The internet is mostly bots. The majority of web traffic is generated by programs performing automated tasks. In a recent survey, more than half of those programs were malicious.
As the Democratic party struggles to make sense of its electoral college loss (winning by three million votes isn’t enough if the votes are not distributed properly) two stories are emerging.
- Sanders fans fell for Russian propaganda which they distributed widely
- Some “Bernie Bros” were actually Russian bots.
We can argue about the relative weighting of 1 and 2; what we can’t discount or deny is that however bad 2016 was, its only ever going to get worse in the future. Much, much worse.
- Russian interference worked. We are at our most divided now. There has been no repercussions for Russia. Mission accomplished.
- Bots get cheaper and cheaper via Moore’s law.
- Bots get better and better as AI progresses.
- There is no way to compete with US military power; we spend more on our Military than the next eight largest militaries combined; the most cost effective action you can take is meddling in our divided politics, where a tiny handful of votes in the right places can create minority rule.
Which leads me to this.
Stop talking about politics on the web.
It’s a largely worthless activity. I say this as someone that has poured maybe 10,000 hours into unpaid political speech on the web over the last few decades. Crafting exquisite op-ed which you are paid for, or which (seems to be read) by a million people? Eh. Okay. You can do some of that. But you know what stands a greater chance of affecting change?
- Calling your representatives. (Email and petitions don’t work–because Bots.)
- Speaking with people in person, where their emotional responses can be gauged and your arguments can be targeted. This is how Trump won. Transcripts of his speeches sound odd, incoherent, because they don’t pick up on how he surfed the crowds emotions, feeding them what they wanted to hear, watching their faces, listening to them, whipping them into a frenzy.
- Do your job more. Save the money. Spend it on your candidates and NGOs and lobbying efforts. Seriously. Shut up, go for a walk, collect some cans, take the two bucks give it to planned parenthood or the southern poverty law center, or whoever, you did something.
Someday, in five or ten or a hundred years, AI will be conscious and worth talking to. That time is not now. Stop yelling at chatbots. Go outside. Look into faces. Talk to humans. Be with people.
Don’t get played again.