According to statistics, people spend an average of 4hrs 25min of their time online, and at least over 2 hours of their time on social media daily.
As immersive technologies like VR and AR become more available, this number will increase.
A major aspect of our perception will undoubtedly be shaped by the content we digest from these platforms where we spend our time. The caveat here is that a majority of the content we see on our feed is determined by ruthlessly-efficient algorithms. Even the results we get on Google search are determined by independent algorithms.
Recently (sometime in 2019), Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai was summoned before the United States Congress to explain why an image search for the word idiot will show picture after picture of President Trump. Many of the other congressmen also complained about the negative connotations that came up with their name search. The response of Google’s CEO was simple. There were robot algorithms controlling these results that even Google’s CEO himself could not tweak to favor the president of the United States. Even national issues such as a country’s election can now be affected by the way algorithms are made to swing on social media (Case of Facebook/Cambridge Analytical).
These algorithms were initially designed to keep us engaged, but as they get more efficient, our access to ‘non-masterminded’ varying sources of information becomes more limited.
You are targeted by marketers and ads that study your online behavior and know your location at every given time. You are recommended friends within a closed loop of former school mates, family members, similar interests, etc. You are inherently forced to live within a closed-loop or bubble of familiars.
For example, say you are struggling to come out of the habit of gambling but the majority of your friends on social media are still actively engaged in the practice. The social media algorithm that controls your feed will know no better but to do that which will reinforce the habit by showing content related to gambling and recommending you more gambling friends.
In the case of politics, if the majority of your friends are left-winged or members of a particular party, then the majority of the contents you would see will be biased. You may always end up having a partial or one-sided account on issues that need balanced dialectics. Issues such as one-sided or even fake news will continue to grow, fueled by algorithms that are smart enough to maximize engagement but not smart enough to discriminate against sentiments.
On a personal level, you and I must make conscious effort to systematically and occasionally weed out our online gardens (especially social media platforms). Periodically review your personal and business brand presence. Take cognizance of what appears when you or your business name is searched for online.
Be careful of the people you connect with, the groups you join, the nature of discussion you publicly contribute to; because the algorithmic big brother eyes of the Machine Learning Lord is watching you. Remember your digital presence and identity as a real person. People have fallen in love or gotten jobs worth millions online without any physical meeting. As technologies such as AR & VR gain more powers and become more ubiquitous, more premium and reality will be placed on the digital manifestations of ourselves on platforms such as social media.
Not to be as audacious as the ideas proposed by movies such as the ‘Matrix’, ‘Surrogate’ or the more recent ‘Ready Player One’ movie, we can say with some certainty that now and in the future, people will live two separate lives, one physical and one digitally virtual. Going into the 2020s and beyond, our digital life and realities will begin to take the ascendency over our physical lives.
It is essential therefore that you begin to cultivate and guard it jealously from the hands of a big-brother algorithm designed with one purpose only – to make profit off of your digital soul at any cost.
To your success and mine in the coming months and years.
Note: This article piece is an excerpt from my book, 2020s & The Future Beyond. Click here to learn more.
2020s & The Future Beyond, is a book that dives deeply into what the future of this decade and the ones that will come after will look like; especially as it relates to the development of AI and other emerging technologies. Click here to learn more.