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They Don’t Represent Us (Part 1)

A book: “They Don’t Represent Us” by Lawrence Lessig

Some notes about Part 1, in which Lessig talks about the flaws in our system…

Lessig divides his analysis of inequality problem into “us and them” which he tackles in two chapters.

Chapter 1. (Them)

Five aspects of inequality: (1) the ability to vote, (2) gerrymandering and polarization, (3) the Senate and its rules, (4) the electoral college and winner-take-all apportionment, and (5) money.

Lessig points out that these inequalities do not uniformly bend our system to the wealthy/elite but rather facilitate dysfunction to the point that our government no longer functions. There are too many points where change can be “vetoed” with the result that no problems get solved.

Chapter 2. (Us)

Three technologies and a market: (1) polling and radio/TV broadcasting, (2) cable, (3) the Internet, and (4) advertising.

Lessig concedes that our culture has blossomed but laments that our democracy has suffered. 

…shared reality is gone. Consuming … individually has rendered us isolated collectively. Think lounge chairs in echo chambers. We are ideologically alone, together. We are divided and ignorant … driven to even more division and ignorance. (p. 83)

To his mind, it is the attention-driven advertising industry that is at the core of this dysfunctionality, as questions like “What is true?” give way to “How do we get more eyeballs?”.

Having constructed this argument, Lessig still has 30 or more pages that wander thru AI and Google and Facebook. Data science run amok in the service of business models. How we are ignorant of key issues and incapable of self-government. 

I confess that amid all the detail in those 30 pages, I lost the kernel of his argument. Still, I look forward to the second half of the book that addresses solutions.