RECL THE I NT
3 for £200. The world is getting faster and faster and, as network effects take hold, the hive mind of humanity is producing a world too complex for any one of us to fully understand.
Now in 2017, we live in a world where new technology and globalisation have lifted millions out of poverty, but that net win for humanity has come at the cost of expected continuous progress for the working and middle classes of the US, the UK and Europe.
As Yuval Noah Harari put it in Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, and bending truth to breaking point in the history of humanity has emerged. Given that the digital world goes round off the back of ad dollars, it seems that we ought to pay attention at this point.
Historically, of course, advertising agencies have been “morally neutral”. Like the lady of the night from central casting, we were “whatever you want us to be, baby”. And our clients were keen for us to help them gain the broadest possible appeal. This certainly made business sense in the era of mass communications, when everyone saw the same shows, read the same papers and, of course, got exposed to the same ads.
That’s gone now. 2016 was the year that people began to realise they’re in a filter bubble. Digital algorithms choose our content for us and huge earth-shaking events such as Brexit and Trump’s election victory were able to take millions of people by surprise because the buildup was happening in someone else’s bubble.
This is one of the areas where the internet really has made everything a bit s***. When you spend your life in a filter bubble, where most of the content you get is designed to make you feel good and to “like” it, you lose empathy and critical faculties. Alongside the impossible speed of change, many people’s brains have shut down, leading them to become like selfish toddlers; pure suspicious id.
In this context, fake news, spread by internet trolls, fuels incredible anger. This is how modern fascism has surprised us and it could not have happened without the unintended consequences of our networked world.
Carl Sagan, in this excerpt from 1995, forecast this moment with terrifying foresight: “Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my