Political extremism in America? Blame Facebook and Twitter, not Russia.

"Anybody who expected a wonderful happy global community to form on the Internet in which everybody would share cat videos has been gravely disappointed."

"I think the Facebook and Twitter have been configured to incentivize the expression and sharing of extreme opinions. It isn’t just fake news that we have to worry about, but we do have to worry about that, it’s also extreme views. Both are in fact incentivized by the structure of the network platforms as they existed. And I think looking back on 2016 the correct analysis of that election is not that the Russian network interfered and that’s why Trump won, I don’t think the Russian contribution was nearly big enough for that statement to be valid. What is true is that without the existence of Facebook and Twitter it would’ve been very hard for an outlier outside a candidate like Donald Trump to win."

Can Silicon Valley save the world? Or are social networks ruining everything?

"At times, it seems as if we are condemned to try to understand our own time with conceptual frameworks more than half a century old." Historian Niall Ferguson says it's time for an update. 

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The feats and failures of hierarchical power: Stalin, Xi Jinping, Macbeth

Countries with top-down power hierarchies get things done quickly—but they just can't last.

If you want to understand what a truly hierarchical political system looks like, just look at Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union, says historian Niall Ferguson. Stalin wanted to be all-powerful and omnipresent; he tapped phones, policed relationships and spied on everything—he was totally paranoid, says Ferguson, and for good reason. Social networks are lethal to top-down hierarchies and dictatorships, which is what makes this model of governance so unsustainable. But there is an exception that has stunned observers, Niall Ferguson included: China. Under leader Xi Jinping, China's economy has soared over the last 30 years, but it is now vexed with the largest middle class in history. Can this system endure through the 21st century? That's a huge question for China’s leaders, and for the world. Niall Ferguson is the author of The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook.

Why It's Better to Study History Than Economics

Niall Ferguson: I’m constantly struck by the levels of historical ignorance that I encounter.  In rooms full of very well-paid financial professionals, nobody appears to have read any of the major works of financial history of the last 30 or 40 years.

When we look at how today’s teenagers compare to other countries, for example, by using international standardized tests of literacy and numeracy, here’s the shocking thing.  When the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development does its standardized assessment of numeracy, or what they call mathematical literacy, they find that the Shanghai Educational District is far ahead of the United States and my country, the United Kingdom. 

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