I don’t know who needs to hear this…
Social media is a grand fictitious diabolical character parading around our everyday lives, a bit dramatic? Perhaps. Let’s dive a little bit deeper shall we…
When you look around you it seems like the world is going crazy. You have to ask yourself “Is this normal or have we all fallen under some kind of spell?”
I wish more people could understand how this works because it shouldn’t be something that only the tech industry knows. It should be something that everyone knows. I’d like to introduce ethical design or better yet the lack thereof it’s existence.
Never before in history have 50 designers, 20–35 year old white guys in California *whats up silicon valley* made decisions that would have an impact on 2 billion people. Two Billion will have thoughts that they didn’t intend to have because a designer at Google said, “ This is how notifications work on that screen that you wake up to every morning”. Are we starting to see the problem?
2006 was the year Google reached it’s plateau and grand admiration for it’s statistical influences world wide, the company being a giant had built an incredibly useful service that did, as far as we can tell lots of goodness for the world, and they built this parallel money machine. Companies like Google, Facebook and Instagram are some of the wealthiest and most successful of all time and have relatively few employees. They just have a giant computer that rakes in money, right? Now, what are they being paid for? That’s a really important question.
For the past ten years, the biggest companies in Silicon Valley have been in the business of selling their users. It’s a little even trite to say now, but because we don’t pay for the products we use, advertisers pay for the products we use. Advertisers are the customers. We’re the thing being sold.
The classic saying is
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”. A lot of people think Google and Instagram are just search boxes and Facebook is just a place to see what my family is doing and see their photos but what they don’t realize is that they’re competing for your attention. So you know Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Youtube, Tik Tok, you name it — companies like these, their business model is to keep people engaged to their screen.
“How much time can we get you to spend?” “ How much of your life can you give to us?” is essentially their business model. This is where it starts to make sense. There are all these services on the internet that we think are free, but they’re not free.
They’re paid for by advertisers. Why do advertisers pay those companies? Well, they pay for exchange for showing their ads to us. Our attention is the product being sold. Maybe that’s a little too simplistic.
It’s the gradual, slight imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.
Changing what you DO, how you THINK, who you ARE. It’s a gradual change. It’s slight. If you can go to somebody and you can say “Give me 10 million dollars and I will change the world 1 percent in the direction you want it to change. It’s the world! That can be incredible, and that’s worth a lot of money. This is what every business has always dreamt of: to have a guarantee that if it places an ad, it will be successful. That’s their business, they sell certainty. Now, in order to be successful in that business you need to have great predictions. Great predictions begin with one imperative: You need a lot of data.
Many people call this Surveillance Capitalism. Capitalism profiting off the infinite tracking of everywhere everyone goes by large technology companies whose business model is to make sure that advertisers are successful as possible. This is a new kind of marketplace now. It’s a market place that trades exclusively in human futures.
Just like there are markets that trade in gas futures or oil futures. We now have markets that trade in human futures at scale, and those markets have produced trillions of dollars that have made the internet companies the richest companies in the history of humanity.
What I want people to know is that everything they’re doing online is being tracked, is being measured, is being watched. Every single action you make is carefully monitored and recorded. They know when people are lonely, they know when people are depressed. They know when people are looking at photos of their ex-lovers. They know what you’re doing late at night, they know the entire thing. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or what type of neurosis you have, what your personality type is like.
They have more information about us than has ever been imagined in human history. It is unprecedented.
And so, all of this data that we’re just pouring out all of the time is being fed into these systems that have almost no human supervision and that are making better and better predictions about what we’re gonna do and who we are. A lot of people have this misconception that it’s our data that’s being sold, it’s not in these tech companies business interest to give up the data. What do they do with that data? They build models that predict our actions and whoever has the best model wins.
On the other side of the screen, it’s almost as if they have this avator voodoo doll-like model of us. Picture this: All of the things we’ve ever done, all the clicks we’ve ever made, all the videos we’ve watched, all the likes, that all gets brought back into the building a more accurate model of us.