Saturday, December 1, 2018

Facebook And The Golden Rule Loophole

                                                                                                written 24 November 2018
                                                                                                published 1 December 2018

            "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is the Golden Rule.  This philosophy of reciprocity is found in all ethical systems.  From a unity perspective, where I and the other are one, this is a no-brainer, similar to the suggestion that I not saw off the tree limb upon which I am sitting.  
            Global connection through the Internet and social media amplifies all the issues on the planet.  This material manifestation of the fundamental unity found in quantum mechanics and all spiritual traditions allows people the world over to find information and fellowship with others of like mind.  The down side of the tech connectivity is the disruption of tradition economic models and the flourishing of the worst aspects of humanity.  
            The Golden Rule assumes that I think kindly of myself, and feel worthy of being treated well.  If poor family dynamics, poverty, traumatic emotional experiences, or a punitive religious upbringing cause me to feel unworthy, then I will expect abusive behavior and, by the Golden Rule, be hateful to others.  How we treat others is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. The other becomes a mirror, and fear of the other is like a young kitten posturing against the rival seen in the mirror.
            With empathy, we experience our connection with the other and fear and hatred dissipate.  Lack of empathy is a symptom of serious psychological disorders, such as psychopaths, sociopaths, extreme narcissists and autistics.  These disorders, present in 1% of the general population, appear in 3% of top corporate and political leaders, which explains why human values are sacrificed for profit.
            Since Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook 14 years ago, it has grown to dominate the world with over 2 billion users.  More than 45% of Americans get most of their news from Facebook, giving the platform massive influence in our society.  Chief stockholder Zuckerberg appears to be empathically challenged.  His company reflects this, claiming it is just a tech platform, not a media company, and takes no responsibility for editing content.
            When cell service expanded in Myanmar eight years ago, Facebook bundled their product from the ground up so the country's news service is dominated by Facebook.  Buddhist hate speech sites began using Facebook to inflame sentiment with false news against the minority Rohingya Muslims.  Facebook ignored requests from concerned citizens asking that it take down the sites that were destabilizing the country.  Facebook had instructions for tagging hate sites, but the Burmese translation was inaccurate, and only two Burmese speakers were employed to process complaints in a country of 51 million.  The result was genocide of almost 7,000, and 700,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.  
            Facebook profitability depends on collecting detailed information on their users, and then customizes the delivery of advertising and news to each viewer using sophisticated algorithms.  With stolen customer data, these same algorithms were used in 2016 by Republican and Russian operatives to push fake news in support of Trump.  When this came to light, Facebook denied it and actively funded attacks against its accusers.  Only when the stock crashed did they begin to address the issue.
            Data is not information.  Information is not knowledge.  Knowledge is not wisdom.  Our social media saturated culture is overwhelmed with data, and seriously lacking in wisdom.  Facebook is really only a symptom, amplifying pre-existing human weaknesses.  That hate can be preached by Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims indicates that many self-identified religious people have completely missed the core of their spiritual traditions.  Local philosopher Ricardo Stocker says, "we are not bodies with a soul, but souls with a body."  Self-loathing is a consequence of being disconnected from the experience of our soul, our interconnection with the universe.  People must call out the haters in their own religions and political parties.  
            The hard work of our times is restructuring our internal landscape, cultivating and expanding our individual connection with our soul, which is always present, but can be obscured by external distractions.  One path is meditation.  If you don't yet meditate, start today.  If you already have a meditation practice, recommit and expand your practice.  Social connection is a fact of life, our challenge is to improve the quality of the conversation.