Analog Science Fiction and Fact is an American science fiction magazine published under various titles since 1930. Originally titled Astounding Stories of Super-Science, the first issue was dated January 1930.
In a 1942 edition, writer Leigh Brackett wrote a story called The Sorcerer of Rhiannon. In the story she writes the phrase, ‘Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned,’ an idea remnant to the third of Clarke’s three laws which states, ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’
It is with this notion of magic that we must lean in as individuals to what is going on in society today across the globe as a direct result of social media.
As an early adopter and advocate for social media, picking up Twitter around 2007 and Facebook shortly thereafter, I now see how naive I was to the longer term negative effects and consequences of social media on myself, people I know and care about, society and the world around us.
But even as new social media apps hit the market, I continue to embrace and experiment with the new technologies — Clubhouse for instance, albeit with skepticism and caution now.
Why? Because it’s not by accident that people and society are so splintered and divisive today. There is intention behind it. And we should be wary. It’s like black magic.
In 2020 the American docudrama The Social Dilemma premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix. Drawing on interviews with former employees and top professionals from companies such as Facebook, Google, and Apple, the film explores the rise of social media and the damage it has caused to society. It explores the exploitation and manipulation of social media users for financial gain through surveillance capitalism and data mining. It goes into depth on how social media is intentionally designed to nurture an addiction, and it examines the issue of social media’s effect on mental health (including the mental health of adolescents and rising teen suicide rates).
Social media could be the most powerful and progressive force we have ever faced as a race, but that is not for us to know. What we may come to know however is how it evolves and how and when other forces enter the theater of power and influence to add balance.
The data mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence behind social media and capitalism’s need to profit are evolving at such an exponential pace, our practical world, alas laws and social norms, is not equipped to keep up. We are offered services or applications marketed as making our lives better through connectivity. In most cases these platforms are offered as “free” but reality is, there’s a steep cost.
Data Mining While You Drive
Smartphones are commonplace and now Big Tech wants to turn its attention to your car. There are already several programs and services designed to help drivers. Most are offered as upgrades in new cars and simple apps or devices that anyone can use. Each offers value for the user while collecting data valuable to the company.
- The GM Marketplace offers users the ability to receive special promotions along with local recommendations and directions, and options to order from local stores and pay remotely via in-vehicle touch screen and mobile apps. In exchange the program collects data on your driving routes, restaurant choices, common orders, current location and more.
- Several insurance companies now offer Usage Based Insurance (UBI) which offers the potential for cheaper insurance rates to users. Driving monitors are installed and data on driving speeds, how hard the driver breaks, and other metrics to customize insurance coverage and premiums.
- Interior monitoring options are becoming the new standard for newer cars. These systems are touted as enhancing safety and security for users. One system offered by Bosch includes data collection on everything from driver focus and alertness to facial recognition and full occupant monitoring.
In some instances we will be able to choose which information we share with car companies and mobility providers and in some instances we won’t. In some instances we may even have the option to receive compensation, rewards, or a discount based on our preferences and behavior.
Whether it’s lower premiums, enhanced safety or the ability to order coffee while you’re warming up the car, these systems deliver some value to the user. In order to deliver that service, they collect and store various bits of data.
But what if you learned that your insurance company was re-purposing that information for monetary gain, let alone nefarious purposes or interests that don’t share your values? Would you continue sharing your driving patterns?
Like Social Media does for Big Tech companies, car connectivity gathers data for automakers and other parties of interest. But they will need to distinguish themselves from social media in regards to the type of data that can be gathered and interpreted. And they will need to be smarter about how they use it.
Imagine an automaker sharing information that breaches the trust of its customer base the way the Cambridge Analytica scandal did with Facebook? Will they be able to weather a storm like that?
Blockchain and NFTs
The unique role that non-fungible tokens or NFTs could play for consumers as a form of currency exchange for personal bits of information that you authentically own could very well be on the horizon.
NFTs are cryptographic assets on blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata that distinguish them from each other. Unlike cryptocurrencies, they cannot be traded or exchanged at equivalency. This differs from fungible tokens like cryptocurrencies, which are identical to each other and, therefore, can be used as a medium for commercial transactions
As an example, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey just sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9M. The tweet, a digital asset, was bought using the cryptocurrency Ether, for 1630.5825601 ETH, which was worth $2,915,835.47 at the time of sale.
Each NFT has its own blockchain-based digital signature, which serves as a public ledger, allowing anyone to verify the asset’s authenticity and ownership. And much like a tweet, the records of your whereabouts and activities could also potentially be certified as digital assets and used as NFTs with nominal value.
In summary, Big Tech companies have crossed the line with the use of information they accumulate from its users by censoring and silencing information that doesn’t support its own ideological narratives. They also give information and entities that support their ideologies access to the masses, for profit.
The only choice consumers have to combat this is to stop using apps and technologies offered by these companies. But that doesn’t empower consumers and choosing to not use our cars or go anywhere to preserve our privacy is not a realistic option.
Consumers will learn in due time that while the value of our predictive nature might be a commodity for Big Tech, we run the risk en masse that this can and will be used against us. I believe that the blockchain and NFTs could potentially provide a system where we as consumers have more control and capabilities with our predictive behavior.
Stay tuned for more on the subject either here or on my mobility tech and connectivity blog www.autoconverse.com.