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I Want to See Things I Disagree With December 8, 2016

Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
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This article on Quartz is disheartening on many levels.  What first got my attention is its point that the new Amazon grocery store is specifically designed to avoid interactions with random people.

And then it goes on to talk about how the Facebook algorithms tailor our news based on how we define ourselves. (It most definitely doesn’t define mine; I refuse to join Facebook).  It gives us only what it thinks we want to read.

It is a thesis similar to Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation.  We avoid conversation with friends, family, and random people during the day because they are unpredictable.  At a deeper level, they may force us to consider other ideas, which is also disruptive to our daily lives.

It turns out that we don’t particularly like other ideas, that don’t conform to our current belief network. We want reinforcement of what we already believe, because it is easier for us.  We don’t want the friction of having to think about ideas opposed to our existing belief networks.  We call that friction, and we are attempting to minimize or even eliminate friction in our lives.

Dammit, I want friction in my life. I want to put a few bucks in the pot next to the bell-ringing Salvation Army Santa, and tell him he does good work, and hear what he says.  I want to make a random remark to a random person, just to hear the response.  And dammit, I don’t want to be told what I want to read, and I resent an algorithm that tries to tell me otherwise.  Why doesn’t anyone else?

My belief network has changed substantially as an adult. If yours hasn’t, then you have a real problem.

And I am not a particularly social person. In my late middle age (at least), I remain uncomfortable in group situations where I don’t know anyone.  But this is what it means to be a human being, in a human society.  We should be uncomfortable, because we grow as a result.

Kudos for Mike Murphy for writing this.

And. I realize that I am getting more strident in my late middle age.  I don’t know that I am right, in all or in part.  But I am willing to lay it out there, and listen to people who might prove me wrong.  And that seems to be more than just about any of us are willing to do right now.

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