In recent days there has been much discussion in blogs and online about the film “The Social Dilemma” available on the Netflix platform, in addition, I have found, very often, the quotes of the film even in conferences where the film is used in an instrumental way.
The film, thanks to a series of stories by Silicon Valley operators who worked in OTT, exposes us behind the scenes regarding digital platforms that, working on our vulnerabilities, would “manipulate” us in the name of profit. The Social Dilemma moves on some main axes, digital transformation, manipulation/persuasion, seen as a product and not least digital surveillance with the excellent Shoshana Zuboff.
One of the themes in the film is that of digital transformation and metamorphosis, the acceleration of technology that does not go hand in hand with our learning, our difficulties in keeping up with increasing innovation. In addition, we try to highlight the dark side as well; on the one hand the huge changes, absolutely positive, on the global level and on the other our dependence and the obsessive use of the different digital platforms.
The analysis develops, later, on the theme of profit and how it is generated, a profit based on data, analysis and predictions where the product is the consumer of the platforms.
The theorem that is stated is that we are no longer in a market based on the sale of products and services, but in a scenario where our data, enriched by our habits and behaviors on the net, are the new features. Obviously all managed by a network of algorithms that use mankind as a laboratory guinea pig.
Finally, the film analyzes the themes of persuasion and fake news; Thesis points the finger at the use of sophisticated technologies and the use of social media for the persuasion of users who are therefore induced to targeted purchases as well as influencing political choices and managing movements of opinion. The painted scenario is that of a network used as an instrument of dubious morality. A digital weapon capable of determining significant consequences in the social and political field of a country. The latter aspect is then connected to fake news and scaremongering created artificially by the algorithms that manage digital platforms.
The film supports the thesis that digital manipulation has both purely commercial purposes, therefore with a view to pure profit, and the goal of guiding network users in an imperceptible but constant way, thus influencing society, politics and the economy.
This misinformation would be greatly amplified thanks to the increasing use of social networks to the point of generating, in extreme cases also social unrest. We have all seen, for example, the role that misinformation has played on the subject of COVID.
So what can we do to stem this domain, at least as it is presented in the film? Certainly digital and technology development is contributing to the economic development of society and also contributes to improving our quality of life. Certainly there are also negative aspects, which must be contrasted with culture, investment in school and training.
The conscious use of these tools and digital culture must be part of the formation of the new generations and beyond.
We also have, however, a theme of responsibility that belongs only to us, if on the net it depopulates a movement that seeks proselytes and wants to convince us that the earth is flat probably the responsibility of the platforms lies in spreading it, but we can neither adhere to it nor promote it knowing that it is an anachronistic discussion and perhaps it could make sense in galileo’s time, but today it is paradoxical. The same attitude that we have to hold responsibly the devices of individual protection to counter the spread of COVID, the same attitude on the use of the electric scooter that seems to park itself on pedestrian strips.
In this context, US makes a difference and our responsible behaviour plays a key role. Social and digital platforms, as presented in the film, are populated with algorithms, which we write and design US, always US we click and use these platforms. WE are the engine of possible change and the US must contribute to ethical development with our behaviours as well. If we become ethical and responsible consumers, OTTs will also pursue this trend only because it will generate profit for them. These topics were discussed in the Digital Ethics Forum (www.digitalethicsforum.com) an initiative started by the city of Turin with the aim of discussing together the ethical issues related to the production, use and impact of digital technologies on humans and society. The DEF wants to become a hub for all those who have proposals, ideas, projects, a platform open to all those who strongly believe that US is the engine of innovation and change.