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The Reality Game by Samuel Woolley

I am so glad I read this book! For someone who is at the start of learning about artificial intelligence, data science and augmented reality (AR) and the impact these things have on politics, it was a brilliant starting point! It was in depth, but wasnt too much to scare you off and I was incredibly impressed with how well thought out it was, the research and attention to detail in it.

The Reality Game was incredibly thought provoking. Woolley really highlighted the dangers of social media but also gave some really good recommendations on what we can do, to ensure social media isnt as dangerous. After all, the purpose of the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and other platforms is to bring us closer together! 

The danger of social media, as explained very well in The Reality Game is how information gets manipulated, shared and believed. It is incredibly difficult to distinguish between ‘fake news’ and real, factual news. One way example explored in The Reality Game is the use of fake Twitter bots - which really ‘took off’ during 2016. The bots are created with the intention of sharing fake content, whether it be fake videos or images - and getting people to believe that that is the truth. Woolley really emphasises the fact we, as individuals need to be more conscious of the data we’re being fed as well as lobby the government and relevant organizations to do more to protect us.

“[AI] They have opened up an online world where the distinction between human and machine is increasingly blurry.”

One thought I did have from reading this, is the increase role in social media - being targeted, and having political messages almost personalised a new form of democracy tethering on the edge of authoritarianism? The only reason I suggest this, is defined by Britannica as the “principle of blind submission to authority, as opposed to individual freedom of thought and action” and that there is a concentration of power “ in the hands of a leader or a small elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people.” We know Cambridge Analytica caused a storm in 2016 with both the UKs referendum result on the EU and the election of Donald Trump as President, but they’ve disbanded… but since this, it begs the question of how many other companies are being run from underground, that are working within politics which tells us what to think?

“I argue that we should bake the values of democracy and human rights into our technology. We must prioritize equality and freedom in the tools we build so that the next wave of devices will not be used to further damage the truth.”

As technology becomes more advanced and social media is used by candidates to appeal to their target audience, we all have our part to play in ensuring 

  1. We use social media for its real purpose, of bringing us together again, instead of dividing us

  2. We dont lose sight of what is important to us, because otherwise: we’re all going to be living in a world which is a new form of democratic, but with a large hint of authoritarianism.

Samuel Woolley: The Reality Game: Text
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