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The 5 Star Tragedy


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The 5 Star Tragedy
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2019-06-26, 16:03

Not too many months ago my boss introduced me to a show on Netflix called Black Mirror. He described it as “A collection of stories depicting the reality of technology taken to the furthest extreme.” I bit, and boy was he right. I loved nearly every episode (although I found a few a bit too unnerving for my conscience to handle).

One particular episode explored the final step of social media: A world in which all of life’s most basic pursuits are governed by an individual’s social media status (“Nosedive”). Eye implants provided each noble citizen with immediate insight into the social status of every other person they might encounter, giving them immediate updates upon which to make their daily decisions of interaction. The higher a person's social media ranking on a 5-star scale, the more access they could expect to have to the finest parties, the best airline seats (if they could get one at all), to bank loans, even getting a taxi. Just being invited to a posh wedding could signal the difference between being a smug higher-up and being a lowlife with no mating potential.

The general tendency of such a system would be to trend toward artificial and superficial relationships in which every “friend” is only a friend provided their ranking is at least as high as yours, and preferably higher. In other words, we would be driven to be the nicest to those who are at least at our own level, while being less nice to those who are not. Naturally, every individual can rank any other individual, driving people to trend toward that equal-or-better ranking while going out of their way to avoid those of lesser social status.

It was a great episode, and provided wonderful insight to the final stopping point of a social media system taken to its logical conclusion.

Science fiction at its best.

Except that what this sic-fi future technology proposes is much closer than we think. China, that nation of explosive economic growth, environmental destruction, and the craziest crossroads of communism and capitalism, has proposed to have a system in place by 2020-2021 that, in concept at least, closely “mirrors” the Nosedive episode from Black Mirror.

While the Chinese proposal lacks eye-implants with real-time, up-to-date notifications regarding the status of every citizen with whom they might interact, the very concept demonstrates that the writers of Nosedive are not terribly far off the mark. Indeed, when given the technology to do something, human beings will do it!

So, this begs the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the likes of Hollywood dream up the idea and China has been quick to jump aboard? Or, did word leak out that China was working on such a program and some quick-thinking writer ran with the idea for his or her own glory?

At WWDC 2019, Apple paraded the usual zoo of humans across its stage in announcing pieces of future technology and we glued ourselves to our digital seats to watch. Something happened at that Keynote that I caught, but I’m quite certain most people failed to notice. Apple, too, is fixated on this new reality of social media status-seeking. At the 46 minute mark of the Keynote, Apple forced us to watch a pair of “beauty influencers” dressed up as Memojis. These “influencers” tell us a story about their importance in the world of social media fashion through a quick nod to their amazing base of “followers”, i.e. their star ratings. Young people, easily influenced by this artificial glory, increasingly seek more “friends” (which is the same as saying “higher social media rankings”). Artificial friendships are created, and real lives are tormented by the relentless desire for those fake friendships.

But, even this misses the bigger questions. Are we doomed to carry social media to the furthest possible extreme? Will we enter into a world in which privacy and anonymity are but words of lore? Are human beings becoming so fixated on what their neighbor had for breakfast that we are no longer able to truly think for ourselves, to be real, to look to our inner desire to surround ourselves with true, loyal friends who will bend over backwards for us at the drop of a hat? Or are we headed for a world where a childhood friend will dump us because we are only carrying around 3 stars?

Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode is a total stretch of the imagination, but only in its futuristic use of technology to convey the reality that social media rankings are becoming increasingly important to society. So, we have China’s use of social media to convey an individual’s access to housing, travel, and education (among other things), and Apple’s clear support of two loudmouths who get to influence “beauty” in a fashion world dominated by phony, photoshopped models. Both of these examples demonstrate our trend toward a world in which social media status may determine a lot more than just who our friends will be. They may determine where we will live, what schools we attend, and what we are qualified to wear.

In that world, we will have to be a lot more like “them” and a lot less like “us”, and I’m not sure that that is a good path to be on. Personally, I would rather have a social media status of 1 star and be genuinely “me”, rather than have a social media status of 5 stars and have no idea who I really am. Or who my friends really are.

Nosedive, indeed!

Who let the creeper in?
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2019-06-26, 16:03

Okay. My first shot.
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
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2019-06-26, 17:45

It's good writing, and an interesting and important topic.

(From the title, though, I figured this would be about the weird dilemma where our media libraries tend not to have a fair distribution of what makes for a five-star rating. )

On your actual take, I think you may be conflating psychological tendencies that have always been there with more recent forms of (inadvertent or deliberate) abuse thereof.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
So, this begs the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did the likes of Hollywood dream up the idea and China has been quick to jump aboard? Or, did word leak out that China was working on such a program and some quick-thinking writer ran with the idea for his or her own glory?
Not to dump on those writers, but as you said yourself, it feels a bit like "a social media system taken to its logical conclusion". China and Hollywood could easily have come up with this independently, just with different thoughts on how problematic this might be.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kscherer View Post
Are human beings becoming so fixated on what their neighbor had for breakfast that we are no longer able to truly think for ourselves, to be real, to look to our inner desire to surround ourselves with true, loyal friends who will bend over backwards for us at the drop of a hat?
I would like to see some research on whether millennials and gen Z are more prone to depending on external validation, or whether that is merely a perception. Surely "I want to be just like that movie celebrity!" in general isn't that recent a phenomenon; I definitely saw it in the 90s.

To a point, an "influencer" is just today's version of Marilyn Monroe.

Gen Z wants to be like that YouTube beauty queen (sponsored by L'Oréal), sure, but also, average teen kid of gen Z wants to be more like (perceived to be) highly popular teen kid from the same class. Who in turn may or may not actually feel that popular, and certainly has problems of their own. Unhealthy body images, unrealistic desires, uncertainty about your goals and future… none of that is new (nor are "phony-photoshopped models"), and I'm not sure it has actually gotten worse.

Also, corporations have been abusing this dynamic ever since Coca-Cola taught us Santa Claus wears red and white. As has the government.

A social credit system, though. I guess if they existed today, the GDR and their Stasi would love that. Don't just have wives telling the state about their husband's activities. Also rate their behavior on a scale from one to five! Wonderful.
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709
Damned
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Purgatory
 
2019-06-26, 18:01

Add pictures like a real article or gtfo.

*note: this request may actually be a byproduct of snippet-style SM info/news.
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chucker
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: near Bremen, Germany
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2019-06-26, 18:03

For The Engagement™
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kscherer
The Ban Hammer
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Boyzeee
 
2019-06-26, 18:05

Quote:
Originally Posted by 709 View Post
Add pictures like a real article or gtfo.
2 things:

1) We gots to worry us about copyright
2) I'm no photo graphy dude. Sorry.
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