The Dilemma Is Not Just Social

It Threatens Democracy and Civilization

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Upton Sinclair

Sinclair came to mind as I absorbed the ‘feeds and reads’ that are awash with the new Netflix docudrama, ‘The Social Dilemma’. The Guardian (to select just one headline from the flood) asks if this is a wake-up call for a world drunk on dopamine?

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Well - we can all dream.

The fact is that the movie presents no ‘new’ news for anyone who is watching how our world is being shaped. New names perhaps, not new news. The names come in the form of founders, execs and CEOs of companies like Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Uber … all ‘ex’ - of course. The other common thread is that they are all (mostly) white - young-ish males, which in itself speaks volumes to the culture that has driven Silicon Valley. And now they are raising their voice and speaking out against the abuse of power that these tech companies use. But they still all own their stock.

It’s as if the ‘Poachers have all turned Gamekeepers’ but still all buy their meat from the other poachers - but worse.


Jaron Lanier, features heavily in the movie and has been talking about this problem for at least 15 years. Shoshana Zuboff, also briefly in the movie published ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ in 2019, but she too has been touching on this subject for well over a decade. The film included a very quick appearance by Nir Eyal who published ‘Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products’ as recently as 2014, although in a debate with Ezra Klein just last year argued that Big Tech isn’t addictive! (The Podcast).

Who wasn’t on the movie included;

Doc Searls, best known as co-author of ‘The Cluetrian Manifesto’ - and more recently ‘The Intention Economy’.

“We are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers. we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.
Chris Locke - The Cluetrain Manifesto, 1999.

Douglas Rushkoff who published ‘Team Human’ in 2019, but started writing and talking about these issues 15 years ago. He coined terms like ‘viral marketing’, and besides books, has utilized the medium of TV, Film even YouTube to get his message out.

Cory Doctorow is yet another who has been banging the drum of dominance and unfettered control of the large tech corporations for many years. An avid supporter of Creative Commons involved very early on with EFF and most recently started a one-man battle with Amazon’s Audible, which I wrote about last week.

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For readers and listeners of People First, these names are not new and just a few of a vast swathe of writers and presenters that talk about these issues. Watching the movie, you might be forgiven for thinking that they’d never heard of them. They clearly have. This is a 7 minutes video on LinkedIN that I highly recommend you watch. In it Rushkoff (who has a site called ‘Team Human’) calls out some 15 more writers you can add to the list above and goes on to reference a call from ‘The Center of Humane Technology’ telling him that the movie had inspired them to set up a new space … Team Humanity! (Watch the video to get the full 411.)

And all of this is not to say that it is a bad movie. Not everyone on the planet gets what is going on - much less understand it. Anything - and I mean anything, that can broaden the audience of the message is all good. But. But … will we pay attention?

"Oh I don’t look that deep ... I just ask … is it 'handy'"
... a senior executive in a large enterprise software company in response to my question when I asked if she was concerned about Facebook.

Nir Eyal in his conversation with Ezra Klein said that he didn’t think Big Tech is addictive (yes it is) and that the answer to digital distraction lies in individuals learning to exercise forethought and discipline (definitely).

Meanwhile, Team Humanity is already up and running as of course is Team Human .. so now what? Do we continue to wring our hands and complain and mutter about how we need to legislate? Sign petitions? Or do we act?

I have a memory that goes back to a company called Cambridge Analytica. Oh the furor and disgust that circulated the media, discussion groups and blogosphere as we wrestled with ‘what they had done’. The loudest call was that we all need to get off Facebook … but we didn’t.

I have been off Facebook for many, many years. Long before Cambridge Analytica, because it was clear. I returned a few months ago, to explore how I might use it to broaden The People First message. It’s kind of working. And kind of not. What I am finding is that while there are still many people out there using the platform … sometimes very aggressively … there are a number of my personal friends that are not there and will not return. They Acted.

To build a community (since that is what I seek to do), there are a number of well known and really good alternatives. ‘Oh but Facebook is so convenient’, is an argument I hear when I talk of moving. And that’s the nub.

This is my Action. My Commitment.

I will continue to use Facebook to promote People First and attempt to open the eyes of people as much as I can. I will maintain the group on Facebook as a way to bring people into the People First community. But the real work is happening outside of Facebook. The real community will be on a platform yet to be decided, but Mighty Networks,, The Guild are just some of the spaces I have been looking at. If the jump to a different space is too hard - then I haven’t convinced you. If you are convinced, you will come.

To riff on my friend Geoff Moore … thats what I think … what do you think?

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“Effective creative collaboration requires you to persuade the people around you to take a risk and try something new. ”
Greg Orme. The Human Edge

Greg’s book won the 2020 Business Book Of The Year and came on the show just last week to talk ‘consciousness, curiosity, creativity and collaboration,’ and already I am not just quoting him - but following his advice.

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My thanks and appreciation for your continued support, comments and attention. Please like the post, share through your social channels and forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey and do comment or email me your thoughts.