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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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Chanson de Roland

Facebook has taken an awesome power unto itself: It is the power of the publisher. It has always been the case that the publisher and the editors, who serve at his pleasure, control both what is published in his publications and how it is published. And that power permits the publisher to censor, shape, and, in short, edit what the reader/viewer (Reader) sees. To refer to a now old movie, the publisher creates the Matrix, the reality that Reader lives in. And so it is that the New York Times, for example, creates the reality and promulgates that reality’s values and causes for its Readers, as do the Wall Street Journal and Fox News. The matter is a bit more complicated, as the personality and proclivities and condition of the Reader causes him to choose his preferred reality, his preferred Matrix, but one chosen, it is the publisher who does much to shape the reality and values for his Readers, constrained and cabined by only his skill in creating his Matrix, the the limits of his Readers' credulity, the Reader's personality and tendencies, and, on those occasions when the real Reality's irresistible mandates of Nature and consequence cannot be neither ignored or denied, by Reality.

This, the power of the publisher, is what Facebook has. And it is an awesome power. So what and who is Facebook? And how does it use this power? Facebook is a profit making company, that is, it is not a B Corp.; it is a C Corp., which must seek, for the benefit of its shareholders, to maximize its profits. Now, in reality, the senior management, which is the c-suite and the ultimate managers, the board of directors, often pursue other agendas, but to the extent that they do so, those ulterior purposes should not and, as a matter of law, may not diminish the C Corp.'s ability to maximize its profits for the benefit of its equity owners. Facebook is a C Corp.; as such, it tries to maximize it profits by keeping its Readers happy or at least interested, so that they spend more time on Facebook, which is necessary to increase Facebook's profits in a variety of powerful ways.

To that purpose, Facebook says that it uses an algorithm, which is designed to keep its Readers on its website/app by at least pleasing and/or otherwise interesting them. Facebook does not provide the code for this algorithm but only describes it, which isn't close to being sufficient to determine what the algorithm does and how it does it. But perhaps we can glean this much: Facebook's algorithm and the Matrix-reality that it creates censor its Readers' news feeds, so that its Readers are at least pleased or fascinated so as to stay on its website, with all other news feeds censored and excluded, unless a Reader is willing to undertake the arduous method that the Editor describes supra. That's the Matrix-reality for Face-bookers. If there is something edifying, enlightening, or in any way useful in what Facebook’s algorithm's censors, it is loss to Face-bookers.

My view is that whether the Matrix-reality is Facebook, the New York Times, Fox News, or any other Matrix-realty’s, publishers’ artificial reality of Matrices are a bad thing in that they separate and mislead their respective readers from Reality and recruit them to their respective tribes and causes, which may be much in error. It is better for Readers to try to make their own better and better approximations to Reality by breaking out of their Matrix or Matrices to examine and evaluate opposing Matrices by relying on epistemologically sound knowledge and their own observations and experience to construct their own ever revised and improving approximation of Nature’s Matrix, rather than relying on the Matrix of any publisher.

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