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Are We Living in ‘1984’ or ‘Brave New World’?

brave new world 1984

Research shows that in the U.S., for every one pro-Israel TikTok video that is viewed, 50 pro-Palestinian videos are viewed. TikTok says that this is just a mirror of wider society; in other words, it is what people want or how people feel. But such ratios do not even come close to reflecting the results of any opinion poll on the matter. This has led some to conclude that TikTok’s algorithm is driving a surge in antisemitic content.

In another batch of research, it was found that Instagram’s algorithm delivers a toxic video mix to adults who follow children. According to The Wall Street Journal, if you follow young gymnasts, cheerleaders and other teen and preteen influencers on the platform, you are then served “jarring doses of salacious content…including risqué footage of children as well as overtly sexual adult videos.”

The Journal set up the test accounts,

… after observing that the thousands of followers of such young people’s accounts often include large numbers of adult men, and that many of the accounts who followed those children also had demonstrated interest in sex content related to both children and adults.

They also tested what the algorithm would recommend after its accounts followed some of those users as well, which produced very disturbing results:

In a stream of videos recommended by Instagram, an ad for the dating app Bumble appeared between a video of someone stroking the face of a life-size latex doll and a video of a young girl with a digitally obscured face lifting up her shirt to expose her midriff. In another, a Pizza Hut commercial followed a video of a man lying on a bed with his arm around what the caption said was a 10-year-old girl.

These are just two examples of the way algorithms of various platforms attempt to influence you on various issues or try to tempt you into horrific behavior.

In an earlier blog, I wrote that if there are two visions of a dystopian future that continue to present themselves to our modern imaginations, they would be those put forward by George Orwell in his 1949 novel “1984,” and Aldous Huxley in his 1932 novel “Brave New World.”

Orwell’s vision was of a totalitarian state replete with mass surveillance and regimented repression. It was largely modeled on Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany.

In a not-so-thinly veiled critique of socialism, Huxley’s foil was technology—or our capitulation to it—leading to a caste system based on intelligence that had, itself, been manipulated by technology to various ends. While in a later foreword Huxley confessed to leaving out one of the great technological achievements of the day—nuclear energy—he was prescient in his sense of how reproductive technology and psychological manipulation could be employed.

Neither work held out much hope of a human utopia and lay in direct contrast to the view that humanity could—through technology or will—solve all economic and social problems. This was shattered through a first world war, which was quickly followed by a second. Whether a “boot in the face” (Orwell) or a ruling oligarchy (Huxley), the result was the same: suppression.