So, the nice thing about the Dewey example, which I take to be at the very heart of the book is asking individuals to be citizens when they're using the Internet, and also asking a platform like a Google or a Facebook – or, God forbid, one of these ad systems – to recognize that they have a political function. Essentially to recognize that Google isn't just helping you find what you want; it's about helping you find enough of a diverse range of things that you're able to be an interested citizen. You and I would both strongly agree that's a good thing to do, but I think there are other people who would say that is a normative judgement. I just caught a comment on a blog post that I wrote about one of your early talks on this with someone referring to the [Mark] Zuckerberg quote that you used about a squirrel being more important than someone in Africa ["A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa"], at which the person said "That's fine. That is how I view the world, and that is who I am." Do you think corporations are going to be willing to do their part in this? Do you see Google seeing some sort of responsibility to its users, not just as users, but as citizens? Is that something they acknowledge when they're reacting to the ideas of this book?
I think the jury is out. The argument I have about the normative piece is that they already do that. They already make those judgements, and it's already embedded in these feeds. And actually if you annoy them enough about this, they'll say that they in fact do incorporate diversity into our queries to some degree. So their argument actually isn't "We never make judgments about anything," although that's very convenient as a first place to start. It's "Well, you know, we try to do out best." In terms of the person who just wants to hear about the squirrels: I think, at the end of the day, there's no version of this that doesn't make it very easy to learn a lot about squirrels if that's your thing. It just means that maybe somewhere on the side of the screen it says, "By the way, genocide continues in Darfur." And that's probably a good thing.
That's probably a good thing that you have the option to click on the genocide rather than the squirrel-centric universe. And I just want to clarify for people reading this: that's not a pro-genocide comment.
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