In the book 1984 written by George Orwell in 1949, the evil element is totalitarianism. Orwell was afraid of the suppression of individual thought and individual expression – both empirically and emotionally. His fear came from communist movements in Spain and Russia which were using communistic (totalitarian) practices to control citizens. Orwell was afraid communism would cross the Atlantic and overwhelm democracy and capitalism. Some older readers may remember in the movie version the large screens that educated all citizens with the same information and may have noticed that everyone was wearing identical outfits.
George had the right insight about totalitarianism but the latent oppression would not come from political forces, it would come from computers.
The mariner devised a new measure of eras called a World Bounce. The World Bounce lasts about 120 years more or less. He determined this length of time based on a quick survey of large changes in global culture. (See the post, “Whither We Go,” published recently.) Using the zooming capability of 120-year chunks, we can envision some degree of context about the World’s life and times. It seems increasingly that a lot is changing or preparing to change in the culture of the world’s population. Without going into a litany, global warming, and global extinction of species, changing weather patterns, international economic imbalance, and specifically, artificial intelligence – all are forcing the hand of our political structures, our economics, and what the experience of a lifetime feels like. We are about to bounce.
The least examined force of change by the person on the street is the impact of artificial intelligence. It spawns totalitarianism. Not with evil intent, mind you, but inadvertently; the large screens of Orwell’s book are identical to what is called “Big Data”. Within a decade or two – thanks to Google, Microsoft and other data snoopers, massive databases will know all about each of us. A working term being sold right now primarily to businesses is “The Cloud.” Clouds are extremely large amounts of data accessible by an endless number of processors.
Add to this endless data computers that know how to scan, sort, merge, match, equate, and deduce Big Data; it is the same as you performing a search on Google except we don’t need you anymore. “Google” will do its own search, thank you.
One of the first functional examples of this new artificial intelligence is a program called ALICE which you load into your own computer. It has a ‘person’ who talks to you in normal conversational style. You may have seen Alex Baldwin order a new pair of socks without touching anything – just saying, “Get me a new pair of socks.” The computer responds nicely saying it will do so right away. Without input from Alex about what the socks will look like, their quality or size, ALICE already knows by searching a database with previous purchases of socks made by Alex likely collected from a credit card database.
Another ubiquitous example: ALICE, buy me a car. Again, Alice already knows your income level, credit card score, neighborhood and geographic region, the size of your family, the value of your home, the types of driving you do, what kind of gasoline you buy, what kind of car you own now and resale value. It knows this because certain companies are in the business of building as complete a profile as possible about everything and everyone. They sell access to Big Data so that sellers and buyers can do business together automatically using only computers matching requests to solutions.
Did a few of you notice how, suddenly, a few years ago it seemed that virtually everyone bought SUVs? Car manufacturers did a marketing blitz. Now, all a car manufacturer will need do is buy an algorithm in Big Data which will steer your computer to their product given that your profile matches. If you are interested in making a choice yourself, your computer will offer only choices that fit your economic profile; you won’t be able to find that luxury car no matter how hard you search. This is an example of totalitarianism; eventually everyone will be subject to one choice.
George was fearful of this unintended effect: In the mariner’s home town for example, it appears everyone is driving the same model car, wearing the same style and manufacturer’s clothing (which by the way will carry in its fabric how long you’ve owned it) and oddly, how everyone wears the same socks. Even aware of the totalitarian effect, people still would appreciate the convenience. It’s identical today when a viewer ties themselves to Netflix or other entertainment packages: the odds are you simply will use the offerings available to you through Netflix. Note the other effect: No subscriber can see offerings that Netflix doesn’t want to carry.
Now shift this pattern of retail compliance to the morals, thoughts, philosophies and behaviors that make up your religion, political party, candidate choices for public office, individual creativity, whether you can find a different kind of job, etc. Already dating firms select candidates to be your spouse; right now you can just say, ALICE, get me a spouse….. Shades of Stepford Wives!
In following posts the mariner will address other changes likely in the coming World Bounce.