Warning: The tech gods are building an algorithmic version of you
An algorithm is a formula for collecting data that solves a problem. In the world of marketing an algorithm on a person helps sellers target specific demographics, which is why they have created an algorithmic version of yourself in cyberspace.
- The upside is that businesses can save time and money by targeting people who like their stuff.
- The downside is that this form of artificial intelligence (AI) can presume to know you.
In April, 2005 Safari introduced the private browsing feature, which was later enhanced by other browsers as an option for their customers to choose if they want to leave a trace of where they have been on the Internet.
(Some browsers can keep your search information off your computer, while other browsers do more by hiding all traces of your cyber activity.)
The Christian community shot up flares because this created a cyber backdoor to go porn hunting without impunity. A legitimate concern.
I’m not sure if the creators of private browsing had the pornographer in mind, but I’m sure they were thinking about the advantages of not being watched by big brother, something we all can affirm to be a not so good thing.
For example, if you’re on a job you dislike, you can spend your break surfing the net for other employment opportunities with no fear of being discovered. What if you were doing important research but you didn’t want others, especially the office snitch, to find out. Private browsing is your answer.
Whether prying eyes in the work place or cyber space, there can be wisdom in not having every byte of your life under the scrutiny of others.
What the Safari engineers could not have known is how this feature would eventually go to war with the AI developers of the world. It is Google’s aim to use AI to predict what you want before you even know you want it. That is their 300 year plan as reported in the book, Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains.
Google’s less futuristic and more reachable goals have already been conquered: They can tell you what you’re looking for as fast as you can type the first few letters in your search browser. I like that feature. When I type “R” in my browser it immediately tells me that I am looking for my website, RickThomas.Net.
How cool is that?!
I wish you typed “R” in your browser and it took you to my site. That is a business person’s dream. Self-populating options on-demand to fit your preferences have a significant upside, which is good for everyone.
But what about the downside?
Suppose you went for one of those Facebook click bait ads that took you to something that was not only dumb, but not representative of your true interests. Or what if you landed on a women’s gossip rag because there was a tidbit that you could not resist.
You immediately jump off the site, never to return. Good for you, but that one click becomes part of the algorithmic version of yourself. Later you accidentally click a Viagra ad. That, too, becomes part of the algorithmic version of yourself. Every click, no matter what it is, creates your algorithmic self.
The cyber gods want to serve you. They want to give you what you want. They want to predict your behavior. They want to eventually set the cyber table to give you what you want before you know you want it. That’s the marketing goal of AI.
Facebook, advertisers, marketing gurus, and business people want you to buy from them. If they can figure out what every human on the planet wants, then they can push their wares in front of the most likely person to drop a dime on their products.
- You ever wondered why you get certain ads that your friends do not get?
- You ever been shocked to get an ad that is embarrassingly provocative?
That happens because you have an algorithmic version of yourself sitting in cyber space. Every click, every page, every website, every ad that you click on let’s Google and friends know what they believe to be the real you.
Is that the real you?
And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” — (ESV)
I am not willing to throw private browsing out with the bath water, though it’s a mere paper soldier fighting against the advances of AI because it cannot protect you from the cyber gods who want to run your life. Big brother is situated in cyber space and he’s determined to build the algorithmic you.
Call to action
Your best bet is to use your computer wisely. Steward this common grace (technology) the LORD has given you. Here are ten suggestive tips for your consideration:
- Don’t click on everything that comes across your screen.
- If you are receiving ads that you don’t like then you have clicked on something that was added to your algorithmic self.
- Research where you may have been — the site that tipped big brother off. Learn your behavior. Pay attention.
- Let others see your history. Use a resource like Covenant Eyes to bring some accountability to your computer usage.
- Share your computer with others, e.g., your spouse, parent, child.
- Situate your computer screen where your friends or family can easily see it.
- Learn what click bait is and don’t fall for it. You may forget the nugget that tempted you to click on it, but your algorithm will not.
- Spend more time with your friends or reading books than being on the Internet.
- Be an active participant in your community rather than a passive receptor of the information age. Get off Facebook and get a life!
- Take control of your algorithm by clicking only on things that truly represent you.
Learn more about us by going to RickThomas.Net. A trusted site that you would want to be part of your algorithmic self.
Originally published at Rick Thomas.