Eli Pariser

American author, political and internet activist
17 December 1980 —

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To give people control, you have to make clearly evident what the options are, because options largely exist only to the degree that they're perceived.

You have to see lots of ways of living in order to choose the best life for yourself. This is what the best cities do: They cultivate a vibrant array of cultures and allow their citizens to find their way to the neighborhoods and traditions in which they're most at home.

Without connections and overlap between communities, subcultures that make up the city don't evolve. As a result, the ghettos breed stagnation and intolerance.

Technology is no more benevolent than a wrench or a screwdriver. It's only good when people make it do good things and use it in good ways.

Technology doesn't solve every problem of its own accord. If it did, we wouldn't have millions of people starving to death in a world with an oversupply of food.

In the early days of the Internet, this was one of the medium's great hopes - that it would finally offer a medium whereby whole towns - and indeed countries - could co-create their culture through discourse. Personalization has given us something very different: a public sphere sorted and manipulated by algorithms, fragmented by design, and hostile to dialogue.

Democracy works only if we citizens are capable of thinking beyond our narrow self-interest. But to do so, we need a shared view of the world we cohabit. We need to come into contact with other peoples' lives and needs and desires. The filter bubble pushes us in the opposite direction - it creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists. And while this is great for getting people to shop online, it’s not great for getting people to make better decisions together.

When people don't have to worry about having their basic needs met, they care a lot more about having products and leaders that represent who they are.

If knowledge is power, then asymmetries in knowledge are asymmetries in power.

In a small town or an apartment building with paper-thin walls, what I know about you is roughly the same as what you know about me. That's a basis for a social contract, in which we'll deliberately ignore some of what we know. The new privacyless world does away with that contract. I can know a lot about you without your knowing I know.

As long as a database exists, it's potentially accessible by the state.

It's the outliers who make things interesting and give us inspiration. And it's the outliers who are the first signs of change.

How we behave is a balancing act between our future and present selves. In the future, we want to be fit, but in the present, we want the candy bar. In the future, we want to be a well-rounded, wellinformed intellectual virtuoso, but right now we want to watch Jersey Shore. Behavioral economists call this present bias - the gap between your preferences for your future self and your preferences in the current moment.

Because personalized filters usually have no Zoom Out function, it's easy to lose your bearings, to believe the world is a narrow island when in fact it's an immense, varied continent.

Google is great at helping us find what we know we want, but not at finding what we don't know we want.


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