Mariner hasn’t written a post recently that goes beyond commentary. Today, he feels the need to provide an educational assist that is absolutely critical to the future happiness of human beings. Three recent documentaries have focused on the issue of instant world-wide information about anything and everything – including every individual’s social and behavioral profile – and more importantly, how that individual can be manipulated to control personal decision making.
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to generate new forms of economy and society around the planet, making personal decisions is disappearing from the individual and even from groups of individuals to be replaced by computerized statistical assumptions. AI has the speed and processing power to identify an individual’s likely behavior in any circumstance. Given that power, AI also can manipulate an individual’s seemingly personal decisions.
AI takes advantage of the way the human brain has evolved; how it makes decisions both subconsciously and to a lesser degree, consciously. Understanding the statistical behavior of the relationship between conscious and subconscious thought, AI can take advantage of what humans think is a conscious decision based on factual information when, in fact, that decision is induced by AI influencing subconscious feelings.
Make no mistake; AI already is at work in society. Most stock market trades are made by computers that can continually improve performance without help from humans. Big Data (social media, Google, etc.) already makes billions of dollars by selling an individual’s profile and decision tendencies to private interests.
Fortunately, this unbridled and dangerous phenomenon has become an issue in public, political and educational circles; individual ignorance plus lack of regulation combine to generate an opportunity for a powerful technocracy to control general behavior and political dynamics.
In the past few months three documentaries have been produced that focus directly on this AI issue and the liberties taken by Big Data to infringe on personal privacy, security and democratic (human) authority. Mariner addresses each documentary below. Watch all three, add in a history of psychology and a scientific analysis of the brain and the reader will have knowledge equivalent to a masters degree in behavioral psychology.
֎ Hacking the Mind
Mariner has recommended this documentary in the past. It is a recent production by PBS. A four-part series of one hour shows, it examines – without political bias – how the brain makes decisions. It turns out that virtually all our important decisions, from whether to eat candy or spinach, to what automobile to buy, to choosing a spouse, are first decided subconsciously, thereby provoking a prejudiced decision in the conscious brain.
What is fascinating about subconscious decisions is that no facts are needed. Every decision is the result of a preconditioned, behavioral, biological set of rules where the common denominator is survival of the self. Being aware that the subconscious controls the bias of our existential, real world decisions is important in an AI world that would rather speak to the ‘no fact’ subconscious than to the conscious, reasoning brain. A very clear example of this phenomenon today is the allegiance of Donald Trump’s base in a fashion that disregards existential reasoning. A common street term for subconscious influence is, “My gut tells me . . .”
֎ The Social Dilemma
This is a documentary that shows the methods, techniques and manipulations used by Big Data corporations. The show interviews a half-dozen technicians and managers who have quit their jobs and turned whistleblower because of ethical issues about how the corporations disregard any moral respect for human users and have no regard for social responsibility; the whole theme for Big Data is monetization of human behavior without human permission. It is frightful that many interactive processes have been turned over to computers to manage interaction on their own without human supervision.
An excellent example is seen through a family’s children who have become addicted to their smartphones. The son drops out of his social and school relationships and is drawn into an extremist group’s activity; the daughter suffers serious destruction of self-esteem because she takes literally the negativity that is often tossed about on social networks. An interesting quote from the documentary: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”
֎ The Great Hack
This documentary shows how Big Data, without comprehensive regulations, can quite easily set awry the future of entire nations. The show is about one purchaser of data from Facebook who then used it to change public opinion in devious and often untrue ways: Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica purchased voter registration data along with user profiles to target specific individuals with propaganda. Cambridge Analytica was able to influence the Brexit vote in Great Britain and was hired by the 2016 Trump Campaign to spread bad information about anyone opposed to Donald.
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It remains to be seen how national governments will control Big Data. How does one legislate subconscious influence? How does a legislator avoid destroying concepts about ‘freedom of choice’? How can the genuine advantage of AI power be constrained without throwing away its genuine advantages?
If anything is to change, it is because the electorate watched these documentaries and decided they should make their own decisions about life and not just agree to suggestions by Big Data that have hidden motives.