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The Industrial Revolution came about through major technological and agricultural advances, and it brought sustained economic growth and significantly improved living standards in the long run. Yet it also came with major problems: pollution of the air (due to smoke and chemical processes) and the water (from industrial and human waste) was dreadful. Factory owners lived in splendor, while urban workers often lived in very poor housing and worked long hours in harsh conditions. Child labor was common, including dangerous and poorly paid work in mines.

It took a long time before safeguards were established, such as environmental protection regulations, safety protocols for workplaces, outlawing child labor, and health inspections for food. Undoubtedly the cost of doing business increased when factories could no longer dump their waste into rivers, sell tainted foods, or exploit workers. But society as a whole benefited hugely, and few of us would want to return to a time before those regulations.

When services become good at predicting what content users want to see, they may end up showing people only opinions they already agree with, leading to echo chambers in which stereotypes, misinformation, and polarization can breed. We are already seeing the impact of social media echo chambers on election campaigns.

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