A lack of self-awareness is a terrible thing to suffer from, or more precisely make other people suffer. It’s even worse when it’s attached to otherwise intelligent and successful people, like the business and intellectual leadership of Google. The now-infamous hour long video of a 2016 election post mortem bemoaning Hillary’s loss and the forces that led to the election of Donald Trump (Sergei Brin was “deeply offended” by the election as it “conflicts with many of Google’s values”. Spare a thought for the poor little offended tech multi-billionaire, everyone) has now been covered even by the mainstream media, even if from the usual angle of “conservatives pounce on…”.
At one point during the conference, Brin talks about the typical mentality of Trump voters.
He argues that those with ‘routine jobs’ were more likely to vote for Trump than those with ‘non-routine’ jobs – and said ‘boredom’ might explain the President’s popularity.
‘There’s actually a lot of historical precedent for boredom being a huge factor in vote choice,’ Brin told the crowd.
‘And actually in building extremism. We’ve done a lot of work on extremism that shows a high correlation with boredom.’
‘Data suggests that boredom led to the rise of fascism and communism. It sort of sneaks up sometimes, really bad things.’
So on and so forth, castigating the low-information voters and strategising what a behemoth like Google can do in the future to prevent this horror scenario from happening ever again (it would be nice to see that “a lot of work” that Google has apparently done, because a correlation between boredom and the rise of fascism and communism seems like utter crap to anyone who has actually studied the history of the early 20th century. On the other hand it sound exactly like something that Californian tech workers would dream up, possibly by observing the correlation between their “non-routine” jobs and their woke progressivism. “If only more people were like us, shooting hoops during lunchtime in our cafeteria-though space hub, this country would never vote Republican again.”)
And yet, all those seemingly brilliant business and technical people who bemoan the stupid prole voters who are slouching towards fascism are more than happy to accommodate the Chinese Communist Party’s desires to keep their population censored, surveilled and docile. Sounds like a bit of a high-tech fascism to me.
Last month, The Intercept reported how “Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest.”
Yesterday, The Intercept provided more detail of Google’s Project Dragonfly:
Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users’ searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people’s queries, The Intercept can reveal.
The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.
Previously undisclosed details about the plan, obtained by The Intercept on Friday, show that Google compiled a censorship blacklist that included terms such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin.
Not only will China’s authoritarian government be able to censor their people more effectively, but they will be able to better see what other nefarious information the citizens are searching for.
What’s the bet that this technology will be linked to China’s new Social Credit System, where the government watches and judges every person’s actions and scores them on their “good citizenship”, with tangible consequences for your options and opportunities? “Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not).” And indeed what you search for online. This is now the Marketist-Leninist China.
People with low ratings will have slower internet speeds; restricted access to restaurants, nightclubs or golf courses; and the removal of the right to travel freely abroad with, I quote, “restrictive control on consumption within holiday areas or travel businesses”. Scores will influence a person’s rental applications, their ability to get insurance or a loan and even social-security benefits. Citizens with low scores will not be hired by certain employers and will be forbidden from obtaining some jobs, including in the civil service, journalism and legal fields, where of course you must be deemed trustworthy. Low-rating citizens will also be restricted when it comes to enrolling themselves or their children in high-paying private schools. I am not fabricating this list of punishments. It’s the reality Chinese citizens will face. As the government document states, the social credit system will “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.
In democracy, people rate the government; in authoritarianism, the government rates the people. This is the sort of social engineering using the very best Western technology that Google is happy to facilitate in China. But how terrible about that proto-fascist Trump and the legions of his brainwashed minions! Yes, tell us all about the struggle against fascism, Google.
There is an identical technocratic sentiment behind the efforts to Make Democrats Great Again and assisting Chi-coms control their population’s wrongthink: the wise elites know best how the society should be run, which gives them a licence to use all their power and influence in conjunction with the most advanced technology they control to make their “vision of the anointed” (as Thomas Sowell had it) the reality. In China it’s the obsession that the people don’t come across subversive ideas like democracy and human rights; in the United States it’s the crusade against conservative voices and non-mainstream news sources.
The world’s most popular website, which controls what information you see, is in the hands of these sorts of people. Yes, it’s business, but it’s also a mission; we’re not just customers, we are subjects of social engineering on a truly massive scale. I’m much more concerned about Google’s soft fascism than about Trump’s supposed one.