The Chaos Machine:The Inside Story of How Social Media Rewired Our Minds
February 15, 2023 2:17 PM - Subscribe

From a New York Times investigative reporter, this “authoritative and devastating account of the impacts of social media” (New York Times Book Review) tracks the high-stakes inside story of how Big Tech’s breakneck race to drive engagement—and profits—at all costs fractured the world. The Chaos Machine is “an essential book for our times” (Ezra Klein).

We all have a vague sense that social media is bad for our minds, for our children, and for our democracies. But the truth is that its reach and impact run far deeper than we have understood. Building on years of international reporting, Max Fisher tells the gripping and galling inside story of how Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social network preyed on psychological frailties to create the algorithms that drive everyday users to extreme opinions and, increasingly, extreme actions. As Fisher demonstrates, the companies’ founding tenets, combined with a blinkered focus on maximizing engagement, have led to a destabilized world for everyone.

Traversing the planet, Fisher tracks the ubiquity of hate speech and its spillover into violence, ills that first festered in far-off locales, to their dark culmination in America during the pandemic, the 2020 election, and the Capitol Insurrection. Through it all, the social-media giants refused to intervene in any meaningful way, claiming to champion free speech when in fact what they most prized were limitless profits. The result, as Fisher shows, is a cultural shift toward a world in which people are polarized not by beliefs based on facts, but by misinformation, outrage, and fear.

His narrative is about more than the villains, however. Fisher also weaves together the stories of the heroic outsiders and Silicon Valley defectors who raised the alarm and revealed what was happening behind the closed doors of Big Tech. Both panoramic and intimate, The Chaos Machine is the definitive account of the meteoric rise and troubled legacy of the tech titans, as well as a rousing and hopeful call to arrest the havoc wreaked on our minds and our world before it’s too late.
posted by gentlyepigrams (2 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been recommending this a lot in threads about twitter/social media and politics and polarization recently because I think it really is on point for a lot of those issues. The blurb I quoted (and forgot to mark as the publisher's quote, sorry!) is a bit overblown but the book is worth your time if you're interested in the topic(s).
posted by gentlyepigrams at 2:21 PM on February 15, 2023

Thanks for posting this, I've added it to my reading list as I've been wanting to pick up a well-researched book on this exact topic for a while.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:39 AM on February 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

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