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Monday, March 26, 2018

Madison and Facebook

At WSJ, Paul Bergevin writes:
Com­pare to­day’s plat­forms to the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion: a large ag­gre­ga­tion of cit­i­zens or­ga­nized on the prin­ci­ple of self-gov­ern­ment. As a work of de­sign, the Con­sti­tu­tion is a bril­liant piece of ar­chi­tec­ture, an in­tel­lec­tual foun­da­tion that has stood the test of time. If James Madi­son were a soft­ware de­vel­oper in a Har­vard dorm room and not a Vir­ginia planter, we might say he was a bet­ter coder than Mark Zucker­berg. The Con­sti­tu­tion un­der­stands hu­man na­ture. Face­book, dan­ger­ously at times, does not. 
In de­sign­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion, Madi­son man­aged to ap­peal to peo­ple’s bet­ter an­gels while at the same time cal­cu­lat­ing man’s ca­pac­ity to harm and be­have badly. Face­book’s de­sign­ers, on the other hand, ap­pear to have as­sumed the best about peo­ple. They ap­par­ently ex­pected users to con­nect with friends only in be­nign ways. While the site fea­tures plenty of baby and puppy pho­tos, it has also be­come a place where ISIS brags about be­head­ings and Rus­sians ped­dling mis­in­for­ma­tion seek to un­der­mine the in­sti­tu­tions of a free so­ci­ety.