The real “social dilemma”? These are our distraught elites.

What about feature length documentaries, The social dilemma? I would start with the fact that he is immune to contradiction. You have to go to Netflix, a digital streaming service, to get a 94-minute lecture on the horrors of digital life. In fact, the documentary is a “Netflix Original,” meaning it must have received some of the $17 billion the streaming giant is spending on first-party content. It is therefore the web that exploits the anti-web. But you can also think of The social dilemma like a deft and manipulative film production slamming the big digital platforms for their deft and manipulative algorithms.

The digital environment, it seems, is Plato’s cave – dancing shadows on a wall that confuse and distract you. Or it’s a variation of Hotel California, where you check in every time you turn on your smartphone but you can never leave. Or it’s an evolutionary death trap, where you’re seduced by the lure of algorithmic brain candy. This is how we are told during the film by a succession of neo-Luddites and repentant technicians who themselves have recovered from such shortcomings. They know better, and they’ll take you by the shoulders and tell you why.

Officially, The social dilemma consists of a series of interviews with experts inserted into short excerpts, which alternate with a supposedly comical docu-drama about the vexations of an average family with the smartphone, also presented in excerpts. The level of subtlety probably falls below that of Soviet propaganda, but the point is clear enough. Properly understood, the documentary is a long diatribe about the 21st century, using the digital world as a proxy.

Viewing the web as an apocalyptic political tool is now mandatory among our elites. Barack Obama, who won the presidency in 2008 thanks in part to a brilliant online campaign, recently Told Atlantic that he considers “the Internet” to be the “greatest threat to our democracy”. Francis Fukuyama, that barometer of elite opinion, states that “social mediawas “armed against democracy”. The social dilemma hurls at this disgruntled audience, riding every argument over the cliff to the most extreme conclusions.

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