NPJ Book Review: The Chaos Machine, The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds and Our World by Max Fisher

A read: I found this to be a rather quick read for a thick book. It’s thought-provoking and an unsettling examination and assessment of  where social media giants have taken us…channeling our thoughts and emotions into unanticipated arenas.

This is about avarice or extreme greed. Fisher has woven a critical story about how we are compromised and manipulated as both users and non-users in thought and action. Conspiracies are fed into alogrithims…control and wealth and power are the media giant’s goals. The idea is ancient…but birthed in a modern format.

Immediate thoughts: Each day I get up, make coffee, or stop by a coffee shop, turn on my computer or phone and get my daily dose of delicious algorithms. Social control is not only in the form of one’s financial debt. I’m designing an AI to serve in my place to see where this might go.

Social media algorithms are about control and Fisher does an excellent job in offering up a full plate of examples on how the person that uses social media consumes, digests and is affected by the numerous and diverse dishes of algorithm. It’s about calculations. Addiction anyone? Thought processes are played with and subsequent behavior is modified by what we read in digital form to make us angry, sad, or even satisfied…but mostly it heats us up. It creates and feeds into the insatiable desire of want and need. 

What are the choices we have as electronic participants and pawns in a pervasive high technological culture regardless where we live in the world? It’s in the details? The author offers some disturbing insights affecting how our thoughts can affect our actions. And our thoughts are influenced by what our brain takes in every day.

Social media developers recognize the effect that in the design of their algorithms. I recall reading and reviewing Mindf*ck, Cambridge Analytica And The Plot to Break America by Christopher Wylie.

Though both the works are provocative within their spheres they both point to how we are manipulated…the human psyche is exploited where it is most vulnerable.

In the media giant’s mind the public is the product. We become the product as soon as  we log on. And even when we don’t log on we are affected by a society that has been under the influence of propaganda for the purpose of monetary gain. It’s about causing people to be addicted to misinformation spoken and written in a seemingly rational fashion. Puppets and the puppet masters? We think we are in control and that may be an illusion. We’re exploited according to the author.

The research is extensive in delineating to the reader how such Social Media as Facebook, Reddit and others exploit people’s thinking and actions. The purpose is chaos…a divide and conquer approach that we see play out in political spheres of influence. Fear and loathing is fed into the servings offered. If fragmentation of society (on any scale) is the objective the media giants are quite successful. It’s lucrative and complicated.

To acknowledge Social Media influence is the first step of awareness and towards effectuating a balance and a change. The ambiguity of the issues in our high technological world is the role of humaneness and compassion. What have we become?