We are in 2019 welcome to the world of unilateralism. A place of control where money speaks and computer applications win.
“Who Controls the Past Controls the Future Who Controls the Present Controls the Past” -1984
Imagine for a moment that we live in a one-sided world. Every interaction that we have is pushed to us. The only action that we can take is to react without being heard. Without paying the price for privileged content we are forced to read the stream of content that is endlessly fed to us. Our opinions and views of the world become skewed due to the bias embedded in the systems and algorithms that organize the content we consume. The same systems that once democratized information flipped. Now, they are using their power to control our thoughts and actions while maximizing profit at your expense. This is not George Orwell’s 1984.
My first interaction with a bot and the exploitation of equality through the use of artificial intelligence occurred during my childhood. While playing Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo II, I came to realize the capability of machine intelligence dominance. The goal of Diablo II was similar to other role playing games. Win by defeating the demons of the underground world while you grow powers and equip yourself with weapons to wage war. Along the way you build skills and find weapons by chance to help you defeat increasingly difficult demons.
The time to show off your skills and commitment to conquering the demonic world was displayed during player versus player (PVP) matches. This is typically where your time commitment to the game paid off. The rules of the game posit that the more you play the more likely your are to find rare items that increase your power and effectiveness. However, this premise was undermined by bots. Programs were created to exploit the made up underground demonic world. An application would act as human and enter games, defeat all the demons, collect all the weapons, and continue until no more items could be carried by your character. Characters with no experience started carrying the most sought after rare weapons in the game. The time commitment of hunting for unique items became pointless when people started cheating with bots. I liken this to the culture that Instagram created.
Machine Facilitated Exploitation
A platform of bots exploiting the rules of the system to gain influence. In the case of Diablo II, artificial intelligence placed power in the hands of few who were willing the cheat the system. Fortunately, Diablo II is a game. Instagram is part of your digital life. Artificial intelligence bots in this case are making the time that you spend in your life useless. By working in a similar fashion to the bots of Diablo II, Instagram bots play the algorithm to drive traffic to specific accounts.
“Put your money where your mouth is” -Origin Unknown
The cliche that defines paid content. Not all content is equal and money buys attention. The platforms that we use to obtain information and understand our world feed to us content based on monetary value. If you have enough money you can pay for everyone in the Facebook ecosystem to see your post. Advertising is not new, but the way in which we are exposed to advertisements is now more intimate and intrusive.
We are no longer choosing what we see. We are being influenced in ways that we do not even understand. Furthermore, we are exchanging ourselves for the free usage of an application that is considered a basic need in today’s technologically enhanced world. In a sense, this is like saying that in order to drink water you will now have to donate your mind. A monopoly exists in the digital world. We should not have to be exposed to advertisements against our will just to live in the digital world.
Perception is reality. What we see is what we know, and this is how we learn. The information that is fed to us stems from human coded algorithms. Specifically in search, this has major consequences. The results of anything that you search get filtered and sorted then mixed with advertisements and displayed. The algorithms determine what you see, and they also determine what you don’t see. Our world is shaped by what what we know. If everything that we know is filtered and and organized before we have a chance to explore we are only seeing one viewpoint.
We fail to question the fact that search results can be biased. For example, what if the search algorithm designer decided that articles with a negative connotation should be suppressed and positive articles advanced. Also, pages with no links suppressed while pages with inbound links advanced, regardless of link authenticity. Order and rank algorithms should be scrutinized and examined in more detail. There should be 3rd party oversight. Just how the fall of Enron lead to great control of accounting practices by 3rd party; technology companies must be watched over closely.
“Don’t let 2019 be like 1984.” –DJR Jeeves Consulting