The more sophisticated the society the more that society will expect continuity, consistency, and predictability. Part of the reason we have laws as a society is not just to maintain order but to achieve a sort of homogenized society where people behave in predictable ways the majority of the time. We extend our social expectations to health, to governance, to work, to income, etc.
In the recent interview between Mark Zuckerberg and CNN, Mr Zuckerberg said this:
“We’re serving a community of more than 2 billion people. And, when you give people tools to share and connect I think one of the good things is that a lot of good things happen but unfortunately there’s also some bad things that happen — whether that’s fake news or hate speech or people trying to hurt each other. And our responsibility is just to make (sure) that we amplify all the good in human nature that’s out there. But also to mitigate the bad, right, mitigate people who are trying to abuse people’s security or post offensive things that should be against the community standards.”
After the interview in an “analysis” by CNN of the conversation the network offered this:
In that quote, there are two Zuckerbergs: 1) Zuckerberg the brand manager who understands he is the captain of a ship being lashed by increasingly large waves without any land in sight and 2) Zuckerberg the creature of the internet who understands that regulating human nature — whether on the web or in daily life — is totally and completely impossible.
It really is, you know. Impossible.
The idea of regulating human nature so that you can count in humans doing certain things simply isn’t going to happen. We are too diverse, to perverse, to take kindly to ideas that we ought to behave as robots. And the more we know about other people, the more we find out that those others share our oddities, our weirdnesses, and our quirks. Computer nerds find each other online. So do perverts. And Christians. Short people too find other short people; and Mensa members find others of their kind; and lonely people and others with fetishes and sometimes people find out that they really don’t want to find anyone and are happier all alone.
There will always be people and companies who aren’t going to play by the rules. Cambridge Analytics isn’t alone. There are a lot of people and companies who will gladly do the illegal to gain an advantage over someone, or many someones. That will always be true. We aren’t going to get rid of cheaters — election cheaters, sexual cheaters, financial cheaters, or any other kind because we are a very disparate species and there’s some of every kind in the great apple barrel of life at the bottom of which we surely will find a few rotten apples! It can be no other way.
The other day the President called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his victory — as if his victory was ever in doubt. Running on an otherwise empty ballot is a pretty sure thing in a state where pogroms and purges have taught the wisdom of being good citizens of that same state! Diversity isn’t tolerated in Russia. It’s not welcome. And proving just how unwelcome it is is not something the government is shy about doing.
The president said that in making deals it’s always good to be on good terms with the people you are negotiating with. Except he might not have sussed out the fact that Russia would very much like to see an end to the U.S. and our ideas/ideals. They will trade with us, but they would just as soon bury us — if I might steal a line from Nikita Khrushchev from 50 plus years ago.
We can try to get people to do the right thing, to live honest lives, to work for the common good — of themselves, their families, their neighbors, their city, state and nation. But of course some will do so, and others will not. The question comes at some point though… how many of those others — the ones willing to do evil, to make life harder for others is society or even the world going to suffer?
It will be interesting to see how the next votes go. We are seeing interesting options coming out of the woodwork. We saw a pedophile in an Alabama election. The state of Illinios has voted to put a holocaust denier on the next ballot for congress. All manner of viewpoints that many of us thought, or at least hoped were silenced in our society for good — are making their voices heard. And society as a whole will have to decide whether we — as a society — want them hanging around voicing their unwanted opinions in the halls of justice and government or not. That is not the same as having the right to free speech. Free speech guarantees that people — even with unpopular views have a right to express their point of view. But when an electorate gets together and votes them into office — that is a different story. That says, they speak for us. We condone what they say and do.
It’s just like what we “got” when the electorate voted for Donald Trump. The world knew he was petty and vindictive and a bully. They knew he was a poor businessman because his companies keep going bankrupt, and he refuses to pay contractors. And what sort of governing official could we really get when we knew in advance that he was a guy who has been involved in 2500 lawsuits in only 70 years on earth. It’s hard to imagine how anyone sues or gets sued that many times — but all of this was public knowledge before 60 million people voted for him.
About some things Trump has been right. It doesn’t matter whether what you say is true, only whether people believe it.
I, for one, believe it does matter.