They regret and have little hope that the immense damage they helped do can be repaired. Creators and designers of services like Facebook, Google and Twitter are starting to realize that they helped build monsters.
That shocking image emerges in the documentary film The Social Dilemma, which currently scores high on Netflix.
The film shows how Silicon Valley is no longer a place where inventors create new hardware and software that are the product. The consumer is the product and the advertiser is the customer. Internet companies are therefore committed to keeping consumers glued to the image for as long as possible.
The techniques for keeping the user in an app come from psychology. The documentary pays a lot of attention to persuasion technology or, in English jargon: persuasion design. For example, infinite scrolling is designed to make sessions literally endless. And as soon as someone threatens to drop out, an alert or another signal determined by algorithms will come to focus again.
Shoshana Zuboff, professor emeritus of social psychology at Harvard University, says, “The tech companies are selling security to advertisers.” Certainty that the commercial message will reach a receptive person. “You need great predictability for certainty. Good predictions start with a necessity and you need a lot of data from the user for that. ”
Computer scientist Jaron Lanier looks at the opposite. He states that algorithms only allow users to see messages and images that match their world view. Nothing out of the ordinary or undesirable. Advertisers’ only higher purpose in that context is to manipulate the audience. Let other behavior. “It is the gradual imperceptible change in your behavior and perception that shapes the product. Change of behavior is the only product. It is who you are and what you do. ”
Lanier continues, “We have created a world where online connections are primary. Especially with younger generations. Anytime two people connect, it’s funded by a third person who pays to manipulate those two people. So a generation has grown up in a context where the meaning of communication and culture is manipulation. Deceit and stealth are at the center of everything we do. ”
Zuboff: “We can influence behavior in the real world without the user noticing. They really don’t have a clue. ”
One of the figures on which The Social Dilemma is built, ex-Googleer Tristan Harris, says: “A lot of people call it surveillance capitalism. Infinite tracking of someone’s behavior and intentions by major tech companies. That should ensure that advertisers are successful. ” The user is the product. “But is anyone working on making products less addictive?”
“We focus the AI machines back on ourselves to find out what triggers which response in us. It is a kind of Matrix, an unseen world in which we harvest money from people by exploiting data from their activities without them realizing. AI is a new form of power. ”
Harris tries to share his insights with the world through his Center for Humane Technology.
The film ends with a dark worldview with dictators, crumbling democracies and devastating climate change. Because every citizen of the world lives in their own app bubbles, everyone has their own perception of the world and truths. The awareness of shared values and beliefs is eroding. As a result, according to lawyer Rashida Richardson, people can no longer be objective constructive individuals. “You are no longer able to take into account information that contradicts the world view you have created.”
Trailer van The Social Dilemma:
Photo: Wendelin Jacober (cc)
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