I watched today’s full 5-hour testimony and questioning of Mark Zuckerberg by Congress, for the reason this inquiry is indicative and seminal to how modern democracies are going to be defined and controlled, an inquiry watched and possibly copied around the world.
Will our government step up and reinvent its governance, or will it grant technology companies the time and space to govern themselves, is the question I predicted years ago would soon come to the fore.
My summary observation of today’s inquiry by Congress, with Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat, is that both government and Facebook appear to believe what they believe, yet in the context of policy, and to meet the expanding needs of a global digital economy, it is clear neither addressed the root cause.
With our government and Facebook instead vowing to work together to tape band-aids over the many newly appearing and gaping constitutional wounds. The resulting band-aids at best covering up the ugly consequences from the stubborn ignorance to cause.
Having worked in the technology business for some 30 years, and having interacted with lawmakers on the Hill, I could not help but smirk knowing how lawmakers are influenced and lobbied on the basis of accepting generous, intransparent, and under-the-table donations from corporations, while they accuse Facebook of applying similarly intransparent schemes to extract money from its users.
Both government and Facebook wasted no time reaffirming how they each claim to represent their constituents, yet from the fallacies enabled and discovered neither were successful in making the interest of their constituents a top priority. Until, of course, the bottom of public scrutiny was about to fall out.
From the testimony of Mark Zuckerberg, it became clear the overreach of technology into our privacy is indeed like I described in a previous commentary on the subject. Yes, Facebook does read and interpret your web browser cookies, does share information about you without your express consent, and forces you to obey to a totalitarian rulebook subject to complex change. And then some.
The shallow questions from senators were demonstrating that even the 20-year old aides that feed them these so-called nuggets have little insight into the kitchen of technology. Mark did a commendable job of not raising too much suspicion.
And it broke. As all hastily constructed systems designed to represent a well-thought-out theory that determines what can be discovered (Einstein) would. Neither the user base nor the stock-market seemed to care about the privacy concerns as much as our government.
Users did not flee in droves, and Facebook shares were up around 5% immediately following Mark’s testimony.
The real issue here is not privacy, because even before Facebook, our privacy had been seriously invaded. The unsolicited advertising flyers we get sent to our homes every day get there using the same basic techniques we now use in the digital realm. Delivered by a cunning scheme of hard to trace information brokers who aggregate and correlate a cunning way to find you. In the scope of humanitarian threats a minor inconvenience.
A much, much more serious implication of Facebook’s previously undisputed free-reign and now impending correction are that Facebook now intends to arbitrate content. With Artificial Intelligence and an army of about 20,000 people deployed around the world, Facebook aims to become the arbiter of how to interpret the First Amendment of our constitution.
I guess we can send the Supreme Court home now.
Never mind the plurality of the world’s sovereignties rightfully demanding to be the judge of their own. Put differently, the failure of Facebook to see the world as an innate playground of pluralism, it subsequently aims to combat and aggravate with an even more dominant monism.
Not a brilliant strategy, Mark.
Our government lives in its own fog. More than 240-years of constitutional references and implementations of freedom have yielded a pretense of freedom quite the opposite of free. Yes, we are free in certain ways other countries are not, yet we tend to forget that freedom is to each his own. And having lived in another country, providing contrast, freedom is not what I recognize as the unique hallmark of American society.
None of us are free until everyone is free.
Do you really want to help me count how many people in this country are desperately afraid and unfree to lose the job that pays their health insurance? Or on food stamps? Or how many children are on food support by the public school system? Try me.
Freedom left ill-and-undefined will not produce renewable meritocracies that allow us to judge an evolutionary right from an evolutionary wrong. Meaning, without the precepts of a plurality of freedom, there will be no freedom, not in the United States and not in the rest of the world.
By government not having spent any meaningful time redefining and adjusting our foundational principles of policy over the last 240 years, a free reign of the interpretation of our principles without goalposts means our evolutionary compass does not have a goal. For a vile-maxim of mere personal freedoms will not produce the freedom-for-all needed to reinvigorate ourselves.
What became evident again in today’s Congressional session is how we must first reinvent the operating-systems of humanity before we judge, develop, rely and deploy the analog or digital distribution of our foundational principles to improve human excellence.