To be a good citizen, it's important to be able to put yourself in other people's shoes and see the big picture. If everything you see is rooted in your own identity, that becomes difficult or impossible.
Democracy actually requires that the whole public be able to see common problems and address them and step outside of their own sort of narrow self-interest to do so.
There's the part that I just want what I want, and I don't want to be bothered by anything else, and sort of the short-term more compulsive self. And then that's the longer-term, aspirational self that wants to be informed about the world and wants to be a good citizen. The best media basically helps us strike a balance between those two things.
If you Google some sites about the link between vaccines and autism, you can very quickly find that Google is repeating back to you your view about whether that link exists and not what scientists know, which is that there isn't a link between vaccines and autism. It's a feedback loop that's invisible.
The important thing to remember with the Internet is that there are large companies that have an interest in controlling how information flows in it. They're very effective at lobbying Congress, and that pattern has locked down other communication media in the past. And it will happen again unless we do something about it.
Whether it's Facebook or Google or the other companies, that basic principle that users should be able to see and control information about them that they themselves have revealed to the companies is not baked into how the companies work. But it's bigger than privacy. Privacy is about what you're willing to reveal about yourself.
If you look at the history of how information flows, there was a time that newspapers were kind of in the place that Google and Facebook are now - how do we get more people to buy a copy? Then there was a shift in the early 20th century. They needed to do better, and readers and consumers demanded that of them.
It feels great to have your own views reflected back to you, and you feel so right, but actually it's very dangerous. Because to make good decisions, you need to have a clear view of what all the options are.
There's the idea that people should be able to control how the information that they're giving to websites is used and monetized in a more clear and powerful way. That's something that probably will need government action.
Rather than saying people aren't interested when things don't take off, you should take it on yourself to say, 'I'm not doing a great job of telling the story in a way that makes it interesting.'
We thought that the Internet was going to connect us all together. As a young geek in rural Maine, I got excited about the Internet because it seemed that I could be connected to the world. What it's looking like increasingly is that the Web is connecting us back to ourselves.