The evilification of Facebook: Gerd Leonhard about to quit Facebook!

The Futures Agency’s CEO Gerd Leonhard is thinking about leaving Facebook – and he needs your help in deciding this.gerd leonhard evilfication JFC @ futuristgerd

“Facebook now generates 35% of my traffic to this site and my Youtube channel, yet I am seriously thinking about ending my posts and contributions to Facebook, and may delete my profile and my pages altogether.”

Gerd would really like to know what you think about his arguments (reposted here below). Please kindly contribute to this poll on his original post (and below) or contact him anytime via email or better yet, use the comment tool below!

Here is why Gerd is getting worried about what he likes to call the creeping ‘evilification’ of Facebook:

  1. Facebook’s sophisticated tracking and systematic drag-netting of our personal data has become its main purpose, and it’s getting way out of hand. Facebook is really good at hoovering up and data-mining every piece of information about us, everywhere, and at least for me, it’s starting to feel increasingly creepy. And once FB really gets going with their artificial intelligence (AI) stuff then they will really start boiling their 1.6 boil-the-frog frogs (and yes, all those new Indian ‘free basics’ users that will join the party). FB monitors, knows and analyses everything I do while on FB and it also tracks my browsing habits across the entire internet using their ubiquitous ‘like’ button and its spy-ware-like code. FB knows which sites I visit and whatever else I do online unless I log out (and delete their cookies, and so on), use privacy-guarding browser extension or several different browsers (all of which I do already). And if I use FB on the mobile… OMG – let’s not even talk about that. I simply don’t trust FB with all that data because I know how tempting it is to use it for anything that promises to make serious money- and they are beholden to nobody. It is abundantly clear  that FB will sell us out to the highest or most powerful bidders, whether advertisers, brands and datamining companies, or overnments and security agencies that may or may not have lawful (never mind ethical) reasons to zero in us at any given time. My bottom line: Facebook is selling us – and we have zero recourse, zero rights and zero control.
  2. Facebook is a master in algorithmic manipulation of what I see and and who I pay attention to. FB is using very powerful algorithms and intelligent, self-learning systems – and very soon, AI -, to figure out who I am, what I am like, what pushes my buttons, what floats my boat, what my opinions are, what I may want to purchase -and even worse, how I may act in the future. This is becoming a HellVen dilemma for us. Keep in mind that ‘predictive analytics’ hellven JFC gerd leonhrdare a very big deal (watch this keynote by IBM’s CEO at CES 2016 to understand why), and once FB has 2+ Billion users on mobile devices and gets data feeds from their wearables and various IoT streams… the sky is the limit. And this is dead-certain to make oodles of money for Facebook. In the meantime, we are being aptly played by Facebook to see this or not see that, and we have no idea as to why or how. If Facebook is indeed a leading global media company (and not just, as Jaron Lanier says, a mere ‘siren server‘), it must start acting like it, too. My bottom line: Facebook needs to accept the responsibilities that come with being a media company – and that includes safeguarding against errors, preventing automated manipulation and not furthering ever better ‘filter-bubbling’.
  3. Facebook’s Faustian bargain is increasingly tilting towards themselves (reminder: FB is a huge multinational corporation) – we, the users are becoming mere ‘data-engines’. The deal used to be that we, the users, get a powerful, free platform for connecting to each other, while FB gets to use our presence, our contributions and our connections to sell other things to us i.e. to use us ‘as content’. Bad enough but… at least somewhat reasonable. But now, because of its sheer size and its deep pockets, FB is actually building a ‘global brain’ – os shall we say, a kind of a Cloud-OS, based on our most personal data, all our digital breadcrumbs and our increasingly automated contributions. And because technology (and now, cognitive computing) is becoming exponentially better at slicing and dicing these oceans of data, the value of what we are supplying to FC is truly giganormous (for lack of a better word): data is indeed the new oil –  and intelligent data is the new petrol. My bottom line: this business needs to be regulated, and until it is we should probably dial back on our involvement.cognition body
  4. Facebook is inadvertently (or by design?) turning friendship (and therefore, life) into an algorithm, a machine. FB’s technology-centric, data+algorithms+AI-laced worldview is becoming detrimental to our society because it feeds of, and then purposefully amplifies our natural laziness and desire for convenience. It facilitates the gradual erosion of our innate, more holistic communication capabilities, it nudges us to de-skill ourselves and our children, it leads to increasing abdication of our social and political responsibilities and it promises shortcuts (what I like call ‘wormholes‘) where none could possibly exist. Essentially, Facebook is slyly suggesting to us that what happens there is in fact more important than what happens in ‘real life’ or (more aptly) in meat-space. At the same time, 100s of studies keep telling us that “close relationships and social connections keep you happy and healthy…humans are wired for personal connections. We probably should not spend more time on building relationships with machines (or with strangers via machines) than we do with humans. My bottom line: Facebook is tempting us to replace real relationships with their algorithmic friends+news simulations – and that’s no longer just a game. 
  5. Facebook is quietly building a giant, deep-learning mouse-trap for the automation of human relationships. FB allows us to craft our own identities online, to present ourselves in an entirely new and often manufactured way. Sure, it’s somewhat me, but only to the extend that my FB contributions make me look good… so that I can be liked. For some of us, this might be liberating or serve as an interesting role-play – but when we actually drink our own Kool-Aid and start to believe our own conjectures about who we are, virtually, we are in deep trouble. Let’s remember that FB must turn everything into algorithms, it must enforce ‘machine thinking’ because that is the only way FB can mine all that data-oil – anything that cannot be expressed as an algorithm is useless to them. And that happens to be 95% of what makes us human.  It is close relationships and real (i.e. embodied) social connections that keep us happy- humans are wired for personal connections. My bottom line: I am fed up with inadvertently pleasing Facebook’s algorithms because someone out there may ‘like’ my bait, and discover me- it’s corrosive to building real relationships.her GIF top giphy
  6. I recently realised that my online behaviour is being manipulated by the fact that I enjoy being ‘liked’ on Facebook. You know the story: every time someone hits that ‘like’ button next to your post, the endorphins start rolling,
    and you feel appreciated. I am wondering if, like a humanoid edition of a Skinner pigeon or a Pavlovian dog, we are being slowly ‘programmed’ to do pretty much whatever it takes to keep getting those positive affirmations?  This has become a driving force of what I do on Facebook – and it’s kinda pathetic. My bottom line: Facebook really knows how to exploit human weaknesses to the fullest – but merely chasing likes should not be the future of social networking.
  7. To me, Facebook has become ‘just marketing’, plain and simple –  and I’m getting tired of it. There’s more to life (professionally and otherwise) than marketing yourself (even as a professional futurist and keynote speaker:) Sure, there’s nothing wrong with ‘using Facebook as marketing’, per se, but at least for me this constant hamster-wheel has taken over way too much of my attention. Technology should not be what we seek but how we seek!  FB is getting very good at making technology is not what we seek but how we seek gerd leonhard THCbookthemselves utterly indispensable as a ‘social marketing’ platform, especially on mobile platforms (which are, of course, the future), and I really don’t like the idea of getting hooked on yet another dominant aggregation platform that I need to feed (the Google keywords game is bad enough). FB’s blend of whacko friend requests, fake profiles and spin-pages, bots that decide what content goes where, and brands doing the most bizarre things to get more ‘likes’ is becoming a bizarre parody of what ‘friendship’ actually means. The bottom line:  Facebook is in the process of creating  a global ‘Social OS’, an artificial intelligence-powered framework for communication that will be more dominant and manipulative than any other media platform we’ve ever known- and ‘human flourishing’ will be an afterthought.
  8. Facebook’s lack of transparency, and its general unwillingness to give any real control to the users is getting seriously annoying. FB is a now typical ‘data-oil’ enterprise, and it’s generating huge profits from that position. As mentioned above, FB is the Exxon-Mobil of personal data – yet it is completely unregulated.  FB is operating so deep in the data oil information currency gerd leonhardshadows of our data-clouds that we don’t even have a clue about what they are capable of doing with our data – and it seems that they intend to keep it that way. User empowerment is fine – as long as it all  happens on the FB platform, and if does not deflate the importance of FB. My bottom line: I find FB’s desire to control our digital breadcrumbs and assets more and more distasteful – how and when did FB get permission to act like ‘mission control’ over my digital life?
  9. Facebooks’s techno-imperalistic stance on net neutrality, and their feudalistic approach to the internet in general, is becoming a real problem. Sure, providing‘poor Internet for poor people’ might be better than nothing, in India, but the result will be that those ‘free users’ will think of Facebook as the Internet, period. That is just plain wrong and creates dependency and it distorts what those users think about the world.  What FB wants to do in India (‘free basics’ access) is not going to mean empowerment for those users – it will just bring them into a fancier prison and lull them into a false sense of connectivity. My bottom line: Facebook is not doing the right thing for the future of the Internet, and FB execs need to get that message, loud and clear.
  10. Facebook’s power is growing ‘gradually then suddenly’. I think it is important to note that while Facebook’s power and reach is already enormous, today, I think we often fail to understand that we are indeed at the pivot gradually then suddenly gerd leonhard speakerpoint of exponential technological change:  ‘we ain’t seen nothing yet’ as far as the evilfication of Facebook is concerned. My bottom line: on a scale of 0-100, most of the issues listed below are currently only at 7 or 8 – this is only the beginning!

So what about LinkedIn, Twitter et al?  Well, LinkedIn is a professional platform (which I pay for), and marketing yourself is front and center when it’s about jobs or business development. Even though many of their recent changes are not making me very happy, either (such as removing the ability to email select groups of people), LI’s faustian bargain is still much sustainable for me.

Twitter is more like short-form blogging and P2P/Group messaging – yes, similar concerns about tracking and profiling may arise, but compared to Facebook it’s a minor issue.

So, if you are currently following me mostly on Facebook and want to continue stay in-touch with me, be prepared for my Facebook switch-off, read ‘how to connect to Gerd Leonhard without entering Facebook’s walled garden’ and follow me on my other channels and newsletters.

Lastly: be sure to read the brilliant Scott Allan Morrison near-fiction book ‘Terms of Use‘ (along with Dave Eggers’ The Circle’, 2014) to see where Facebook may be heading in the near future.

Download this page as PDF: The evilfication of Facebook Gerd Leonhard

Gerd would really like to know what you think about these arguments – please kindly contribute to the poll on his original post, or contact him anytime via email or better yet, use the comment tool below!

Reposted from original post by Rudy de Waele aka @mtrends /

Gerd Leonhard’s critical points on Facebook are

Correct and therefore he really should quit Facebook
More or less correct but quitting Facebook would still be a bad idea
Mostly far-fetched – Gerd: stay on Facebook and suck it up!
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