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It’s here, another profile of another young man corrupted by Big Tech’s unruly algorithms, and another opportunity for us to unload our blame on Silicon Valley.
This weekend, the New York Times chronicled 26-year-old Caleb Cain’s journey to and from the alt-right, facilitated by YouTube’s recommendation algorithm, which takes users from zero to 100 on the ideological scale in jarring speed. It’s a fascinating trip, and well-worth the profile for its representative value—and I say that as someone Caleb’s age, having been tempted down my fair share of YouTube rabbit holes.
Impulse - Class - Algorithm - Behavior - YouTube
It’s odd, though, how the impulse of the chattering class is to blame an algorithm, rather than the human behavior that shapes it. I agree that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm steers vulnerable young minds in unfortunate directions—playing a bit part in radicalizing some unknown portion of them—but the question should really be why our minds are vulnerable.
It’s a curiosity borne of our weak moral bearings, and exploited successfully by YouTube’s system to keep users on its website as long as possible. The algorithm gets its power from our moral confusion.
Confusion - Antidote - YouTube - Form - Personalities
Sometimes this confusion finds a positive antidote on YouTube, in the form of popular personalities with serious answers you won’t find on classroom reading lists like Ben Shapiro or Christina Hoff Sommers. (Jordan Peterson’s popularity is explained well by this dynamic.) Sometimes, as in Caleb’s case, the website’s expansive library of darker content appeals more.
Caleb, who “successfully climbed out of a right-wing...
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