They often fail unexpectedly and catastrophically without warning.Fantastic FilterWhat if social media could save human civilization from wars and plagues?This is the question that inspired a new alarming paper published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was written by a remarkable team of scientists in biology, psychology and climate science. It's a dark read that may be a call for action to better understand how misinformation is spread online.Pressure cookerJoseph Bak-Coleman, co-author and University of Washington researcher, came out swinging about paper in a provocative interview with Vox Here's what he had a to say:We were asking ourselves the question: What can we draw about the evolution of society at large from what we know about complex systems?AdvertisementAdvertisementThis is similar to how we use mice models and flies for neuroscience research. This was partly due to the animal societies, namely groups that can help us understand collective behavior and complex systems in general.Our goal is to adopt that view and then see human society from that perspective. Complex systems have a limit on how much they can be disturbed. They will change if you cause them too much disruption. They are often quick to fall apart, and sometimes without warning.Trouble BrewingBak-Coleman, along with his colleagues, point out many areas where social media has disrupted reliable information about climate, health, and other pressing issues. They also stressed a tension in the core of their work: while the internet can be a destructive force, it can also serve as a positive force.Bak-Coleman said that democraticizing information had had profound effects, particularly for underrepresented and marginalized communities. They can rally online, have a platform and have a voice. That is amazing. We also have genocide of Rohingya Muslims, and insurrection at Capitol.AdvertisementAdvertisementREAD MORE: Why ecologists and biologists think social media poses a threat to humanity [Vox]More social media news: Zuckerberg: Facebook Building a Machine To Read Your ThoughtsFuturism readers are invited to join the Singularity Global Community. This is our parent company's forum for futuristic science and technology discussions with other like-minded people around the globe. Sign up today to get started!