Review: The Social Dilemma

Many people had told me about the Netflix documentary, the Social Dilemma. So, I gave in and watched it.

It’s an interesting documentary that’s very well put together. Interviewing some of the people who’ve worked at big social media companies, developed some of the tools, and are now shocked… SHOCKED I tell you about how their tools are being used for horrible purposes such as mass manipulation.

Which reminds me of this joke

Just replace soldier with technologist and killing with tool

So yeah, if the documentary was somehow designed to invoke feelings of, “those poor billionaire young developers who had no idea their tools could do so much harm” – then they missed the mark considerably.

What I did find interesting is that the documentary actually employed many of the techniques it was calling out as bad practices, such as trying to force a narrative, play on peoples emotions, and so forth.

I think the part that let me down most of all was the underlying tone of defeatism, how our mobile phones have taken over our lives and we are slaves to it, and the AI will only get better to keep us in the matrix.

Maybe I’m a hopeless optimist and think that while it applies to a lot of people, we’ll get over it eventually. Like Jeff Goldblums character said in Jurassic Park, “life finds a way” (paraphrasing).

I think if you’ve been working in security or technology for any period of time, there probably isn’t anything surprisingly new in the documentary, and it doesn’t really offer much by way of practical solutions. I would recommend reading “How to break up with your phone” by Catherine Price – it contains a lot of the information covered in the documentary and gives a step by step guide on how to lessen your and your family’s dependency on mobile devices. If that is what you’re looking to do.

As I sit here at my dining table, on a Saturday morning, typing this post out on my phone, The irony of promoting a documentary which is anti-tech or phones is not lost on me. But that’s why I think simply saying tech is bad isn’t a way forward, and neither is ditching it. Rather it’s probably more about consciously trying to work out how to use it to enrich our lives without it controlling it.