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On a recent Tuesday, top news headlines touched on topics like student loan forgiveness and stimulus checks — both ways the government is positioned to help people. By contrast, a 1918 issue of the Ladies’ Home Journal urged readers in the midst of World War I, “Food will win the war! We … must help” and “Eat more fruit to save the staple foods for the fighters” — all ways folks could help the country’s war effort.
In his inaugural address in 1961, John F. Kennedy famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
At some point in American history, it seems that self-interest began to take importance over our common welfare.
Today, search engine algorithms are so advanced that the same search conducted by a left-leaning mother in Los Angeles and a right-leaning young man in Tuscaloosa may yield entirely different results. In bygone days, we watched the nightly nationwide TV news broadcast; now, we individually consume what algorithms determine we prefer based upon our past online activities.
For most of us, gone are the days of subscribing to a newspaper or two. In the 1950s, my grandfather read three morning newspapers on the train into New York City and two evening newspapers on the way back home to White Plains. He bought five fresh copies every day for my grandmother to enjoy upon his arrival. Today, we read our “news feeds,” which are algorithm-driven and often may not contain much news at all. In his 2016 article, “The Long and Brutal History of Fake News,” writer Jacob Soll posited that “the majority of the population does not rely on professionally reported news sources and so much news is filtered via social media.”
Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology, in the documentary The Social Dilemma, said, “Never before in history have 50 designers — 20- to 35-year-old white guys in California — made decisions that would have an impact on 2 billion people.”
In my view, algorithms encourage self-interest. As leaders in the communications industry, I believe it is our responsibility to promote the antithesis: civic action and public service.
Click here to read the full article written by Big Buzz CEO Wendy O’Donovan Phillips.