Russian operatives knew one thing better than anyone suspected, including journalists, in the 2016 presidential election: how algorithms disseminate fake news the U.S. populace would embrace as gospel truth, not according to fact, but according to machine predictions.
We generate incredible amounts of data, simply by using our smartphones. Add to that the apps we use, the social media we frequent, and the friend networks we engage on any number of mundane topics during the day.
Then there are online subscriptions, purchases and travel plans. The list goes on. Because almost every interaction is digital, including now our appliances throughout the home, data about us is just about everywhere and nowhere at the same time. That’s because Internet is an asynchronous facsimile of reality–so much so–that others can tap into that information, analyze it and manipulate us.
In an article titled, “Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We’ll Never Understand,” WIRED writes:
We are increasingly relying on machines that derive conclusions from models that they themselves have created, models that are often beyond human comprehension, models that “think” about the world differently than we do. … We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it.
Ask yourself: Have you, too, given up understanding the world? There could be a reason. Machines are programmed to know how, what, when, where and who, but not why.
Combine that with social media substituting now for objective journalism, and you have a prescription for Russian machine meddling.
According to Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch, some 29 million people viewed content from Russian sources, sharing it with friends, to the extent that a total of 126 million people–half the voting populace of the United States–may have seen it.
Twitter identified 36,746 accounts associated with Russia with content about the US presidential election, generating 1.4 million tweets.
The goal was to sow division in the electorate, using algorithms to affirm our worst beliefs about each other or, more specifically, about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine investigates this phenomenon in depth. It discusses the rise of social media at the expense of objective news reporting, citing social scientists and their thought-provoking studies. There is an entire chapter titled, “The World Without Why.”
Interpersonal Divide brings this and other revelations to light so that you can make informed decisions on how you use technology so that it doesn’t use you.
The Russians counted on the latter.