Jeff Orlowski’s documentary “The Social Dilemma,” released on Netflix this week on 9 September, follows a well-known plot. A group of Silicon Valley “kids prodigies” who helped establish and permanently retain Internet addiction habits globally to express their horror at the beasts they unleashed. They admit that they wrote codes and created programs to feed the business model specifically of the attention economy.
As former employees of a large technology company that nurtured this Frankenstein monster, they felt penitent, con remorse, contrite, and upset because of the rise of fake news, the wave of violence triggered by misinformation on social media, and the manipulation of poll results by bots on social media platforms.
But perhaps the most important thing is that this is an unspoken, self-evident theme for the film—because they are absolutely helpless in the face of these forces. They are full of fear for their future and want to do better. However, writing new codes cannot eliminate the consequences of playing God.
These are not news anymore, but when the thinkers behind these colossal mistakes admit their mistakes on the camera, the facts do pinch that really harder.
The film “The Social Dilemma” begins with Sophocles’ famous quote: No one can enter the life of a mortal without a curse, priming the audience for sparked the ominous testimony of former employees of companies such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. The documentary spreads a dramatic fictional narrative of a suburban family and is trapped by the evil algorithm triplets played by lunatic man actor Vincent Kartheiser on social media.
The social dilemma explains the cunning game plan behind the uncontrolled influence of social media platforms. The purpose is a simple and clear-the subtle misuse and manipulation of our biological needs to build social connections. Reading or watching news articles about the numerous boo-boos on social media platforms is entirely different from the first-hand disclosures made by former techies. Fictional stories are juxtaposed with shredded interviews, and weird background scores try to replicate the tone of a real crime documentary.
Google is not only a search engine, social networks are just one aspect of Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. These platforms continually engage with their audiences, enticing us to spend more time surfing the Internet, with the sole goal of generating profit.
From Google’s former design ethicist Tristan Harris to Facebook’s early investor Roger McNamee, a glittering collection of industry veterans have expressed some seriousness and gave serious speeches. They pointed out that we (the “users” of social media) are unknowingly “laboratory rats” in the hands of large technologies. Someone told: If you don’t pay for the product, then you are the product.
If this abstract axiom bounces back in our consciousness, Orlowski will imagine an ordinary American family, dealing with the escalating battle between parents and children over the use of screens to drive home the point.
“Social dilemma” cleverly alternates between interviews and fictional scenes-setting, exposing the fault line between the desire with which high-tech started (increased accessibility, greater connectivity, social cohesion) and the resulting schisms. In most cases, these divisions, whether social or political, are not the result of the ingenious and crafty manipulation through the so-called sinister forces.
As McNamee pointed out, Russia did not need to hack Facebook to influence the US election that brought Donald Trump to power. It only needs to use the platform and the tools it currently has or provided to achieve its goals.
Although many of us have realized the insidious role of artificial intelligence (AI) and algorithms in influencing the content we see on social media feeds, the process mechanism in the movie is illustrated by another ingenious device.
Orlowski brings three AIs images in human forms, and their role is to drive up the engagement on Ben’s (the pesky and nasty teenage boy in a fictional family) social media accounts. They are always alert to his mood swings and are always ready to put exciting content into his timetable or bombard him with opinions and news in favor of generating profits.
If the exact method for advertisers to improve their business is somewhat vague, then viewers will not be shaken for it. The destructive potential of social media is created with real chillingly at the end of the movie— the seriocomic interludes with the humanized robots again haunt us moments of grotesque terror.
“Social Dilemma” is an indispensable and compelling movie that reminds us of the perils of the Internet with pivotal examples that hit close to the bone. Fake trolls and news are now endemic to every country in the world. Citizens are signing away their privacy and data without any qualm and effortlessly every second of the day, which is then be harnessed to keep turning the wheel of big tech companies. and then use these data to keep large technology companies running. But are these horrific and terrible breaches and misuse of information knowledge make any difference among the masses?
Can a group of well-heeled individuals sitting among sharp decor, talking about their role in creating a series of a terrible and horrific chain of moving events, make any difference to what is in the store?
In a sense, humanity’s reactions toward information catastrophe or disasters are as enigmatic as their attitudes towards the climate crisis. Except for a few evangelical activists, how many people have the best intentions and enriched and fortified knowledge to truly worry about the fate of the planet? How does their lifestyle exhibit their concerns? How many people who will be horrified to be called climate evolution deniers, yet refuse to accept the fact that their role is only a small drop in the ocean of change that needs to happen?
Just like climate change, big technologies are morphing or changing the dynamics of our world little by little, some of which is palpable to us, and others will become self-evident as period goes by. Either way, we cannot afford to wait for situations to get worse.
The Social Dilemma (a movie reveals the spooky side of technology) is Streaming on Netflix!