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An argument about Choice

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Question: Free will, the ability to act independently and choose between different possible alternatives, is a value enshrined in both the US Constitution and our “free-market economy.” It has also been a longstanding fixture in Western philosophy and religion. in the 21stcentury, big tech companies have followed this tradition and claim to be champions of individualism, innovation, and endless opportunity. Yet, as Franklin Foer argues in “Mark Zuckerberg’s War on Free Will,” the competing values of competition and efficiency often interfere with our ability to exercise free choice. Certainly, digital technology has fundamentally changed the way we produce and access information; it has made our lives more convenient, and reduced the likelihood of information overload and decision fatigue. In an increasingly complex world, this narrowing of options can be a welcome reprieve from the daily onslaught of data and products. It is a functional necessity, whether in school, at work, or online. Yet, Foer suggests the building blocks of digital technology, algorithms, also “paternalistically nudge” us in ways that reflect certain motives and reduce personal choice. While Facebook “has bragged about how it increased voter turnout” (arguably, a civic good), it has also surreptitiously conducted experiments on its users and might actually be accused of eroding democracy, rather than nurturing its growth. After contemplating the above and considering the implications of outsourcing human thought, please respond to the following prompt:

Using concepts from Foer, make an argument about choice. Is it a burden, social value, or both? Why? How does the emergence of digital technology influence your discussion?

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