The Last Days of Reality


The cover story in the Summer 2018 issue of Meanjin featured my article about profiling, artificial intelligence and augmented reality. “The Last Days of Reality” looks at Facebook’s fateful decision to turn itself into a machine for validating our deeply-held beliefs – and what that’s done to us as individuals (fragmented) and as a culture (corroded social discourse).


I make a lot of claims in the article, and was very careful to keep extensive footnotes on my research. That’s not Meanjin’s style so the footnotes did not make it into the print publication. Now that the article has been published online – if you haven’t, you can read it here – I’m publishing my footnote references here.


Any questions or corrections? Please contact me.


Facebook exploits ‘insecure’ to sell ads, Darren Davidson, The Australian 1 May 2017
Mark Interviewed on ‘The Project’, 1 May 2017
Facebook admits fault over children ad sales tactics, The Australian 2 May 2017

One / Facebook and the Monetisation of Propaganda

Buzzfeed reports on Macedonian content farms
Facebook uses cookies to track everyone. Everywhere.
Facebook caught out manipulating 689,000 news feeds to influence user emotions.
The full paper describing the experiment and its outcomes.
Buzzfeed examines the newsfeed of a conservative mother and lefty daughter – what they learn will shock you.

Two / Machine Learning and Surveillance of the Self

China censors the livestream of world-best Go player beaten by AI
Car teaches itself to drive using AI
Facebook’s formula for winning with AI

Three / The Pursuadables

Experiment shows how to talk women into lower maths scores
May 2017 Guardian exposé on links between Cambridge Analytica and Brexit
Guardian reports Cambridge Analytica meeting with Australia’s Federal Liberal party

Four / Augmented Reality and the Pollyanna Machine

Mark Zuckerberg Previews Augmented Reality ‘Spectacles’ at F8
Zuckerberg reveals Facebook’s Augmented Reality Strategy

Six / What is to be Done?

China builds a ‘Social Credit’ system to Spy on its Citizens
WIRED on China’s Social Credit System

Seven / Standover Job

danah boyd’s 2010 Blog Post on Regulating Facebook as a Utility
Steve Bannon’s July 2017 call to regulate Facebook and Google
German Anti-Trust Regulators Treat Facebook as a Cartel
John Robb Warns Regulating Facebook Could Enshrine its Power

Eight / Doing a Solid

Web Inventor Tim Berners-Lee on his Solid Project

Conclusion / President Zuck

Mark Zuckerberg Disavows Atheism, Says Religion “Very Important”