The coders and programmers who developed the internet, especially its social-media functions, are (largely) American. They have had their consciousnesses grown in the warm bath of heroic pioneering Individualism and Reaganite Market assumptions. They have taken it for granted that humanity’s greatest aspiration is the desire to stride out, alone, into the wilderness and tame it, to bend it to your individual will, to make it fruitful and profitable.
Thus, they assume constant progress and innovation must be unquestionably good whatever their consequences. This also allows profit-seekers to constantly abandon markets as they become saturated, and develop new ones, encouraging ceaseless consumption: slash and burn economics. The wealth this brings to some of them seems to confirm progress and innovation’s inherent virtue and rightness.
The belief that unfettered market capitalism is entirely natural, part of the freedom of the pioneering frontier, means that online innovators have funded themselves and their inventions by pitching the internet to investors as a way of making money. They’ve pointed out the potential to turn users into consumers in new ways: to monetise them.
Taming the wilderness of the human world has come from AI’s incredible ability to compile statistics on humanity’s unruly activities and behaviour, as recorded on the web. Human behaviour can be defined in countless categories and then tabulated. Correlations can be found between all sorts of different categories, allowing for incredibly precise predictions of interests and future behaviours. Human beings are turned into statistics, numbers, as money is. Their madcap lives become regulated, predictable, limited by rigid categories and definitions.
Do these assumptions and practices somehow bleed out from the algorithms into the online communities? Is this why the internet generations are so obsessed with defining and labelling themselves and each other in mutually exclusive categories: Cis-, Het-, Trans-, Bi-Curious, Of Colour, White Privileged, TERF?