The algorithm is changing
And the world will too
TLDR: Facebook is changing their algorithm, which is a much bigger deal than it seems anyone is making it out to be
While most are focused on hot topics like our Supreme Court and the looming economic pullback, relatively few are concerned with the fact that the internet is changing in a way that has deep implications for human psychology and the role computers play in our world.
Here’s my recap below.
When Google fundamentally changed the web by organizing information based on page rank, it introduced a form of internet relevancy that hadn’t yet been tapped.
Page rank and backlinks not only created a new way to experience the internet and find information, but it changed the incentives and motivations for the creators as well. Just look at the monumental growth of the digital advertising industry since the early 2000’s.
Then Facebook came along and said let’s organize social information too, and let’s do it based on recency and social relevancy rather than rank.
They organized the internet into friends and photos, shared interests and topics you might be interested in, prioritizing popularity over quality.
Twitter and LinkedIn followed suit with the above, and added features relative to the context of their platforms.
Twitter added the hashtag, the retweet, and the concept of trending content. LinkedIn added features like JYMBI and PYMK—jobs you may be interested in and people you may know.
But then came TikTok, and they fundamentally challenged social media’s definition of relevancy.
They shifted the entire construct of engagement from relevancy to attention span.
They built a machine that monitors human reactions and then feeds content with the explicit goal of keeping your attention.
They show you things that engage you, as opposed to things you should be engaged in, or things you intend to watch or want to be watching.
It puts the control in the hands of the content.
It changes the creators’ incentives the way Google and Facebook once did, and those were seismic shifts.
Seismic shifts not just in the web, but in how the world works, how we communicate, what we learn and know—including the actions of the Supreme Court or the looming recession—and our collective ability to respond productively.
Here’s where it gets even more interesting. Facebook is now copying TikTok.
You may already be seeing your Instagram feed being filled with less familiar and more uselessly engaging stuff.
And it’s important to note that Facebook has rarely been wrong on predicting seismic shifts like this. WhatsApp, Instagram, short form video, you name it.
Now they’re betting on the metaverse, hence the name change to Meta and a complete refocus around creators.
Now just for a moment, imagine the metaverse being as big if not bigger than Facebook—stretching further into our social and professional lives than Facebook ever has with gaming, VR, AR, and so much more.
Now imagine all of that, and that it’s as addicting as TikTok.
Dystopian, if you ask me.
Given these algorithms have already demonstrated structural and fundamental power over the way we experience the world, it seems wildly irresponsible to give the them even more control.
Especially while Google employees are falling trap to The Eliza Effect with it’s own chatbots. That is, humans thinking computers are sentient.
Of course it’s not all bad—Facebook is also ending it’s relationship with publishers and essentially getting out of the news business which, in recent years, has felt like a plague on the US political system at a minimum.
I’ve wrote about it before, and the pendulum needs to swing.
Equal and opposite reactions.
We need to be balancing these investments in the metaverse with oversight or open source accountability on these algorithms as well as improvements to our physical universe.
See you Monday.