The power of the internet has always been to enable human interaction. From letting people fight nuclear wars by routing round outages, to allowing a journalist to write a best selling book, “The World Is Flat” about how connected we all are…
With that in mind, Mark Zukerberg thinks that creating connections of the correct groups in physical geography (aka “meatspace” because that is where the meat lives) may have a profound set of consequences for the politics of our planet. https://arstechnica.com/staff/2017/02/op-ed-mark-zuckerbergs-manifesto-is-a-political-trainwreck/
Now…I’m less optimistic about the future of Facebook to create meaningful “hybrid” groups of online/offline people. I have no doubt that Facebook algorithms/AI will be able to identify trend leaders in online groups, because they do that already. What they won’t be able to do is reconcile the those who are good leaders online, who are abject failures as leaders offline.
Want an example? In the conservative gunblogosphere Kim Du Toit is legendary (whether positive or negative) but no one has ever met Kim and then went back to their own blog and decided to unashamedly lobby that Kim be the leader of the free world. If you want a “progressive” example look to the “Radical Feminist” who goes by the title “witchwind” (who unfortunately hasn’t updated her blog of craziness in the last two years) to see why online adulation doesn’t always translate into offline effectiveness. Hell, take me for example, I’ve led men into combat, and am an effective leader offline in any organization in which I choose to participate, but that doesn’t mean I’m charismatic (I’m not) and that means that I’ve always had the easiest leadership jobs in the world, leading people who were good followers. Political leaders need to lead people who are fickle, undisciplined, irrational, and they do so mainly by charisma (there is no other attribute that Obama had that explains his election and re-election, or GW Bush’s election or re-election for that matter). Succinctly, people can have an online “charisma” that is lacking in real life.
Secondly, this is still a dangerous idea. As we move forward into the future, the “perfect forward secrecy” of online communications channels combined with the civil liberties protections of nation states (of which the US truly is a world leader) means that we could see a return to the 1970s in terms of “radical violence” coordinated through subcultures connected through online and offline networks. I’ve linked to this before, so if you haven’t read it, now is a good time to realize how violent well connected, funded, and protected leftist organizations can be: https://status451.com/2017/01/20/days-of-rage/
With that in mind, the ability for conservative groups to also organize in an online/offline hybrid group is also present. Of course no one fears the John Birch society and the big “militia movement” that was going to resist the UN brought into the US by Clinton and Obama turned out to be a whole lot of talk, and a whole lot of informants informing on each other. http://wonkette.com/607696/ridiculous-number-of-dildo-militiamen-at-malheur-refuge-were-government-informants-lol
And that brings up the last point…if Facebook begins some sort of “political matchmaking service” it is only too easy to figure out what profile activity is needed to get those groups to show up in your feed as a “suggested group.” Heck, it wouldn’t be that hard to repurpose some rather dated software to create fake personas that get the suggestions from the Facebook AI filters so that a real infiltrator can assume the identity of the persona for an infiltration mission: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks
So the future may be safer for citizens, and more dangerous for revolutionaries. Or it could be the other way around. My crystal ball is cloudy, and smudged from the careless play of children.
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