Twitter founder warns social media algorithms are draining people of their free will—and Elon Musk agrees with him

Speaking at the 16th annual Oslo Freedom Forum on Wednesday, the remorseful Twitter cofounder expressed how conflicted he felt at his own creation born out of the noble ideals of open-source protocols before becoming corrupted by the realities of needing to survive in a competitive marketplace.

AI tools will know us better than we know ourselves and, either through design or default, influence our thinking at a subconscious level, even if their algorithms are made transparent. 

“This is going to sound a little bit crazy, but I think the free speech debate is a complete distraction right now. I think the real debate should be about free will,” he said in Norway’s capital of Oslo, home of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“We are being programmed. We are being programmed based on what we say we’re interested in, and we’re told through these discovery mechanisms what is interesting—and as we engage and interact with this content, the algorithm continues to build more and more of this bias.” 

Dorsey, who left the board of microblogging platform BlueSky to endorse Elon Musk’s rival X last month, received moral support from the serial entrepreneur who purchased his creation for $44 billion in November 2022, only to refashion it in his own image, complete with mass firings and a total strategic rebranding. 

“Yeah, Jack is right,” the Tesla CEO posted on Wednesday.

According to Dorsey, revealing the underlying code, as Musk has done with X, to create transparency and build trust won’t help either.

Even if an algorithm is open-source, it remains effectively a black box in his view.

Not only is it impossible to model and predict how it works and what it’s going to show you in any given instance, but it can be changed at any time, the Twitter cofounder argued.

“Because people have become so dependent on it, it’s actually changing and impacting the agency we have,” Dorsey warned.

“We can resist it all we want, but it knows us better than we know us, because we tell it our preferences implicitly and explicitly all the time, and it just feels super dangerous to continue to rely on that.” 

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