Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age. Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called “the freedom of mind.” There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences.
The above paragraph is from the transcript of this month’s address by George Soros to the World Economic Forum in Davos.
He believes that Google and Facebook need to be tamed, and that this really is achievable.
His provocative speech addresses other issues too, most especially the rise of destructive nationalism (and how to combat it), with particular reference to Europe, China, North Korea and the USA.
The full text is here.
A short report which focuses on Soros’s remarks about the giants of so-called “social” media is here.
Footnote: I took the photo in Kyoto, Japan, on 8 May 2017. (photo is copyright Doug Spencer)