Outrage Machine: How Tech Is Amplifying Discontent, Undermining Democracy, and Pushing Us Towards Chaos
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In the vein of The Righteous Mind and Factfulness, an invaluable guide to understanding the underlying machinery and technology that controls modern society. Foreword by social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind.
Over the last two decades, there has been an inescapable rise of anger and aggression across our planet. Hate speech has become increasingly prevalent online, Western governments are turning towards authoritarianism and populism, and extremist groups are rising across both the left and the right ends of the political spectrum. Every day, it seems, we’re hearing more angry voices and fearful opinions, we’re seeing more threats and frightening news, and we’re reacting faster and less rationally.
The cause is hidden in plain sight: for the first time, almost all of the information we consume as a species is being controlled and curated by algorithms designed to capture our emotional attention. This, media researcher and strategic advisor Tobias Rose-Stockwell argues, is the outrage machine. It is the wide-cast net of social media that is propelled by tech, has been exploited by all of us, and which has been allowed to steadily replace our newspapers, emergency communication systems, town halls, churches, and more.
In the vein of The Righteous Mind and Factfulness, Outrage Machine is a big-think book the explores the unintended consequences of this alarming shift in today’s smartphone era-and shows us how to navigate the world we now live in. First, he explains how and why we’ve become addicted to not just technology, but outrage itself. Since Social media algorithms now favor the most inflammatory content because it gets the highest engagement, the levels of righteousness, certainty, and extreme judgment in our daily interactions have increased as well. Next, he shows us why we’re more prone to panic, and how the immediate dispersion of our panic can be more dangerous than the threat itself-and can bypass necessary confirmation of the accuracy and potential harm of this information. Rose-Stockwell also explores how the original intent of many of our social tools has been compromised, from improving click-through rates for charitable causes to catalyzing our current culture of click-baiting and sensationalism on an unparalleled scale.
Fortunately, Outrage Machine is not just a warning-it’s also a critical guide that clearly explains the underlying machinery that has come to control us, and a compass to help guide people toward reflection rather than reaction. The culmination of 15 years of research and inquiry, this book gives readers a language with which to comprehend what is happening to society, and offers new mental models for how to manage our time, our technology, and our attention. It also offers big-picture recommendations for how to redesign these platforms, as well as methods for fixing this broken system before it “fixes” us.
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July 11, 2023