tv William Davies Nervous States CSPAN April 13, 2019 12:10pm-1:31pm EDT
[applause] >> every yearbook tv covers book fairs and festivals around the country, 400 today. is look at the events coming up, this weekend watch live coverage of the los angeles times festival of books from the university of southern california and later in the spring the national antiracist book festival at american university in washington dc as well as live coverage of the gaithersburg book festival in maryland. for more information about upcoming book fairs and festivals and to watch previous festival coverage click the book fairs tab on booktv.org. [inaudible conversations] >> thank you for coming out.
welcome to jackson in williamsburg. appreciate the big turnout for a great event. just before we begin, a couple brief notes. if you need to use the bathroom ask for the key at the register. the store is open until 10:00. if you want to browse the results, yes, here tonight we have william davies, political economist in the university of london and contributor to publications including the atlantic and the new york times, his book "nervous states: democracy and the decline of reason" will be especially irresistible to lovers of philosophy and political science as experts are attacked as partisan. statistics and scientific findings decried as propaganda
and public debate devolved into personal assault. in conversation with davis will be max reed, a writer and editor at new york magazine where he writes a column about the internet and other signs of the apocalypse that he writes and edits future stories and packages about the culture of technology and he is a former editor in chief of gawker and founder of i are oh club and involves internet technology, media, fringe politics, youtube where the dog rides the lawnmower and the places where those things overlap. join me in welcoming william davies and max reed. thank you. >> it is an incredibly broad range of subjects that are incredibly broad. i believe the new york times called it brilliant but broad.
to give a few minutes of introduction outlining the ideas and arguments in the book and we will take it from there. >> i will put that forward when i go through a promotion in the us and london. let me say how this book came about, and in my own country, people wondering what is going on with our politics, we had a referendum in june 2016 which posed fundamental questions about the role of experts, and evidence-based in the european union is so strong or reasonably seek to defy the evidence.
and a similar sense of that moment in november 2016 where much of the received wisdom was overturned and there seems to be a sense that people were gratuitously, gleefully acting against the seeming instructions of a reasonable evidence-based thing to do. and the questions of truth and fact and evidence were also at the absolute center of how that crisis was understood. there were three books published called post truth and this idea of post truth took off as an idea to frame what happened to democracy in the western world. i was uncomfortable with the idea of post truth. i didn't think it told us what was the truth that was being
moved beyond, nor did it clarify what the post aspects to this new era was. it also seemed to imply a rather simple problem and solutions to this possible refusal for expert authority that was taking off in democratic societies at the time. there were liars in politics, there had been lies told in the brexit referendum. donald trump seems on a frequent basis lying about things but to only understand the political moment as if this could end when we get reasonable fact-based evidence-based figures back into control then things return
to normal seemed to underestimate the deeper lying forces that generated this particular moment in time a sociologist coming interested in making sense through studying historical trend and ideas and understanding how the president has been shaped in the way that it has. i want to avoid some of the kind of easier or more attractive ways of making sense of this moment and to understand rather than condemn it or rule it out of hand. how do i do this? the book as max mentioned with positive and negative reviews have touched on all sorts of areas with eight chapters. i look at the origins of expertise and the earliest examples of policymaking in the 1660s in england. i look at mark zuckerberg's
weird obsession with telepathy to trace ideas and sentiments between different human bodies and brains. i look at the origins of propaganda and use of national symbol and sentiments as a way to mobilize mass populations during the napoleonic wars of the 19th century and i look at the strange controversy surrounding trump's inauguration crowd in his weird obsession with exactly what the size of the crowd was as a way of using it as a way of defying other forms of objective measures. and weaving through empirical examples, historical origin stories and a simple question, and very important implications for how politics work.
what do we want knowledge to do and what use do you expect knowledge to perform in the public sphere and ultimately the analysis in the book comes down to two answers to that question. the first is knowledge can provide with a type of shared reality we can agree on in spite of whatever moral differences we might have a cultural differences, religious differences, but through some expert authority, an account of the world, picture of the world, people might hate each other have fundamental moral differences and political differences can nevertheless agree on certain claims about the nature of reality. this is what most people in the liberal tradition with liberal sympathies and politics probably mean by knowledge,
this type of objective, what many people might say is the truth. something that has been recorded or discovered by experts, that is what we mean by objective reality, this is what being objective refers to, the term fact refers to. what various techniques have been developed over the last 350 years in order to make that knowledge possible and available to the public and policy in academic journals, fact checking in newspapers, forms of accounting techniques, statistics, and other ways of trying to provide this picture of the world that people can agree with and a lot of the book is about trying to understand where did that particular idea of knowledge
come from and the reasons it no longer functions so successfully to the extent that it used to do and we can talk a little bit about that. i won't go into the answers i give to that but the answers i give when we think of this politically and as a social question rather than that is the truth is it provides a basis for trust and peace of chapter in the book, and what we think of as objective facts, viewed pragmatically or politically, it performs an important service allowing people to engage in civil conduct. the disadvantage of this knowledge is it is slow to assemble but it is methodical. by the time it is possible to ascertain the objective facts, the world has moved on in various ways.
often arrived too late. and fast-moving environments it seems slow, it seems rather out of touch and the sense of expertise being out of touch is partly a symptom of a world that is moving too fast and problems that are moving too quickly for those objective expert knowledge claims in order to grasp. there is a second part of knowledge, the knee-jerk reactions in the face of forms of populism or post truth or political problems. the alternative is to be irrational or give been to a rage in feelings and the denigration of what the alternative is. one thing i tried to do with the book is to endorse the rise of angry or hateful forms of politics, to understand that
there is a logic to a different politics that works in the society. the second type of knowledge, what the title of the book referred to, the type of knowledge that functions by putting us in touch with how things are now. a type of knowledge that tells us how things are right now in the moment. it connects us to our environment. it is what our nervous system does when things are getting hotter or colder. the type of knowledge that it involves with situations where we say i know where i am right now. i know how things are. i know how i feel. i know what is going on. it is a type of knowledge with privileges at the present moment rather than necessarily a type of knowledge based on objectivity. it is also what in the technological sector is referred to as real-time
knowledge, knowledge that is in constant flow, constantly updating us on where we are from one moment to the next. what is important to understand about this knowledge and why it is important we don't talk about people giving vent to their feelings and rationality and emotions and so on is over the course of 200 years or so there have been important technological developments and scientific developments, argument in developing and enhancing this type of knowledge but one of the claims is in this tradition many of those technological developments that have come in situations of warfare and conflict rather than situations of peace and sustenance of civil society and trust so you think of radar and the invention of a digital computer or the internet for that matter. all of these are techniques designed to enhance and document the capacity to find
out what is going on at this moment in the advantage of this knowledge is it is fast, up-to-the-minute, immediate. i'm not an evolutionary psychologist and that's not where the book goes but it defense one from attack, it is an important knowledge, when one is in a threatening situation. it is a way of allowing one to react faster than a pastor whether it is a predator or actor or rival political actor and for people in situations which feel fearful or they have rivals or opponents or combatants and so on rely on this knowledge, the disadvantage, the crucial question about this particular moment that democracy faces is the second knowledge makes it harder to uphold, respect
recognition for the first type of knowledge, viewing the world from a position that takes a long time to assemble. one of the things to grapple with is the political moment and think how the more aggressive aspects of the present political moment, taking on the aspects of combat or warfare but to understand the extent to which that is rooted in changed media ecology or technological ecology where as we become more reliant on the technology and that is the technology that we have in our pocket and stream data and so on, to increasingly turn toward forms of information and knowledge that are in constant flux and geared toward
sensitivity of the moment rather than the basis for public consensus, to make one feel more and more fearful. a type of paranoid disposition towards the world. one of the things i claim in the book is long before trump came along, long before brexit or upheaval we have seen in recent times, one thing i try to do is extend the time horizon to understand a little more about the prehistory of these events, to recognize that we have been allowing real-time technology, the idea of knowledge that is geared toward sensitivity to the moment, that is in flux and in a more paranoid way of a constantly changing world with all the advantages that hold in the disadvantage is that holds, that perhaps it is no surprise
that the political syndromes, and for example, one of the things i use as a case of this in the economic sector would be the most highly paid, profitable people working in the capitalist economy today, hedge funds and high-frequency trading, people engaged in a form of knowledge but it is not an attempt to construct an authoritative portrait of the world so people can understand and engage in it is a type of knowledge that grands a split second advantage over someone else, that speed of knowing others. when knowledge of the competitive phenomena in, there is a lot of money to be made from that but it doesn't perform the same function we expect. that is a broad account of what we are doing in the present
situation. we can drill down other aspects of that but the nervous state of the book's title, states that are in some sense testing the boundaries between states of civil society, warfare in various ways, but also a psychological account of a different type of mentality that has crept up on all of us technologically, economically, culturally the greatly enhanced our sensitivity to the world and to feel our way around the world and since incoming information changes and so on, but also undermined while we never celebrated as a political phenomenon in the first place because we thought of as scientific fact, that is what we are beginning to see under
threat. >> let's start with the prehistory of it. there's been a recent effort by a set of internet beloved public intellectuals to bring back the enlightenment and in some ways there is a certain aspect of the and lightened project that you do not through people like tear who is a favorite of the stephen pinkers of the world, i want you to talk about these guys and what you see their project as. >> i think using the word enlightenment, that is not what you are suggesting, i tried to avoid that enlightenment fetishism of doctrines and
these types of people. this is the late 18th century, my book focuses on a particular moment between 1650-1680 and where a type of figure e merges that we might recognize as being an expert so he acquired certain techniques from commercial sector and accounting techniques of quantification and start to make these available, as a way of understanding what is going on in the economy or wouldn't have called it that within the population, thinking about the concerns that preoccupy states like the death rate and birth rate because ultimately basic questions of population size at the core of this and one of the chaps in the book looks at the
rise of a statistical mentality and a way of looking at the world as a set of numerical facts. .. >> sort of free speech and the sort of, you know, liberal public fear and so on that developed over the late 18th century. but i think what it, what it does is that it demonstrates that -- and, of course, this is totally bound up with the rise of commercial society. so this wouldn't be possible without capitalism. but what it does is that it allows certain questions about the truth of human beings, of society and so on to be take out of the realm of religious conflict, moral conflict, what we might now think of as
politics. i mean, of course, you know, the idea that technocrats are kind of outside politics today now sort of seems kind of ridiculous in some cases. to go back to the brexit reference and the one of the great errors of the campaign to remain was some of the people who came along and said you need people christine lagarde from the imf. oh, right, that's an objective, neutral view of the world. [laughter] nevertheless, in its origins one of the things that interests me about that is a what does it even mean to bring a mentality into politics which seeks to make claims about the world that are not based on some sort of moral or philosophical or political set of values and preferences. because that fundamentally, it seems to me, is what now people are beginning to wonder, well, maybe we're not going to get anything back in some way. so going back to where it came from in the first place is partly a way of thinking about what aspects we might want to
hang on to and defend and maybe not resuscitate, but at least defend in an explicitly political sense rather than treat all of that as a given in some ways. >> one of the things that you, one of the sort of neat ways that you tie together what is a rebellion against tech technocr, against democratic politics in some ways, against the media is the idea that the sort of political impulse behind this is a revolt or rebellion against representation. i wonder if you could talk about what you mean by. that it seems clear that part of the project of this sort of 17th century early technocrats you're talking about was to develop a meanses of representing the world -- >> yeah. >> in a way that allowed for the kinds of activities that they were looking -- >> sure. it's interesting. i mean, we think of, i mean, anyone who has thought at all about how mass modern
democracies work recognizes that they tend to use some form of representation. which is that rather than having 300 million people getting involved in a question, you appoint a few hundred to do it, and they act on behalf of everybody else. it's sort of a simple feature of how modern representative democracy works. but one of the things i think that has become clear now is there are all these other forms of representation that maybe emerged not at a same time as that, but which have been totally crucial for how mass liberal capitalist societies have worked. and that the includes the rise of a type of journalism, never perfect, never perfectly independent or objective, but nevertheless, based on some kind of vocation or some idea that it's possible to provide reports about the world in some sense that people can broadly agree on. i mean, okay, that's naive, but nevertheless -- >> that's exactly what i do as a journalist.
[laughter] that's my culture. >> you know, it's not -- if you say that, people go, you think the bbc is neutral? no, i'm not saying there is a perfect manifestation of it. you can't understand what the bbc or new york times is doing unless you at least recognize that is an idea that is in play in some way. >> right. >> but equally, the rise of expert -- well, the rise of an early form of social science, in early forms of economics, statistics, sociology much later, and that in all these different ways one of the ways in which people consent to be governed is that they recognize that that's a picture of society that's going on over there. whether it be in congress, whether it be in the books of a sociologist or in the spread sheets of a statistician or within the reports of a bbc journalist, whatever it might be, that that -- although it may not perfectly represent me as such -- somehow it provides, there is some sort of correspondence between what's going on in this massive, messy
thing with millions of people and that rather tidier, smaller things that are going on. now, the argument i want to make in the book is to understand what populism is and to understand some of the attacks on the core principles of liberal democracy right now, it is a claim that representation in general is phony, and all of those things are phony all at once. like the party system is phony, the media is phony, the experts are phony. and that, we can understand i think, some of the kind of rhetoric of people like trump. we have similar kind of figures in the u.k. and i think also it's to see it as a wholesale attempt to demolish the very idea that that society, that you can do that society in a legitimate way. and that has certain implications i because on the one hand, you have the ride of these plebe sides. britain has been tomorrow down the middle, no one knows how to put it back together again.
but equally, a type of media ecology. and it's interesting, trump and others are twitter addicts, but a media ecology that also circumvents the idea of these being these kind of professional figures who are, have it within their training, credentials, whatever it might be, authority of some kind, to do that act of representation. so what we're witnessing right now is a, i think, a widespread not just in the sense of parliamentary or democratic spaces and not just in someplace of the media or not just in the space of expertise and so on, but a wholesale declaration that you cannot do that to the people in some way and that, therefore, some direct alternative is required. >> how did that rise? why do people not -- is it as simple as saying people just didn't feel like they were being represented adequately or accurately? >> well, one thing, there are key aspects of what's happened in capitalist societies over the last 40 years which, i think,
are a key, you know, have done some of that. one of the things i talk about is the rise of inequality. so you take probably one of the most kind of iconic that -- statistics of the last sort of 50, 60 years is gdp, gross domestic product. and although, you know, used to say politicians were ever sort of pursuing gdp as such or voters never kind of checked the data before they voted, but nevertheless, if you look at the case of the united states where you've had 50% of the population -- we know this also thanks to statistics, people like thomas piketty -- 50% of the population have had no real increase in their wages since the late 1970s. so that means the growth as a macroeconomic phenomenon, which is that the pie is getting 2% bigger each year and politicians stand up and give this good news, that that is a good news story that is not representing the experiences of 50% of the
population. and there are other examples of that. i mean, we have, you know, britain currently has these miraculous unemployment figures. unemployment is at its lowest level in 45 years at the moment in the u.k., and you still hear politicians saying this. and yet there is underemployment, involuntary self-employment, nonof employment, people who have basically given up looking for work, people who are in the united states the labor market's shrinking because of reasons of addiction and health issues and so on. so one of the things i think, there are some material sociological reasons why these sort of portraits of the big, messes city kind of society -- messy kind of society no longer seem to kind of work in convincing people. that's not to exaggerate what work they did in the first place, but i think these are some of the factors. and also some of the reasons why the political people's work were as shocking as they were when probably they shouldn't have been as shocking as they were. >> i mean, it seems to me too,
that the -- and you talked about this in your introduction, there's been a rise especially over the last ten years of a series of technologies that are themselves technologies of representation but that allow, like you were saying about trump and twitter say, an end run around the former institutions, the former sort of, the bodies and the experts that we had who were providing these services. and that in the same way that silicon valley has sort of replaced the middleman in a bunch of different industries is now the same set of middlemen here. >> yeah, absolutely. i think that's the thing is what happens to those, well, there were some employment questions about what happens to some of those people. i mean, ultimately, society through the analog age was reliant on certain bottlenecks or editors, publishers, broadcasters and so on. the removal of some of those bottlenecks has some very obviously disruptive implications. and i think that, i think one of the things which is kind of
quite interesting and troubling, and i see this in britain at the moment to a great extent, is that the rise of a whole new politics which goes on kind of around the frame of those kind of legacy media organizations where, you know, there are a whole -- i mean, we have this far-right activist called tommy robinson who's so much of his kind of appeal is that, which he uses youtube to spread. facebook just banned him and twitter have banned him, but he's still on youtube as far as i know. but he's, you know, this notion that the legacy institutions, the bottlenecks or the, of the public sphere, the bbc, are, you know, censor yous metropolitan elite that are trying to silence people, and obviously that's a key feature of this as well, yeah. >> so, you know, not to play devil's advocate, but what -- if i come, and i think this is sort of the silicon valley ideology, imagine, the way they imagine something like twitter, the way
a certain kind of person imagines something like twitter is that you've replaced naturally corrupt, sort of naturally captured elite institutions that are providing inaccurate representation and replaced it with basically a marketplace of ideas. and the idea is that people who are strongest would win. why is that a problem? why is that wrong? i mean, beyond looking at the front page of "the new york times." empirical evidence. [laughter] >> well, there are lots of -- the empirical -- >> it certainly hasn't worked over the last two or three years, i would say. >> no, no, sure. i think it's, i mean, ultimately this works in terms of my kind of two knowledge forms that i outlined earlier, i think the problem is that of course we know that when knowledge is judged in terms of its impact, which is ultimately, i think, the logic of this sort of thing, of course that then generates incentives for content in the silicon valley sense to be
developed in ways that is going to be become more and more and more impactful of one kind or the other. equally within the academic sector where i work -- and we now have to, impact is one of the things british academics have to kind of validate themselves in terms of in quite kind of significant ways. in the eyes of the state, incidentally. it's not to our own managers. but there is empirical evidence that that leads people, creates incentives towards doing types of research perhaps is not so much sort of scientific or longer-term social value, but which will yield direct, immediate kind of consequences that will be kind of, you know, captured in data in one kind or the other. i mean, this is something which you look at the kind of commercialization of higher education over the last 40 years, i mean, there is quite sort of considerable evidence showing people are passaging too
much and too early. the silicon valley is a kind of more recent manifestation of the same problem. but in terms of the sort of, you know, that -- in a sense what you've to kind of outlined is a kind of darwinistic idea of truth which is the only way in order to work out what is actually true about the world is just to chuck everything into the pod and let them all be in some kind of war with each other, and what emergings in the end is what we call truth. there is a crude version of a certain type of philosophy of what knowledge is. people like karl popper, there is a certain sort of way of defending a more sophisticated version of that. but ultimately, i think that what we know about that is that it works in the short term in the sense that it's sort of, you know, people are basically gaming the system in order to reach the top of some kind of pile rather than to actually kind of, you know, a sort of
consensus kind of pursuit. p. >> and it strikes me too that the defenders of the enlightenment, the self-described, that that particular crowd of people is enamored with debate as the sort of ideal measure of an idea's worth. >> yeah, yeah sure. >> it's like only through combat can the idea truly be -- >> yeah. yeah, i mean, i think that's the -- i find it very interesting how debate has become a, i'm not saying it ever kind of went away, but it's actually sort of -- if you think about what most scientists are doing most of the time, it's neither debate, nor is it particularly sort of combative or oral kind of rivalry in any sense. and yet the ideal of enlightenment is one in which it's kind of two ideas or claims about the world, it's sort of in combat with one another.
and to see which one kind of survives in system way. you know, jordan peterson -- >> in toronto capitalism and marxism are dueling it out. [laughter] we'll finally have an answer. >> but i think what's interesting about that is, and i think it's curious how speech, you know, is such, i mean, obviously free speech is a major kind of ideological and legal sort of commitment in the united states. but nevertheless, it's interesting how speech has become or free speech and this kind of this idea of the debating forum has sort of taken off in such an iconic sense. and i think in a way this is another example of what i'm talking about of viewing knowledge in its realtime capacity, its capacity to interact in the here and the now which is not how most scientific research advances, very slowly through publication, peer review, revise, resubmit, all
this kind of hell academics have to go through. but it's not something that is happening in a sort of, you know, a sort of spirit of realtime reactivity. and i think the rise of that debating forum as a phenomenon tells us something about how not only the universities imagine, but also how reason has become sort of reimagined as a tool of combat rather than a tool of consensus-seeking. because actually, i mean, part of what my sort of brief history of the early 17th, early enlightenment figures including thomas hobbs, i have a fairly long discussion of hobbs, the central feature of reason for hobbs is everyone has to agree with it. it's a consensus. it's a set of -- it's about claims about the world that people can't disagree with. so this fetishization of disagreement and of conflict tells us that something has changed in how we think about what reason is and in the hands of the sort of pinker type figures. the other thing i'd say about
that, of course, and this is a slightly separate issues, but i think the smartphone has massively changed the status of the live debate because it allowed the possibility of, you know, a very, very witty kind of, you know, claim or a protest or a disruption or a sort of counter-disruption, whatever it might be. suddenly those things, the debating chamber becomes a space in which people can achieve some kind of global renown or heroism of some kind. and that, i think, heavily has to do with changes in our media in our environment. >> it seems also the fetishization of debate is very focused on live debate versus any kind of -- i mean, even an exchange of letters would be more deliberative, also representative where you're writing out ideas that get discussed where i think the peterson ideal whereas you've got two combatants on stage, what you're looking for is an immediacy, an ability to respond quickly, that kind of -- it's
actually sort of war-like demeanor that you're -- >> sure, yeah. which, of course, is social media as well. you know, twitter does this. i mean, i was a blogger in, you know, i started blogging round about 2002 for about ten years or something. i had a blog which i kind of used to update weekly or something. in that early period, it was -- i don't know how we resuscitate that exactly. [laughter] it was kind of interesting. it would take about a week for people to discover your blog post, and then you'd get a sort of response in sort of a few hundred words, whatever it might be. and it happened at this different kind of pace. it was the internet, it was social media, but it happened at a different kind of pace. now, of course, now, i mean, like, twitter's sort of fun and calling people out and owning them and this sort of, you know, gamesmanship is sort of part of how that media ecology works. but i think it also is another
example of this idea that everything is a kind of a strategic move in a game that is happening in realtime. that responding -- when you respond and responding before others and doing, the temperrality of discourse, of exchange of ideas becomes absolutely crucial. and that's where i think it has, starts to take on some of the qualities of combat in some ways. i mean, i can see the -- and i've used twitter and, you know, enjoy kind of watching and engaging in some of this stuff. but i think that we can't separate some of that from some of the other sort of crises that are afflicting. >> and then the other thing about twitter which is extremely important for the ideas that you're writing about and i think is one of the sort of key insights to your book is the extent to which the sort of, the -- i don't know exactly how to describe this thought. the picture that twitter creates or the forum that it enables is
incredibly untransparent. twitter itself has an understanding of how it works maybe. i mean, we think that it does. [laughter] but it holds back. >> yeah. >> it keeps it secret, it keeps it proprietary. and it seems to me to be, it's sort of on a different level, but a contributing factor to the general way in which it is not a particularly productive forum for creating shared knowledge. >> yeah. i think, obviously, and there's been a huge amount written about, you know, surveillance capital and the sort of tyranny of algorithms and so on. but i think the to pass the city of these platforms is a crucial feature of their power but also, obviously, of their -- some of the harm that they do to intellectual and political discourse where there is, you know, i think that the spread of secrecy. i mean, you know, britain -- the
spread of secrecy or the sense of secrecy and the sense of paranoia where combine that with forms of anonymity, combine that with forms of language that are effectively forms of encryption which is kind of what meme express -- i mean, human is a -- humor is a very clever way of incriminating types of communication that some people get it and some people can't. that's the point of how a meme works, it bypasses quite a lot of the audience in search of its destination, or it can harm a particular person. so there's the sort of -- in a way what we're saying with these platforms is civil discourse taking on some of the qualities of what in a military context would be called, you know, the sort of -- well, both intelligence services of one kind or the other, but also
forms of, obviously, propaganda. there's been endless talk about the fake news. [laughter] you know, i think we've all heard of that. but there is sort of some of the qualities of how public discourse functions start to take on some of the more paranoid qualities of how debate and politics operates in situations of combat. i mean, one of the claims i make in the book is that so much of what people are anxious about in relation to things like fake news and post-truth and the sort of, what's going on in our public sphere, in some ways are cases of what happens to the public sphere but normally in situations of warfare, you know? i mean, propaganda is normal in war. like, it's not -- i mean, the bbc was conscripted within world war ii to play things which were not true. this week's new yorker, this is kind of what fox news is now doing for the trump white house. i mean, it's -- so you've got a
kind of, some of the features of a wartime media system coming into existence during times of ostensibly of peace. and that is what is bringing some of the sensibilities and some of the psychological dimensions of a more combative, quasi-violent type of politics into otherwise civil situations. >> and, again, it's sort of -- i mean, one of the interesting sort of aspects of this to me is the sense, i think there's a broad popular sense or at least a sense from people who are sort of familiar with silicon valley that it is creating, that through the data extraction that it performs it is creating in itself its own molds of the world. -- models of the world. but i think, you know, the way you write about this, it's not quite true that they're creating new representations or new
models of the world. in fact, what they're doing is creating models of their own markets that they can use to make a profit, basically. >> yeah. i mean, one of the -- i think i say at one point in the book is that truth is not unaffected by a storage system. [laughter] and, actually, it's no good saying, well, you know, like there's a liberal way of doing office that some statistics office collects it, analyzing it using experts and uploads it, makes it available to collars and analysts -- scholars and analysts, and so on. meanwhile, the silicon valley version is similar, but they use it as a proprietary game, but ultimately, it's the same type of entity, what's at stake. i don't think that's really the case. there are all sorts of reasons why big data does not have the same qualities as statistics. not just in terms of sort of the surveillance that generates it, but also, you know, some of the,
its capacity to depict and represent the world is very different. but i think that when something is treated as proprietary private property, that grants a different type of politics and very different type of set of implications and effects from when something is ultimately collected, generated in a spirit of consensus formation of one kind or the other. which is not to say that things were kind of -- i mean, you know, i'm not trying to paint a kind of there was a good old days where this all kind of worked perfectly. it's just that we need to kind of understand that we are doing something really quite different now from what was taken for granted for quite a long time. >> well, so let me ask, you know, you're making a cautious argument, let's say, because we don't want to embrace the 1660s as a model for how we should run society. [laughter] obviously, we've found ourselves in quite a bad spot now.
what are we fighting for, what are we supposed to be doing next? >> sure. well, i think to get back to what i was saying at the outset when i was kind of presenting the argument, it's worth recognizing the advantages of these different knowledge forms. and the advantage of this, of realtime, quasi-nervous sensitivities of the world is that it connects to a sense that we don't have much time, that things are very urgent of one kind or the other. and i think not only has it contributed to a feeling of acceleration of our lives and of politics, but also it potentially kind of is, creates a sense of control that we can actually kind of keep up in some way which is, you know, why do we check out of -- i mean, i'm as bad as anyone, but why do we check out advices and need to know everything -- check our devices and need to know everything straight away at all time? the crucial point to have
question, and i think the problem is this is a massive political judgment as much as sort of an analytical sort of proposition. is to be able to distinguish between those matters which really should slow right down, from those matters which really shouldn't. and i think that that is -- at the end of the book, i think being able to navigate different speeds is the trait of political judgment that i think is going to be most key in the future. towards the end of the book i basically try and sort of think about both those things sort of one at a time. i think that, clearly, there are types of crises and types of dangers that confront us right now, and the obvious one is climate change where some type of emergency response -- and we've been hearing a lot about this at the moment with, you know, talking about, well, part of the kind of green new deal kind of idea, and this is our world war ii as aoc has put it. but, i mean, i think it's sort
of -- you know, i talk about a bit about the climate mobilization agenda and the advocacy group in the book which which takes some of that mentality of wartime mobilization which responds to the fact that we do not have much time, that this thing is unfolding extremely quickly and really runs with it and expresses some of the kind of implications of that in terms of doing politics and economics at high speed and at much higher speed than we're doing at the moment. versus, of course, those areas where the emergencies are fake or not real. and i think that, you know, this -- or and i'm not the only person, there's lots of media scholars who have written about what should the media response to someone like trump be, to which the main answer -- and it's easier said than done -- is people say, don't get distracted. there is a sort of sense of trying to focus, trying not to get, allow the news cycle, the realtime thing to overwhelm the
capacity to actually make objective kind of potentially consensual. i know that might sound terribly naive -- [laughter] in this country, you know, but to make claims about the world that take a while to assemble and then can hold in place for some type time as well. .. this is another kind of a conceit of people feel like privileged people i think there has to be a politics which defends scientific practice itself and one of the reasons why scientists are now having to mobilize and try to
explain and defend what they're doing. i think part of the qualities that need defending their is slow and difficult. that needs to be a part of its political proposition. >> what you think, you are a dictator. your writing out of utopia. what should a civilized society be doing to make sure that they don't end up in the same position. with the obvious policy proposal. in some way you can sort of talk about media regulations
at one point in the book because i'm concerned with this question how has war infiltrated to the civil society. and how can we push it back out. what would you do if it was 1945 right now. what would be the equivalent demand that you would make? i think the first thing you would do would tone off a lot of these. i think it's important to recognize that. people talk about data for good.
i think friendship did not come along in 2005. equally, i make a comparison between what the business model in the securitization of the sector that blew up the global economy in 2007. ultimately what they do it takes a debt. and it repackages itself somewhere else. it something very similar, we know something were friends. this is the cynical instrument of human bonds of trust i think it's at the heart of the crisis of the last 15 years.
i think disclosing those things down and saying you can't do that any longer. warren buffett said that they should do this with derivatives. given the consequences of these things. in the shorter-term there are various things that government and experts and social scientists failed to do over the last few decades in trying to understand their experiences. i would say, fund more sociology. and also the qualitative sociology. and kind of meet people and understand people. i do not want to claim they would be fine if only they
somehow kept up with changes on the ground. it's the types of knowledge that can gain that qualitative cultural sensitivity with people. to the data platforms. they're very good at getting up close and personal with people i think that i read the trump campaign have a million different types of categories. there are traditions of the social science. with a capacity for control. are we good on time. should we go to questions.
what does it change that thinking. the question was what does it take for academic disciplines in institutions and expert practice to kind of change the tack when they are based on some force that arise. there are all sorts of history's of science it shows that there has been that opportunity. where some sort of floor cannot be eradicated and it generates that generates some kind of change.
one thing i've found it helpful. the feeling is on one hand. an emotional sense. and then we got taken over. it has the potential of a romantic equality in the sense of an escape from a harsh rationalism. the feeling is also the nervous system. when you know you are hungry. the information that you're getting. that your stomach is conveying.
that is telling me something about yourself and about the world and so on. the second one is that feeling of knowledge. one of the best ways i can to give out this is how the rise is. not any objective sense know where you are a lot of the time. you can feel your way around the whole time. but not be able to say on a map this is where i am. it's only like ten years ago that i used to have that. it is our way of encountering the world.
i've been getting around new york city. that is a sense of feeling that i'm interested in as well. the book is about that the client there is a negative history of reasons. good riddance for it. with the sort of decline. was there another question. >> when we have the other mass platforms. and random power to destroy
these companies like in some way or form. but would you do to stop them being immediately re-created again. >> max is asking me what with the utopia if i'm still in the utopian place where i like where i am. i don't think this is can happen anytime soon. i think closing them down altogether looks very unlikely. do you see it more as a fundamental problem. i think what we've got here is a military technologies that have become the basis for how we organize our political
lives. this is having various disruptive effects that have been well documented in terms of fake news and discussion about what russia might have done and so on. i think there is a certain sort of family resemblance with the spirit of warfare. the capacity and the speed at which these things move and the difficulty of basic questions about facts and so on it is a problem with the internet. i dig as a think it's a particular problem with the capitalization of these types of services it is possible of course that they were the platform cooperatives.
and could you handle those in various ways. i don't go into all of that kind of stuff. any other questions. >> what you think are the most important people or forces that are working to bring people out of these. who are the people of forces that are bringing people out of this. do you have any ideas.
that is just like one example. with the british politics has a lot of problems. one of the unexpected phenomena is that left labour party. there is a lot of a conflict suddenly going on which i think specifically to do with the anti-semitism. in the breakdown of some of that. who is doing what and who is saying what. a paranoid mind set that is developing. no one can agree on what is even taking place right now.
some of the way in which social media is playing out in all of this. one of the things about jeremy corbin who is a leader and i think it's working so well right now. he sort of moved with the weird glacial pace. he did not get drawn into that. it's extremely frustrating for the media. i thought for a while there was something rather an actual lot more to the leadership qualities with the capacity to not change speed the entire time. i think it is now things had
shifted in that respect. they have a weird anti- charisma. somehow they defy some of the cross wins in various ways. the question about that deal and climate change. he talked about this. is it possible to get people to mobilize without scaring them. i think this is the assumption. when climate change first hit the political agenda. when everybody realizes what's
concerns of lights it has that connection with the lay concerns. i think one of the great problems of climate change is that it's knowable in the effects all over the place. that sort of connection with a sense of ordinary concern i don't know exactly how that works. it also requires certain appeals to solidarity and the mobilizations in the past had appealed to in some way. that particular advocacy group. is just trying to build up a
in a sense it already is a war. you don't need to be afraid you need to be afraid of the actual enemy. it sounds more like the kind of dynamic that you want to get away from. to actually i don't think we can get away from that. one of the questions about some of the political questions of judgment is which of the issues that do demand the sense of emergency.
something. i think it has to be part of this kind of mobilization rhetoric and back to the previous question about what type of effective quality well will sign some books and he will be here for a little bit. and thank you guys for all coming out. [applause]. here are some of the current best selling nonfiction books. in love your enemies. the institute president arthur president arthur brooks offers strategies on how to bridge the political divide in america.
growing up in the idaho mound. in her introduction to formal education at age 17 and educated. followed by the former first lady michelle obama it was the best selling book of 2018. the staff writers recounts in wrapping up our look at some of the best-selling best selling nonfiction books according to the los angeles times they have and welcome to
the campus of the university of southern california and book tvs live coverage of the los angeles times festival of times festival of books. this weekends lineup the politics, science and biography. you also get the chance to talk directly with several authors including the former homeland security secretary janet napolitano. the radio host larry elder and many others. for complete television schedule of our coverage this weekend visit book tv.org. they are now live at the la times festival of books. this is live coverage on book tv on c-span two. >> welcome everybody.
this is a bright and sunny day. and as a wonderful time to be in an auditorium with these three people. this is the panel on exposing the truth. there will be book signings afterwards afterwards perhaps for continued and informal conversation but let me begin first by introducing myself. i am president of the alicia patterson foundation that funds independent journalism projects worldwide. our three finalists are here and one of them you may already know one was announced last night.