And The Future Of Society, According To Elon Musk
And The Future Of Society, According To Elon Musk

And The Future Of Society, According To Elon Musk

John Robb, a military analyst, sees a new threat to the stability of the world. He says that a “network swarm” of digitally connected Western institutions, most of which are linked through Twitter, could escalate a conflict with Russia in a way that Western governments can’t control.

Robb thinks that the people in charge of platforms like Twitter have a duty to be aware of how quickly their platforms can spread. It’s not clear that Musk is thinking this way, but Robb argues that he should be if he wants to save civilization.

I called Robb yesterday to talk about Musk’s takeover, nuclear Armageddon, and the need for a digital Bill of Rights. The length and clarity of this transcript have been changed.

What does Twitter have to do with how civilization will develop in the future?

Twitter creates a framework for events and information. No matter what the outcome of the fight over that framing is, it ends up being the dominant media frame.

And what you see on Twitter would be more up-to-date than what you see on the evening news or in the big newspapers. In politics, it’s the same. First and foremost, policy ideas and campaign ideas are tossed around on Twitter. There, they fight, and then they get rolled out. It is now a part of this new way of making decisions.

Great. What could go wrong, anyway?

Tribes, markets, and bureaucracies were the three primary modes of social decision-making that we utilized to get things done. It took them a long time (hundreds of years), but they finally got themselves into a form that would not be harmful to us once the sharp edges were rounded off. There should be restrictions on what the markets are able to do, as well as circuit breakers, ethics codes for bureaucrats, and other similar measures.

However, this will take some time. Right now, we are in the very beginning stages of figuring out what to do with networks and how decisions are made within networks. We’ve seen dangerous groupthink develop before. What is different about a network that is linked digitally?

It can mobilize a lot faster. It can also be a great way to get people to care about each other. Through the Internet, we think about that in a different way. It’s a lot easier to set off. We don’t have the same kinds of safeguards that we have in the real world to stop that from going too far, which can make you see things in much more extreme ways.

And these things aren’t run the way most things are. With a few phone calls, it would be possible to stop a news organization from calling for extreme measures. You can’t turn off the network unless you turn off the whole thing. Tell me more about this “network swarm” idea.

This one thing came about because of the political response to January 6. As of the beginning of 2021, almost all of the corporations agreed that you should limit public debate and limit frames and ways of looking at information that could be dangerous.

And The Future Of Society, According To Elon Musk
And The Future Of Society, According To Elon Musk

There was a violent attack on the Capitol on January 6. What could be wrong with putting safety first?

As is always the case in this kind of situation, the limits get bigger, wider, and cover more and more topics. You end up with a network decision-making system that is very limited, is upstream of media, policy, and politics, and is pretty stagnant. It also gets rid of a lot of the disagreement or different ways of looking at things that could be useful in the future.

It’s different from what brought down the Soviet Union, which was a system where decisions were made by a central committee and anything that couldn’t be done by that committee was ignored or not used. It seems like “the swarm” makes it more likely that society will slowly fall apart. Why do you worry about something bad happening all of a sudden?

It’s great at getting people together and putting on enough pressure for even the U.S. president, who at the time was the most powerful person in the world, to back down. It all started when Russia invaded Ukraine. That invasion sped up and deepened the war, cut Russia off from the rest of the world, and brought us close to a nuclear war.

Most of the people who looked at this were people who were used to the Cold War. They were used to working within the rules set by nation-state actors and how they made decisions. They didn’t know at all that tens of thousands of companies were cutting ties with Russia, even though they didn’t have to. They also didn’t know that people like Musk and Starlink were hacking Russian systems to help Ukraine financially and in other ways.

Don’t people in this network just help the government and our national priorities?

It was all run by the network. When it came to putting an embargo on Russia, the Western governments were taking measured steps, but the network forced, persuaded, or influenced corporations to do it instead. What the Biden administration did was light years behind that. And the rhetoric about this being a war against evil, a war against authoritarianism, and an existential threat came first on the network. Months later, it showed up in the way the Biden administration talked about things.

Why shouldn’t foreign policy be based on networks that are connected digitally?

A network doesn’t know that it’s going to die. It doesn’t fit well with the old way of keeping the world safe, which was to keep the nuclear peace. It was important to be aware of your own death so you wouldn’t do something that would lead to the end of the world. The network doesn’t attack in a way that makes sense in terms of size.

So, in some ways, do you agree more with those who want to cut people off from these networks and make it harder for people to say what they want?

You would only put broad limits on things if they were going to get out of hand. I think of it more like when algorithmic trading makes a market crash. What is protected in the Bill of Rights is not the same as what can be said online. There needs to be a new kind of digital rights, mostly because being online gives you a lot of power and because we are so close to each other when thousands of people are streaming into our phones.

What’s wrong with how people can express themselves and make decisions online now?

Right now, we’re bouncing back and forth between a monarchical approach with Musk, where it’s up to him to figure out what to do, and a bunch of bureaucrats in trust and safety who work based on theories or ideas that not everyone agrees with. I’d rather know about it.

Musk has brought back the Twitter account of former President Donald Trump. Was it wrong to kick him off, to begin with?

There is a reason to cut Trump off, but I was worried that we hadn’t written it down or agreed on it as a group. Disconnecting a sitting U.S. president who hasn’t been charged with a crime showed a level of disrespect for outside power structures that we didn’t want to have as a long-term norm. If you push for disconnection now, you might not be as happy if the power structure changes.

What would you tell Musk?

Find out what the limit is for extreme mobilization and work on digital rights. Make things official and try to get other networks on board so that it becomes a standard.

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About Sam Houston 1811 Articles
Hello, I'm Sam Houston, and I'm proud to be a part of the team as a content writer. My journey into journalism has been quite an exciting ride, and it all began with a background in content creation. My roots as a content writer have equipped me with the essential skills needed to craft engaging narratives and convey information effectively. This background proved invaluable when I decided to make the transition into journalism. The transition allowed me to channel my storytelling abilities into producing news articles that not only inform but also captivate our readers.

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