In my review of David Chapman’s Better Without AI, I fundamentally agreed with his assessment that recommender engine AIs are “deliberately”1 whipping up the culture war for ad clicks, and we need to somehow prevent this.
However, unlike Chapman, I can make no claim to be neutral in the culture war. I am clearly on one side of the divide.
It isn’t necessary to be neutral towards culture war issues, to be against the culture war. The key, if you are roused by some event linked to the culture war, is to think, “what can I practically do about this”.
Lets say, for instance, that I wish that The Rings of Power had been written to be as nearly true to Tolkien’s vison as The Fellowship of the Ring, and not an excuse for a load of left-wing propaganda.
What can I practically do about it?
Pretty obviously, nothing. I can refuse to watch the one they made, except that it never occurred to me to watch it in the first place. I can cancel my Amazon subscription, but that won’t mean much to the people who made the show, and again I will probably be doing that anyway once I’ve finished Clarkson’s Farm 2 because there isn’t really anything I watch on it any more.
I could write to Amazon explaining that I don’t find their programming relevant to me any more. That actually makes sense, but the cost/benefit ratio is very high.
What most people do is bitch about it publicly on social media. That is surely completely ineffective, and might even be counterproductive.
An anonymous2 voice shouting in public is not persuasive to anyone. In private, with people I know (whether they are likely to agree or not), I will share my feelings. That might help, and is a natural form of communication anyway. It also doesn’t generate ad clicks for the AI.
The reason I say it might be counterproductive is that by the behaviour of the leftist agitators, stirring up opposition is obviously their aim. As I said a while ago, In the case of the drag shows, the only credible motivation behind it that I can imagine is desire to upset the people who are upset by it.3 Yes, there are some perverts who want to actually do this stuff, but the public support for it comes from people who want to make it a hot public issue. Getting involved is playing into their hands.
Should we just let all this stuff happen then? Mostly, yes. The exception is, again, “what can I practically do about this”. If this is happening in some school in North London I have no connection with, the answer is nothing. Still more if it is happening in another country. I wrote in 2016: I consider local stories from far away as none of my business and refuse to consider them4. There is no reason anyone who is involved should care about my opinion. On the other hand, if it is happening somewhere I do have a connection, I should act — not to express my feelings, but to have an actual effect. This is similar to the recommendation that Chapman has for companies — not that they should launch into the culture war, but that they should drive it out. “Take this out of my office”.
This isn’t a clear route to victory. Nothing is that easy. But playing the culture war game, screaming in public, is no route to victory either. Take only measures that actually help, and those will generally be private and local.
From my biased viewpoint, the culture war is very asymetrical. One side is trying to overturn cultural standards, and the other is resisting and retaliating. In that sense, I think even Chapman’s call to drop it is actually a right-wing position. I think without a loud public clamour, most of the recent excesses would be quietly rolled back in private by people who care about reality. Unfortunately, the loud public clamour is not going away any time soon, but playing the recommender AI’s game by joining it, even on the “right” side, is helping to maintain it rather than stop it.
Once you rule out participating in the culture war, the next step is to stop consuming it. A family member watches Tucker Carlson regularly. The presentation of his show disgusts me slightly. Not because I disagree with Carlson; I think he is right about practically everything. But then what? All he is doing is getting people outraged about things they can’t do anything about. What is the effect on them of watching this show? They make noise on social media, which is harmful, and they vote for right-wing politicians, which is the thing that has been proved by experiment to not do any good.