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Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge Analytica’

I started off in 1966 at a college in Beacon Hill. Our children were born in the Berkshires. We spent every Spring on Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve always loved the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I remember fondly strolling around the Boston Commons watching the gorgeous swan boats in the pond. So I was a tad surprised when Bob mentioned, “the tragedy of the commons” while we were listening to President Cuomo. Our lives in New England were the opposite of tragic!

Turns out this is the perfect term to describe where we find ourselves today – starting to reopen the country amid a cultural war over masks.

“The tragedy of the commons is an economic problem in which every individual has an incentive to consume a resource at the expense of every other individual with no way to exclude anyone from consuming. It results in overconsumption, under investment, and ultimately depletion of the resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits. Generally, the resource of interest is easily available to all individuals; the tragedy of the commons occurs when individuals neglect the well-being of society in the pursuit of personal gain.”  https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t/tragedy-of-the-commons.asp

Bob usually has no luck trying to interest me in economics, but this was different, it’s behavioral economics. The tragedy (sometimes called “paradox”) of the commons refers to selfish individuals going after a “common” resource, like toilet paper, only to undermine its infrastructure causing the total collapse of the resource. And supposedly its origin is from the Old English – 18th Century settlers who would let their animals out to graze in the park at the center of town, the commons. This would result in very little park left for the people, or the animals for that matter.

Remember, in Europe only the wealthiest landowners had beautiful parks and gardens behind high, closed walls to enjoy. Designing parks in the center of our colonial cities represented America’s wish to avoid another class/caste system. And so we had a paradox. Over time, the “tragedy of the commons” came to represent not just landscape destruction, but road and bridge decay as well. It became a metaphor for power and authority trampling over the common good.

Whenever the ME became more important than the WE.

Last night I tuned into Netflix to watch The Great Hack. It is a stunning documentary that helps to explain how we actually got here in the first place! I’ve become accustomed to seeing ads for something I was looking up on one site appear on another, but I had no idea how incredibly my data, and yours, have been harvested, tracked and targeted – in particular by governments and political parties. The film delves into Cambridge Analytica, and how they weaponized our data to influence our 2016 election.

Maybe you’re not one to watch horror movies during a pandemic, but this shows you how, without a drop of blood, Mr T the first ME president, was elected by 0.23% in Michigan!

“…this data trail is being leveraged against us, every day: to sell us things, get us to vote or to stay home from the polls, to divide or unite us according to the whims of whoever has paid enough to take our digital threads and weave them into a web of their own desires….

It uses the scandal as a framework to illustrate the data mining structures and algorithms that are undermining individual liberty and democratic society, one Facebook like and meme at a time.”  https://www.wired.com/story/the-great-hack-documentary/

It’s strange isn’t it? The Boston Tea Party of 1773 kicked off our liberation from colonialism, and Mark Zuckerberg turned a dating site for Harvard’s elite students into a data capturing monolith. From his dorm room, long after I was walking through the Commons to Filene’s Basement. Could it be that this great technological connection we are all needing more and more, isn’t at all about the WE?

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