it’s been quite a year this month

I’ll only say this: the problem with having your metaphorical leg amuptated is less the fact of having it done and more the risk if having it done badly. 

Which brings up the problem of doing things badly, which seems to be the core incompetency of the tech sector these days. Twitter has done Yet Another Redesign, apparently thinking that new bottles for old vinegar mean you can sell it as wine. Facebook got a slap on the wrist, as evinced by the fact that a FIVE BILLION DOLLAR FINE actually made their stock price go up. And all the while, they profess how hard they are working on the very difficult problems that they were indifferent to for years.

The problem is, they may be right about the inability to fix them. Consider our previous wide-open solutions. We had USENET until spam went out of control (it’s where the term originated, after all) and the plethora of kill files and cancel orders (salute to the memory of Cancelmoose and Afterburner and their peers). We relied on email until it became both an identifier and the thing you have to consent to have spammed to do business (I don’t know how people without a domain name of their own or some other differentiation mechanism make it through their mail). And then, Facebook – which started as a walled garden, which was supposed to be safe and private – threw down the walls.

No open system can survive contact with human beings at scale, because enough human beings are assholes at scale that open systems will always be compromised by bad actors. These platforms enabled mass distribution without considering bad actors because “most people are good” – but if one hundredth of one percent of people are bad, and you scale to three billion users, that’s 300,000 bad actors, all able to connect and interoperate without impediment. That’s the entire population of Pittsburgh, bent on malfeasance and bad action, with algorithmic connection helpfully provided by Facebook and YouTube to ensure that they get all the connection and mutual reinforcement they need. We brought everything up into the light without making any value judgement, and while we got gay marriage we also got a major political party handed over to white supremacists and foreign powers.

And that’s why you can’t “fix” Facebook, or YouTube, or any social media at scale. You have to start over and build in a way that prioritizes security and responsibility over hockey stick growth. You have to build at human scale – and consider both of those. You have to have human scale, which is why the group chat is the premier social network of our age. People are more interested in their friends than a constant stream of random shit. And you have to build. Entropy is easy. Entropy takes no effort at all. You can get a car crash free of charge by just leaving off the brake pedals and steering wheel, and it’s probably cheaper. But you don’t want a car crash, do you? You have to build seat belts and air bags, and ideally collision sensors and lane change warnings, and all manner of safety equipment – partly to help prevent you from doing something stupid yourself, and partly to make you less vulnerable to other people being stupid.

You have to reduce the risk from others and the risk of what you might inadvertently do to yourself. If that isn’t a fucking mission statement for the next ten years of this godforsaken hell mouth of an industry, I’ll kiss your ass.

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