I walked past Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters recently.
I looked up at the iconic logo and was again reminded of the reality of what’s happening to us: the machines are among us and they are slowly making their way into our brains and bodies.
I love and loathe Twitter. While it’s an easy and effective way for us to briefly talk with each other, this and other social platforms have been center stage for anger, hate, conspiracy and misinformation. Remember how ugly it all got before the 2020 election? Besides all this democracy-damaging propaganda, all of these data have been remembered! They’ve been harvested, sorted, and sold to the highest bidders.
I’m a fan of Jaron Lanier, the author and futurist who’s got some tremendous ideas about how humans and tech intersect. There are a tiny number of people who get to stand what Lanier calls “close to the servers” and reap the riches, thanks to the millions of us who give them free data practically every hour of the day. Twitter, Amazon and all of these tech platforms are the central brains. They reap the benefits of the data. What they know about us is astonishing.
One example: They’ve known how you breathe since 2018.
Three years ago, the journalism titans at ProPublica reported that CPAP machines – those breathing appliances used by people with sleep apnea – were secretly sending usage data to health insurers, where the information can be used to justify reduced insurance payments. Imagine how much better these companies are at spying on us now!
This claiming of our private human experience to create behavioral algorithms is crazy scary. Our information is packaged into prediction products, then marketed/sold to behavioral futures markets — businesses who want to know what we’re doing right now, tomorrow, and next week, and next year.
In this economy of surveillance capitalism, what does that mean for you and I? Combined with the fact that automation will displace tens of millions of workers over the next decade or two, unless governments figure out how to deliver Universal Basic Income, we’re possibly looking at a world of only two classes: the rich and the hopelessly, permanently defeated. There’s no option for any sort of middle class in this
We are property, owned by capitalist masters and mistresses. It’s not an overstatement and it’s absolutely not a conspiracy.
This is awesome in a horrifying way. Look what Snapchat wants and takes from you:
It is a digital vacuum of your personal information.
But what to do? We’re not going to stop signing up for email deals, we won’t close our social accounts, I’m not going to stop writing words. We can’t stop going to the doctor. We can’t delete our browsers.
You can do a few things to slow the tsunami. California leads the nation. See what they did, for you.
And read the Terms of Service. See if you can opt out. I always clicked “accept.” No more.
Opt in to a chat with John about this stuff. Get to him here.