The Marketing of Algorithmic Transmissions
“The algorithm, he said, was YouTube’s speech and distinct from what users had posted.”
– New York Times, Feb. 21, 2023
If the algorithm is speech just as money is speech, then it has the protection of the First Amendment and cannot be obstructed. (Citizens United, 2010) However, Constitutionally both the free speech of money and algorithms are restrained if such speech is integral to illegal conduct or incites imminent lawless action. There is then no defense here if either money or algorithm has such proven connections. Of course, proving anything in the Age of Trump – and it will be that long after he finds his reward — does not seem to be going well. Final judgment in the present Supreme Court has a certain plea at the Mad Hatter’s tea party flavor.
If it is argued that the algorithm is not speech and as a dumb messenger innocent in the transmission of speech integral to or inciting lawless action, then it loses all First Amendment protection. The plea of innocence must involve a denial of algorithm complicity in the transmission of illegal and lawless action. What at base must be argued is that transmissions are indeed a dumb messaging service, innocent and not designed.
Our social media platforms are designed and behind the mask of providing Kumbaya occasions in which we call get along, they are distributors of profit design. You say, ‘Not upsetting because profit has to be made everywhere it can.’ You also say, ‘I’m designing my own life on social media, even a fictitious life of my choice.’ So, assertions that there’s design behind the media platforms and the algorithms behind them are not at all surprising in a culture in which all is for profit and at the same all adapts to your choices.
However, as the battleground for profit making has always ultimately been the human mind itself, a battleground increasingly bombarded by AI and robotic transmissions, weaknesses in our mental defenses are showing, holes in the fabric of psyches biological and not electronic, analog, and not digital. I quote Franco “Bifo” Berardi:
“As the electronic universe of transmission interfaces with the organic world of reception, it is producing pathological effects: panic, over-excitement, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorders, dyslexia, information overload, and the saturation of neural circuitry.” (And: Phenomenology of the End, 2015).
We are not only overloaded by algorithmic transmissions but we are also not sufficiently independent of these to make a fight. And it is not a fight we want to make because against all reason we jubilantly believe the speech of robots has to be and will be better than our own.
There is an opposing fear and anxiety we hold at the same time, that we are immersed now within a destabilizing power that is difficult to oppose in that it owns the channels of transmission as well as undermining powers of rational reception. The mimicking of human mental activity — algorithms and their usefulness in AI and robotics – place the artificial in the roles of agents of change, agents of ownership and change as designed by owners. This is a fractured state that precedes the political and social fracturing that fill our online and offline worlds.
I found this on Google in response to the question: What are the benefits of algorithms in social media?
5 Reasons Why Algorithmic Social Media Feeds Are Actually Good
They Help You See More Of What You’re Interested In. …
They Help Filter Out The Noise. …
They Help You Discover New Things. …
They Make Social Media More Personalized. …
They Keep Users Online Long Enough to Make Money.
I counter all five:
What if what you are interested in is in an algorithm loop fed by interests fed by algorithms? Where are you in all that?
If noise is actually what is outside the algorithm prison you are in, you want NOT to filter it out. It follows then that New Things are in the Noise you filter out.
Personalizing the social is like privatizing the public. Turning the public space into a cyberspace site, the public forum into Facebook faces and TikTok performances are all disintegrating and collapsing transformations, ironically celebrated as societal and human progress. Algorithms and their progeny are making this happen.
And lastly, YES. The deluded mind is a feasting site for profit makers.
Algorithms cannot interpret or understand but they can mechanize both, package that reduction into ever new generations of digital devices. This genius is in the packaging, Steve Jobs being the first such genius. Because we are already overwhelmed, as Berardi describes, our interpretation and understanding capabilities are at the levels of corrupted or inadequate of both. We are already not up to challenge the speech of robots. Our ways of knowing were in a confounded state before social media, our pre-algorithm knowing fertile ground for a robotic takeover. We replaced reason with our own opinionating before algorithms invaded our thinking, but that invasion has attached itself like a parasite to a body it weakens.
For us digital space is a place where not only is everyone a creator/publisher on their websites and blogs, but every understanding everywhere is to be perforated with your own opinions. The chat and tweets of others an open range to spout your opinions. The cellphone is your personal conduit to a world you can with this handheld device design and control. It is a gift from the gods. To you.
This is an ever-expanding new frontier for markets –unshackled minds anxious to perform and display their uniqueness to the world. Products and services that pitch their sales right into minds they can flatter and encourage now do so light years beyond old school analog capacity.
Cyberspace has an infinite capacity to center itself exactly where you are. It is a freedom denied in the Dark Ages of the analog, where a security system/firewall existed keeping out the thoughts and feelings of individuals leading their own unique personal lives. The undemocratic Gatekeepers are now thrown into an undiscriminating cyberspace in which they disappear. Thinking, like airlines, railways, and markets, should be unregulated, a personal laissez-faire of ideas, cut free of the old analog, Western tradition of rationality and realism, White, sexist mythology we can jettison in cyberspace, hoping to replace the analog speech of a dead past with the speech of robots. The past is not only laughably analog but also racist, sexist, class obsessed and shamefully white. When we speak Robot, we leave all of this behind. Including Nature, the world’s and our own, unapologetically analog.
Nothing personal is denied transmission now, or, more precisely, the battle of what should be shouted down and further, cancelled, is going on right now. But we are also discovering that our personal lives share a common human nature that comes with a dark side. Darkness reappears, digital not analog this time. Our social media is transmitting the obstinacies and casuistries of groundless opinionating, freelance declarations of true and fake, hateful speech, and what Thomas Frank calls “fatuity at a gallop.”
Selling politically is on the same program whereby the majority of sales and profits are, that is, where we can find the majority of minds. The majority of votes come from the same region. But politics, now enticed by the un-democratic, relies on something the market avoids, namely, confusion. The market nurtures illusions of personal autonomy and control, the illusions of creating personal identity through personal choice. The more choices you make, the more unique and self-empowered you are. The shambolic of social media supports all this. There is no hope of any Meta-opinion arising on that platform of chaos. The broadcasting gates (sites) must always be flooded with the inane productions of those held voiceless prisoners in the Dark Ages of the Analog world. There must always be space on social media for every citizen to declare personal choice and thus individual freedom.
Our politics differ from our marketing drive, less unequivocable more devious. Market Rule requires a disorder out of which no threat to its rule can establish itself. Difference seeking identity in choices the market gladly supplies must not be so divergent that it cannot be targeted as a market. Every difference to survive must be co-opted and commodified. A tempered chaos is the goal. In politics, disorder’s confusion, engineered by all the fury of battling twits, has created an American mass psyche in search of a Great Awakening ministered by a Great Truth and Reality Awakener.
In effect, the chaos of cyberspace is pushing us toward a psychic release and relief in a dictatorial order. Chaos is a path to the un-democratic, to autocracy and worse. The sort of messiness that the democratic electoral process creates is what the autocrat promises to subdue. “One law for the ox and the lion is oppression,” Blake’s proverb, is not oppression, in the autocrat’s view, but comforting.
Our American imaginary has been leaning toward this autocratic “stability” while deceiving itself with visions of some order of things based on unyielding personal difference. However, an unrelenting chaos of personal “takes” precludes the possibility of any collective understanding of anything, which means there is no resident order but only a continuous unsettling clash of unreconcilable differences. The path of societal fracture is paved by the fracture of any coherent American mass psyche. We may have innumerable enclaves of friends, we may make tribal pacts of cloistered, siloed understanding but it is difficult to see how the idea of a nation state or a mutually imagined societal community comes out of this.
Signs are that it is not. The loss of ordinary understanding of anything creates a space for the autocrat to emerge. And the autocrat rises up to quell the chaos by pulling it all into his own personality. Or tries to. In a personality/celebrity driven culture it is not surprising that an order of things would come to rest in a personality. Trump has no ideas to offer because ideas are, in the American view, always defined as socialist. The thinking here is that Europe had a great many ideas in the 20th century. And we saved them from that.
Whether lack of ideas or possession of stupid ones is at play here, Trump’s Savior status is diminishing, not because we have given up difference and focused on mutual understanding, but because as far as Market Rule is concerned, he is now a deficit, a liability. There are budding autocrats less megalomaniacal and therefore obedient to Market Rule waiting in the wings.
If any sense of a commonly imagined society is fractured, there is no hope of relief from that fracture. In the absence of resolving solutions and any agreement as to what the problems are, the turn is to destruction of what is. We enter the politics of dismemberment. And fall in line with an autocratic plan to sow chaos. We turn to a future of robot speech, becoming more frighteningly entwined within the loop of algorithms of cyberspace we do not seek to escape but welcome. What we are welcoming diminishes and enervates the defenses of a rational mind, deepens confusion and clouds all exits of escape. But at a foundational level we cannot choose to ignore, we cannot escape our interrelationship with a world we are embedded within, a world, that with each new disaster of flood, earthquake, hurricane, and wildfire draws us from cyberspace to Nature’s world, a world unfortunately, that is disastrously heating up.
Are we more in danger of autocrat speech than robot speech? Both are nurtured by our saturated neural circuitry, or, less scientifically, by our over-taxed, befuddled minds. Both work for ownership, either the ownership of the autocrat or private equity partners, shareholders, and the owners of the machines. The programmers of robot speech.
Although we imagine ourselves moving toward an AI free of “the human factor” the reality is that we humans design our machines. They speak for us, or, more precisely, they speak for the owners of the machines. Once again, an obvious point: those with the most money speak the loudest. Their influence conveyed by lobbyists overwhelms the speech of the money-less, replaces their voice with their own. Because nothing now is granted “obvious” unless it is obvious to you personally, to whom you personally grant the power of self-empowerment (?), you delude yourself into thinking your speech cannot be drowned out by money speech.
It also arguably “obvious” that AI and robotics far exceed and surpass lobbyists in empowering the speech of money. The self-empowered do not recognize any empowerment, such as money, nullifying their own power. If we consider social media as simply the platform in which we broadcast our own unique identities, freely choosing our unique path in cyberspace, we deceive ourselves. But we do so within a solipsistic realm of self-congratulation. We are especially gratified to find the unique productions of our own minds re-tweeted and confirmed. Every post of lunacy finds its disciples, every raving narcissist his admirers. Whether or not we alter our pronouns, the “I” seems very anxious and in need of performance on the American stage. Social media signs you up.
Although we have given every voice an outlet on social media and created easy transmission neither the quality of those transmissions nor their receptions are quality controlled. The cogency or lunacy of what you say is in every way alien to the robotics of transmission. I mean robot speech is theory neutral and value free. What is of interest to Facebook, for instance, is what interests you. Knowing what your interests, views, likes, and dislikes and so on may be is a gold mine of information for marketers. That you can be sold stuff more easily when you are profiled may be damaging to your purse. However, it is the political consequences of what we see as our cyberspace freedom that damages the democratic order of things.
Simply put, that order is not bolstered by the dissemination of the irrational conspiratorial mind nor the inability of a recipient of that to recognize it as that. If you look to cyberspace as an escape from your own mis- or un-informed mind, you must realize that that mind is being “understood” via social media algorithms and AI so that you can loop but you cannot escape. You are a victim of that profile. You will circle within yourself. This may not be evident to you because you can Google your choices, which also are in a loop. If you believe that every time you choose what to Google you are asserting a self-autonomy, you become addicted to a universe of knowing that is not liberating but confining and controlling.
What goes on when you talk and chatbot talk, is looping in action:
“When you chat with a chatbot, the bot is not just drawing on everything it has learned from the internet . . .which includes volumes of untruthful, biased and otherwise toxic material. . .” but it “is drawing on everything you have said to it and everything it has said back.”
(Cade Metz, “Why do A.I. Chatbots Tell Lies and Act Weird? Look in the Mirror,” New York Times, February 26, 2023
Unless the “incredibly complex computer algorithm” working the Chatbot breaks free of the chaos on the internet and also enhances the intelligence and cogency of your own words, what we have is a looping complicity of parroting algorithm and whatever your intelligence and knowledge level may be. There is no hope of human development here. Neither one of you can learn anything, especially not from each other. The need to engage robot talk is thus not educational but rather some weird robot-philia that is welcoming the end of the Anthropocene.
Whereas all AI, robotics and the algorithms that are of various use to these in creating our cyberspace social media seem to expand our universe of knowing, they in fact constrict it within the boundaries of profit seeking ownership. The market use, as mentioned, is clear. The more that is known about your personal lifeworld, which it seems is offered gratis and expansively within the social media communities, the more the sales pitch can be effectively targeted. The click bait is designed for you. Robot speech is for your ears only.
The political use is more devious. Comparable to a concealment of one murder in a riot of murders, cyberspace deluges us with “information” without hooks upon which to hang any of it except that offered by “search” engines. Once again, we search within borders algorithms have made impossible for us to escape. Only the most pathologically deluded find unique identity and personal autonomy in this digital design. The payoff here is all manner of pathology.
But the payoff is indeed a beneficial payoff when a democratic society so destabilized develops a yearning for an order of things outside and challenging, iconoclastic, and disrespectful of an order that has done nothing for them. This is a self-defeating path.
A clear marker or symptom of our panic to upheave and destroy are the movement of incredible conspiracy theories from online to our Congress, our offline legislative body.
Conspiracies are a form of speech and as such owned by conspirators. To dismiss conspiracy as production of the crazed is to ignore its usefulness as influential speech, however surprising this may be. And that usefulness does not dismiss the crazed from authorship. Similar to what lobbyists do, conspirators fertilize the path of ownership and money in two notable ways. First, such conspiracies detour attention from, say, the culprits Bernie Sanders ceaseless indicts, namely, plutocratic wealth divide and planet destruction for profit, and directs it to a paranoiac’s “deep state” cabal of satanic pedophiles and cannibals. Secondly, conspiracies in their departure from fact and evidence erode rational paths of interpretation and understanding and in doing so make it possible to cloud discernment and judgment even extending to one’s own self-interest.
A mind that holds as equal of consideration the mission of a secretive global society to rob Americans of their personal freedom and the UN Climate Change News is not, to put it mildly, a helpful voter in a democratic society. Americans have a high rate of literacy but have lost the path, the ways of knowing, which can fix for them what is true, what is true beyond and outside and perhaps in opposition to their personally designed opinions, their sacred private opinions. Being able to read and find meaning in what you read is no longer a way of knowing if words already come to meaning for you in a loop of knowing designed for you. Robots speak and the language they speak is you.
How to undermine this faith in personal choice and the power of that choice to overwrite the power of money which right now is backing the speech of robots. How to escape the loop of algorithm? The speech of robots? How to educate in opposition to Robot speech? Right now, STEM is the speech here. Not a surprise. Why wouldn’t the now and emerging owners of AI and robotics want graduates of such development?
Our very costly higher education is teaching the speech of robots, two sites of revolutionary overthrow we seem to have missed.