In my last post (Chapter 112 – The American Dilemma), I mentioned, almost in passing, that the reason for the extreme political divide in the U.S. may be due to the fact that Americans are operating from two separate streams of facts, one provided by conservative media, the other, by what I describe as mainstream media. The difference between the two (again, by my way of thinking) is that mainstream media operates on traditional rules of journalism consisting of evidence based reporting and conservative media is more inclined to spin the facts to comport with the conservative dogma of their viewers. Last night, I watched a documentary on Netflix titled, “The Social Dilemma”, which featured interviews with many of the people who invented the technology that produced the social media giants of today, such as Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter and all the others. They were all currently or formerly top executives of those companies. According to them, not only are people receiving separate streams of information, but also the information we receive is not just designed to influence our behavior but to restructure the way we think – the actual physiology of our central nervous system.
This is not being done by any political party or by some evil dictator for some nefarious reason. It is actually a byproduct of the corporate world’s marketing, whose only interest is to get us to buy more of its products. The computer algorithms are designed to stream information that appeals to us on a very deep level, and teach the computer how to do that more effectively every minute of every day. It doesn’t care if the information is true or false or beneficial to the person’s welfare. Its only concern is that you are constantly engaged viewing images on your phone or computer to the exclusion of everything that is really important in your life. This has had a devastating effect our entire way of life, particularly where children and young adults are concerned. It pointed out that suicides among young girls of ages 12 thru 14 have increased by 2000% since 2012 as a result of their self imposed isolation from real people and obsession with approval from their social contacts on their media platform of choice.
According to the designers, artificial intelligence (AI) is not something that will happen in the future, but something that is happening now. They claim the computers are doing things that even they don’t understand how it’s being done. They claim that all of us who use computers and smart phones are being affected (or perhaps infected) all the time, even when you’re not consciously aware of it. In fact, the programs are designed to influence you below the level of consciousness. Even this blog is an example of how this influence is carried out. For example, of the 120,000 people who have responded to these posts, 90% have been positive responses, or in computer language, “Likes”. My ego led me to believe that I must be making a positive impact on the general public and possibly may be changing the minds of people who would otherwise be skeptical of the type messages I’ve been sending out. It never occurred to me that those results were skewed due to the messages only haven been sent to people who tend to think the same way I do. When I hit “public” on the share button, I thought my message was being sent to everyone on Facebook, not just the ones who tend to agree with me. If I weren’t so committed expressing these thoughts for the purpose of providing in some way a benefit to the public, I would have cause to wonder if it is the overwhelmingly positive feedback I receive that encourages me to continue writing these posts and not the actual purpose for which I write them.
I think the Netflix documentary may be the most import of our lifetime and I strongly urge everyone reading this post to watch it. The experts featured in the program have in common the belief that the Internet may be the vehicle for the destruction of the human race. They urge that, governments (our government in particular) begin imposing stiff regulations, standards and penalties on the Internet social media industries, because it is impossible for them to regulate themselves. Unlike the terminator movies we watch, AI will not result in machines blasting us away with machine guns and bombs. Instead, it will influence us to destroy ourselves through political, racial and religious conflicts, and by influencing us to ignore the things we know we must do to prevent disease and the destruction of the environment and by other forms of mass suicide – but nothing so spectacular as warring robots. Someone once wrote, when the human race ends, it will not be with a bang, but with a whimper.