Fighting the Attention-Persuasion Complex

How do you learn about the world outside your personal experience? Where did your worldview come from?

Beyond school and friends/family, the answer is some form of media. At least now, thanks to the internet, we have many more options of who to trust to learn facts and get honest perspectives. But that makes these decisions much harder, with so many alternatives to consider as we look for an understanding of reality but also try to avoid getting stuck in comfortably biased echo chambers.

But working against us in many ways is the media’s self-interest. They have a natural bias, as everyone does, but they also need to pay for their work, and perhaps even make a profit. This results in what I call the attention-persuasion complex. It is unavoidable. They want our attention, and at some level, want to persuade us of something, now or in the future.

Usually, the problem is not with the creator. They want to express themselves or educate us. Their bias is usually obvious and easily dealt with. The issue is with the network and/or advertisers. They pay the creator based on the attention/persuasion achieved, and so exert pressure on the creator or us as consumers to make this happen. Every overt or sneaky psychological method to succeed is considered. That’s the battle we’re up against, and most people don’t even know it.

So while many people point out this problem, I haven’t seen anybody propose a solution. Here is mine:

1. Create a better social media infrastructure.
– Decentralized/federated
– Use it to replace video/audio channels & algorithms

2. Make it easier to broadly fund open access media.
– Monthly targeted donation programs
– Automated donation distribution programs
– Advocate end of all media monopolies & advertising models

3. Educate the public about the problems.
– Civics classes at an early age
– Continually point out examples of how it fails us