Mr. Zuckerberg and Asimov’s Mule

I am worried. I am worried of the Mule.

I am reading a Facebook post by a twenty-something young girl concluding that we are at the zenith of oppression, and a young gentleman proclaiming under a photograph of a massive mob of about four people waving flags that during the inevitable civil war he shall be a proud killer of the above four.

It is not that I find these posts indicative of an impending crisis for India. As a seasoned social media campaigner, I know that these are absolutely benign conversations, and as they are sans expletives, they are almost polite for a typical political discussion on Facebook.

If you are worried, let me assure you that if at all these kids manage to start a revolution, in all probability, internet will be down on second day, and free Wi-Fi café lounges will shut down in a week. So, it will be a short-lived revolution of about a week, inconvenience of which would not bother any fifty-plus Indian.

While I am not at all worried about the conclusion of zenith-of-oppression reached by the young lady, I am petrified by the process that it has arrived from.

If I try and understand the empirical evidence available to a twenty-something Indian about zenith of oppression, the person would be born more than a decade after 42nd constitutional amendment, the last substantial attempt of oppression that India saw.

If we look globally, she is born a couple of decades after the Chinese “revolution” where communism liberated 5-6 crore people from oppression of life, and nearly fifty years after Stalin and Hitler liberated even more. If we throw in great central Asian talents like Genghis Khan to figure out the zenith of oppression faced by humanity, her zenith seems to have arrived at a level where humanity has lived without even registering oppression through-out most of our recorded history.

While I admit it to be a hyper-generalization based on one random statement written under heightened emotions by a young lady, I don’t think I am far from the mark. The next-gen, possibly across the world, is looking at the world to be a bad place than good. They are faster than a Ferrari in reaching negative conclusions like humanity-is-dead or India-is-full-of-rapists.

And, as they are humans armed with a logical machine we call brain, it clearly indicates that they see evidence of all the evil that we may have missed.

So, where is all the evidence of our evils pouring in from?

To answer this question, I need to go down the sci-fi path.

If you are a sci-fi reader familiar with Foundation series by Asimov, it depicts a character known as Mule who manages to create the greatest ever empire in history of universe due to a special mutant talent. Mule rules the universe because he can sense emotional trends in human minds and strengthen or weaken them as per his desire.

Asimov recognised this talent as a super-power that can be used to control humanity, because he realised that human decisions can be altered by even mildest tweaking of emotional bias. The entire Foundation series is built around this idea, where future of humanity is seen to be controlled by harnessing this trait of human brain.

Though the idea made Foundation series a sci-fi legend, it sounded very far-fetched to be scared of when the books were written. Humanity was safe from Mule and his mind-control as there was no mechanism available to tap into human brains across the globe to change their biases, and in turn alter collective decisions.

Unfortunately, it is no longer true today. Mule has risen, and he has already become too powerful to control.

If you are a Facebook user, you must be aware that kind and benevolent Mr. Zuckerberg is constantly endeavouring to improve your social media experience. As he is committed to help you enjoy every minute you spend on social media, he needs to know you well. He needs to know your likes and dislikes, so he can ensure that he can route the right kind of information to you.

So, if you like a cat meme, his little bots immediately rise to your service and regurgitate more and even cuter cats on your Facebook page. If you like them, very soon you realise that the whole world was actually ruled by cats. Same could be true for anything you show preference for.

So, if one rape news grabs your attention and you look closely at it, the servile bots rise again. If you dig deeper, aided by incredible power of bots, Facebook will help you realise that world is actually full of rapists and perverts.

Armed with an access to your eye-balls and rudimentary understanding of primordial buttons hidden in your old brain, Mr. Zuckerberg can do wonders in terms of offering you a world that will look tailor-made to your choices because he has the power to guide your reality down to a narrow tunnel.

From where we stand today, power available to Mr. Zuckerberg has an uncanny resemblance to that of the Mule. He has already reached a point where he can consolidate an emotional streak across the humanity by just aligning Facebook bots that control the data feed. This innocuous looking technology is actually the greatest force possible because it can power to control human emotions.

While Mr. Zuckerberg stands in a position of power to control humanity, I am tempted to remind him that Asimov conceived Mule to be a kind despot who wielded his power carefully for what he felt was for the greater good because he understood that humanity is helpless against a force that can control emotions.

Facebook, or any other social media that will rise in the future must understand that it will always have a choice to decide the world that people will live in.

Right now, mostly due to political agenda rife across the planet capitalising on this new found tool, it has tunnelled our next-gen into a world full of evil; but, I hope that people like Zuckerberg also understand that the same tool can always be used to turn it into a world full of good.

The answer to the Mule offered by Asimov was the Second Foundation, a collective moral force put together to harness mind-control to guide humanity to a better future.

Till we have our Second Foundation in place, let us hope that the Mules that will rise are kind and considerate!

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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