Scout is inciting the little people to run around like chickens without heads because the Big Bad killer robots (AKA AI) is brainwashing the masses!
As the headlines screamed, The future of democracy is at stake!
Huh. Let the AI try to convince teens not to drink, do drugs, trash talk mommy and daddy as they hit them up for an entitlement lifestyle, or have sex with their father's lecherous smooth-talking friends. Really, let's see how well that works.
Yes, darlings, Scout is analog propaganda trying to make you afraid of digital propaganda.
But Policy Options -- another propaganda mill for credulous Left-of-Centre Canadians, thought the article was good enough to site in their own drivel with this meta-propaganda headline:
Predicting the private traits of voters is dangerous to the project of creating and maintaining a free and functioning democracy.
Memo to Policy Options: private traits of voters has always been on the minds of politicians. Have you ever gone to a government agency on any level and asked to see the information they have on you?
They have pictures of your house. They have your tax returns and know what you make before you actually filed your taxes. They know how many times you crossed the border. They know your medical history. They know if you voted in the last election.
And that's without Big Tech.
They know all of that and for decades...
And yet, governments keep changing.
Ask the Ontario Liberals how well they are doing in the polls. A decade and a half in power with no competent opposition and a wily leader -- and all that data and they may not even retain official party status by the end of the week.
Where is the threat to democracy?
Big Data is not saving the retail sector. Big Data did not help journalism.
For all the fear-mongering going on about privacy, we know that there is a glut of our personal information out there to the point that it has become a cheap commodity.
You may know a lot about tastes and habits of people, but only to a point: if something in the environment is a threat, your predictions go right out the window.
Meta-propaganda (propaganda about other people's propaganda) hinges on a narrative that people with godly knowledge of our inner-most thoughts means they can control, manipulate, and predict our future behaviour.
But only if the environment is stable and at a baseline, which is rare: one bad storm destroys one neighbuorhood, and control is lost. Uprising, mobs, and anarchy are no match for AI. It is people's goodwill that gives an illusion of that kind of higher-level control.
And there is another big hole in the AI theory: one that hinges knowing people on a micro individualistic level. That is an inefficient and costly form of propaganda that requires too much data -- and even if you have technology that can plough through enormous amounts of data in a short period of time, its failure rate will be too high: people have different motives for behaviours and do not always truly like what they are doing, but there is a rig that limits their options. There are too many illusions that AI cannot detect.
If I am poor, I may take a bike to work, but I do not want to admit I am poor because if I do, I know I will be treated differently and lose out on opportunities to dig myself out.
So I tell people that I am biking to save the environment, and I may eve buy my own hype until I come into money at the casino, and then go out and buy a gas guzzling expensive car because I was never an environmentalist at heart.
So AI propaganda doesn't hit at the level that actually counts: it hits at the higher level shallow things that fit an over-educated Middle Class Leftist's idea of what propaganda is, and remind me of the top end of Abraham Maslow's pyramid of needs:
What the Left fret about is Growth Needs. They are pathologically obsessed with them because there must be a façade of success while you keep up with the envious Jones's and stick it to your nagging conservative parents that you are superior to their yokel ways and ideology. This is bourgeois trying to emulate success and following a sanctioned script.
That is not propaganda. That is persuasion and manipulation, and shallow needs are fleeting.
On the other hand, Deficiency Needs is the place where genuine propaganda strikes, even when the economy is booming and there is peace.
#MeToo is an example of using real propagandistic elements in its narrative: this wasn't about the troubles at work, but the threat of rape and the bigger threat of ending up homeless if you reported your superior and he was believed and you were fired and blacklisted.
This is not to say #MeToo is a lie or a witch hunt: but propaganda isn't always about lying -- but by using our innate fears to make us scared or angry enough to allow someone else to tell us what to do. Often, it involves taking one extremely salient example of brutality and then pretending it is representative of the whole of reality.
As #MeToo is not a movement with any clear leadership and was always highly disorganized, it is not a movement to fear or dismiss as some sort of anti-man campaign to ensure men lose their rights and are villainized.
#MeToo is a movement that is rare in that the target audience was not young childless men, but women who have careers. It was effective because all those women had something vital in common. Their survival and safety depended on having a career. It is why the movement worked as well as it did.
But Policy Options and Scout are engaging in propaganda about propaganda: they are using fear and the threat of the loss of freedom and enslavement to push their narrative. That is deep-level biological propaganda. It is also partisan, political, ideological, and chauvinist propaganda as well: you are being threatened by these foreign agents with killer robots who will brainwash you...and then you will be their mindless servants as democracy crumbles in oblivion!
That is pure propaganda that clearly hits every one of Maslow's Deficiency Needs to the point of absurdity.
There is propaganda out there, but it is not something to fear. You have a brain and you can think. When I wrote Don't Believe It!, I had an entire chapter on war propaganda -- and showed readers how to think stories through rationally before deciding whether the yarn was worth modifying their actions and beliefs.
It was not as deep or detailed as I would have liked, but the scope of the book limited what I could say -- but it was enough to show that you reflect before you react.
Nor did I ever suggest people hide and fear reading lies. You could read them, and analyze them boldly before deciding for yourself whether it was credible or not. I suggested even researching directly if you weren't sure.
At no time did I ever use fear to point out that there are lies and propaganda swimming all around us.
And that's the difference. My aim was to put power in the hands of news consumers, not getting them to cower and then beg Nanny Government to save them. The centre of gravity should always be earned -- and should be in the hands of many, not one or a few.
AI is just a tool, and while tools can be misused -- they can only be misused if we fear them in the hands of others...