[ringing bell tones]

[muffled crowd murmuring]

Stay safe. When are we going down?

[Andrew] I was intellectually prepared

for something like this to happen-

[muffled crowd murmuring]

[Man] You hide behind one-

And yet it was shocking to see.

[thudding] [group shouting]

Anytime something like this happens,

the response you tend to get from your standard politician

is this is a shocking aberration.

This is not who we are.

The scenes of chaos at the Capitol

do not reflect a true America,

do not represent who we are.

The problem with that is that, of course,

the events of today represent an America that we know of.

It’s happening right now in America.

It makes us pretend that history can only progress

in one direction, that we just sort of have to wait

for the tough things to pass,

and our glorious future will be there to greet us,

which blinds us to the fact

that we have really put ourselves in a terrible predicament

in large part because of social media.

[group cheering]

All the big social networks are fundamentally built

around inciting emotional engagement,

and that can be fear, rage, [woman spitting]

lust, xenophobia. [muffled shouting]

It could also be humor and nostalgia

and those kind of nice things,

but it’s just easier to make people scared

than it is to make them feel warm and fuzzy.

These are the only things that the algorithms can measure.

They don’t know how to measure for truth or civic virtue

or the inherent quality of an image or something like that,

so they very quickly become this competition

to tap into people’s basest emotions.

[Man] How we, in fact, lose no more!

What you’ll see in the wake of this

is what you see in the wake

of every high-profile disturbance or tragedy,

which is you’ll see all the platforms making a few

very visible decisions to ban this or that person

or this or that account, and that may be good.

That may be better than nothing,

but they’re not changing

their fundamental underlying structures.

They’re not changing their incentive,

they’re not changing their business model,

so it’s just window dressing.

[crowd shouting] [coughing]

When you hear someone like Joe Biden

trying to call us to our better instincts,

trying to paint a more optimistic picture of human nature,

I think that there’s a lot about that that is defensible.

I don’t think that the only way to respond to that

is to say, No, you’re naive.

You’re whitewashing history.

Of course, this is who we are.

I think either form of that essentialism

and determinism, in a way, is kind of missing the point

or is at least far too reductive.

It’s actually convenient for people like politicians

and social media companies to bandy about

kind of half-baked notions of human nature

so that they can use those notions of human nature

to support whatever they were inclined to do

in the first place.

You can say, Well, I won an election,

so I have a national mandate, so that’s who we are,

or I run a social media platform,

so I want us to be able to express ourselves

because that’s who we are.

[snare drum music] [crowd shouting]

It’s much harder for someone who’s running

a social media platform to talk about improving the material

and structural and psychological conditions

in the lives of their users

and how you can make it less likely that those conditions

will lead people to fear and destruction and violence

and xenophobia and all the rest of it.

That’s a much tougher, multi-layered problem.

It’s much easier to say, Well, I believe in people

and I’m optimistic that they’re better than this, right,

because that lets you off the hook.

The long arc of history doesn’t just bend itself.

We have to do the work of bending it.

[dramatic piano music]



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