions of dollars to operate without any profitability for years on end? The splintering is just a reflection of what is going on politically. They want the people divided and to fight among themselves as to avoid concentration of the true thieves and the malfeasance going on in nearly every level of government.

  10. splintered? the internet gave birth to true democracy. everyone can voice his opinion. make himself heard. before we only voted once every 4 years and then politicians just made whatever they wanted. it was a fake democracy. today we're moving to real democracy quicker than ever. get rid of the b.s. politicians all together. we know what we want. all we need is a layer of artificial intelligence that can extract all the data necessary to make the right decisions.

  11. His perspective is too narrow in my view. Consider this: in the WWII era, increased productivity through technology was viewed as a way for people to work less and have a better standard of living… Less jobs for people, fewer hours worked, etc. Ask yourself – who decided we all need "better" jobs? We need sustainable societies. These myths of unlimited growth, free markets having good outcomes, hard work equals success, taxes are evil but greed is good, (which inexorably leads to endless wars over resources) have been used by the elite to enslave us. How did we come to this? We are better than this! You, dear reader, know in your heart that this is true. We need to take the power back.

  12. It wouldnt be a problem that big tech has gotten so influential in politics, if government was simply a protector against citizen on citizen harm, and a protector against foreign threats. When government starts redistributing wealth, it matters who influences democracy because the people with power can tip the market forces in their favor.

  13. The Almighty Power of the Internet is supplied by the Force, of electromagnetic energy, revealing the short circuiting of the neurons of our governments thought processes.

  14. Backwards nonsense. Democracy is the definition of division, that is literally its function. One side wins, one side loses and the closer to a split of ideology you get the closer to a civil war you become. Democracy splintered the internet, not the other way around.

  15. Can't have been two popular vote-losers being elected president, being lied into multiple wars, the financial crisis and subsequent bailouts, or the general sense that corrupt elites rule both corporate and public governments. No, no, 'twas the internet done broke democracy.

  16. My intuition tells me not to trust you. Why are you so often smirking, isn't this such an important topic to you?
    So why are you multiple times during this short video smirking?
    The time for trust first is over, at least for me personally.

  17. Predictive Policing is Racist
    No.
    Computer algorithms are anti-racist. They are unable to be racist. If the result shows a racial tendency, it is because the data was racially skewed, not because the algorithm hates black people.

    In essence, it is GIGO. Just because the result isn't sanitized, it doesn't mean the machine was dirty. You put the dirt in the machine.

  18. The Internet hasn't done sht. Democracy is being threatened by corporations trying to sell branded sht during the commercial breaks of outrage media. It has absolutely nothing to do with the internet. It's outrage media and the corporations that prey on people's anger and fear. And people like this idiot want to blame the single greatest invention mankind has EVER been responsible for. The single greatest avenue to becoming "informed" and making the right decisions. This pureBred fukpotato wants to blame the gun, instead of the multi-billionaires aiming it at your head for the sole purpose of taking even more of your money. This sht is exactly why internet culture is toxic. It's a defense mechanism.

  19. The title right off the bat is bollocks.
    The Internet is the greatest thing since the first time the word was invented in Greece.
    What's happening is the man is unhappy with the reality of the people who have been given their due democracy
    What a fucking plonker
    Is he utterly insane.?
    Big think… Yeah big fucking STINK more likely

  20. We should listen to the TV that no longer has any news at all? The TV channels are all owned by about three people. TV was in a position to educate the public for about 50 years. Now the new Library at Alexandria (the internet) is being burned down by greed. When the internet started I was a centrist ,I'm still a centrist. Things I've seen that have me raise out of my chair in anger get crossed checked about 5 times now. I never believed that politicians were honest and they have not disappointed me. If we can get the corporations out of the pockets of the politicians it will be the great feat of this generation.

  21. It turns out that our voices weren’t equal. Some voices are louder than the others. Artificially inflated or amplified voices are just “noise”. It’s like bringing a megaphone to a debate.

  22. The splinter is inherent in democracy. The internet just magnify it. When will people realise western democracy is not the answer to every problem?

  23. It should be called, "How having access to information on what you want to know at anytime has shown the faults of our system & other systems".

  24. The good thing about the internet is it allows easy access to information, for everybody. The bad thing about the internet is it allows ignorant people to be mislead by false information.

  25. This question is laughable. We all know it's the biased mainstream media networks such as FOX, CNN and others that have splintered our democracy with their 2 versions of reality. Luckily, most Americans know the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  26. Good luck! There will have to be a monumental and momentous uplifting in the consciousness of the human species. Despite some claims that that is happening, that is not what I observe and experience. To be sure, some have improved but not enough to make a substantive improvement.

    It’s the same old species and there is reason to expect it to remain the same old species for the foreseeable future.

  27. It hasn't. This presentation is completely the opposite direction of what's needed.
    Equal Opportunity is not the same as Equal Outcome.
    Egalitarianism is not possible, and Socialism (including Communism and Feminism) kills (history has proven this beyond the shadow of a doubt).
    We're not all going to be a Nikola Tesla or Wilt Chamberlain by redistributing money (stealing tax money from me to give to someone who can't compete in the economic or natural environment).
    Restore the Republic by restricting the vote to net-taxpayers and we can get back to reality.

  28. Who can pay for ads gets to the top quicker. The other 80 percent of content is easily forgotten, if nobody knows about it.

  29. 1. We aren't a Democratic Government; we are a Constitution Republic (https://www.diffen.com/difference/Democracy_vs_Republic). 2. Most of the comments are opinions of others not legal statements. 3. Plutocracy (a government run by plutocrats/big business) than the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America. 4. This fallout of our representations of our Republic isn't the fault of technology, but the lack of involvement of the People. There is an old computer term, GIGO- Garbage In Garbage Out. 5. Journalism is dying bread of people. There are too attachments in the news (online & off). 6. Until WE THE PEOPLE don't act, this plutocracy abuses will get worse. I hope I am wrong, but I see a possible 'global' Dark Age that may never end if this becomes rooted.

  30. Not once does this question the current socioeconomic system that's hopelessly obsolete, the real root of all these massive problems. So disappointing.

  31. he seems to frame democracy with equality but in context to outcome not opportunity – societal success (and it's sustainability) always rides peripheral to the 'path' followed, not the objective sold – socialism only 'works' at a family and limited community level while beyond only breeding corruption – 'democracy' itself is a vague term that in it's purist pursuit (in a governmental context) only extends to a substate level and is why the US 'system' of government is a "republic" not a democracy

  32. I think it has provided an endless source of information that can always be argued. Making facts more difficult to identify. I will be covering topics like yours on my channel soon.

  33. They said the same things when books made their appearance after the invention of the printing press. People then started thinking for themselves and reading information they elected to read — rather than having all information spoon-fed to them by either their local elders/tribe leaders or religious leaders. Of course, all this new information led to some major revolutions — in governments and people's thinking.

    All the boogy-men this guy thinks exist can easily be shut off with a button. Rather, he would advocate the destruction of a tyranny of nerds and corporate survival tactics to a tyranny of his chosen skin-color and fake victims.

  34. Democracy is alive and well in other first world countries. It's the failure of the American government that splintered your System.

  35. All these right wing trolls downvote because their brains aren't fully developed, can't understand free thought and rationality. Wish we could ban these idiots from society, its sad how knowledge is now subjective to either being smart enough to handle, or I'm too dumb and brainwashed so I automatically think it's fake.

  36. This is the dark side of capitalism, nothing we can do abt it… just surf the wave ,become rich & use the world's resources disproportionately & then be cruel/arrogant/ignorant enough to show sympathy with others and the environment. Now that's a "successful" life!

    Also, I sympathize with the fools who have a problem with this guy "smirking" and are giving a 👎. Hopefully one day u kids will grow up and actually understand what he's talking about.

  37. Just get rid of social media platforms and get rid of the comment sections on YouTube they are cancers that need dealt with now before its too late.

  38. "Let's imagine Uber being owned by drivers"

    Ok, I'll bite. Hey other Uber drivers – do we charge much higher prices and keep new drivers from joining? Hell yeah! And how about developing a taxi robot, much safer and more reliable than us? Hell no. Okay other Uber drivers, great meeting, I think we are onto something here …

  39. Democracy died, years ago. Socrates told us it would, and here we have a human trying to blame something other than human ignorance for this failure.

    The irony is, I learnt about Socrates' ideas on democracy from The Big Think. Hypocrites? MUCH?

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