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Boyan Taksirov
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Do IT corporations program our minds?

29 Oct 2017 16:27

So, almost everyone uses services, provided by IT corporations like Google or Facebook, on a daily basis. It is a part of the daily routine and we can’t imagine a day without using what these companies provide to us. Map navigation, communication, acquaintance with new people, scheduling, browsing, searching information, storing information, buying, working, playing, going on a holiday or a vacation, etc… All of this is quite likely to happen with the help of Google or another IT corporation through their apps, web services and operational systems… This help comes mostly for free, and offers great facilitation, that’s why everyone uses it.
But… there is one disturbing thought.

Can we be sure that all the information that we give about ourselves while using the various services provided to us by these corporations will never be used for any purposes we are not aware of?

Combining all of the traces that we leave in internet and while working with apps will make the owner of this versatile information to know us better than we know ourselves. Especially if a psychological science is applied. If somebody has an access to what we browse, what we are searching in internet, our activity in the social media, our purchases, our everyday routine and so on, this person(or persons) will know everything about us, even our deepest secrets, fears, hopes, problems, conflicts, values, way of thinking… just everything!

What a great source for examining the human behaviour, far beyond of that, what the governments have and have ever had! And the corporation owning this information virtually can not be controlled in terms how to operate with it. And the most important thing – this goes not only in one direction! The corporations not only collect information, they are giving us information in response! The internet content we see is shaped to a great extend by the corporations. The search results, the word auto complete function in search engines, all of the recommendations, that we see in sites like youtube, the personalized google ads we see in most of the sites are some of the examples how the big IT service providers influence our internet and overall experience. To know a person to the core and to be able to suggest to her/him an information, according to her/his psychological profile presents a great power for a psychological influence.

Imagine the following – Google wants to make you to eat, let’s say, medlars. Don’t ask why, just imagine it. Google, being in complete knowledge of your lifestyle, psychology profile, health status and therefore possible health problems, concentrates over one(or more) possible for you, but not necessarily existing. Let’s assume that you are a little bit overweighted. The next time you enter in youtube it is likely for you to see a scaring movie, recommended to you by youtube, which explains how even if a person is just a little bit overweight, this increases the risk for, let’s say, a stroke. And if you search for some ways for reducing weight, no matter where – either in Google search engine, Youtube or somewhere else, you could be presented with information how good are the medlars for losing weight and(or) reducing the risk for a stroke. This information could come to you via Google ads as well. And the whole this influence could be repeated over and over, constantly.

Sounds nuts? Sounds paranoid? Maybe. But this was a very crude and basic example. We can only presume how sophisticated these methods may be, developed by combining the personal information with a psychological science. There are different directions in psychology devoted to controlling the human, suggesting ideas, behaviours, emotions, desires, fears, attitudes, opinions, values and so on… Tinkering with sub consciousness, loading it with subliminal messages, making manipulative associations, making the person to come by himself to the desired decisions... the techniques are numerous. Neuro Linguistic Programming, for example, is all about that. Behaviourism is about different techniques for training people to a defined behaviour, just like animals. Suggestology also treats the same subjects, with its own approach. And sure there are morе sociological and psychological domains devoted to influencing the mass and the individual behaviour, which are constantly advancing in knowling the human soul and its inner processes and mechanisms.

Of course, there will never be enough personnel to cope with each person individually. But that’s why the programs are written. Did Google(or any other IT corporation) reveal its algorithms to the public or just to the government? Do we know how they are written and how do they work?

No.

Even if the IT corporations would be obliged to reveal their algorithms in the future, could there be a mechanism, ensuring that exactly these “approved” algorithms will work anywhere and anytime without other programs to be secretly involved? Who knows for the future, but currently the answer is more likely no. So, why these IT corporations would like to influence and dictate the human behaviour so much? Of course, the obvious reason is to make more money. But this reduces to having more power. So, it is a completely possible for the IT corporations, having their leverage, to try to direct the social processes and development. To lead us to a world and society according their liking. Maybe a society in which people are so programmed, trained and controlled, without realizing it, that there would be almost no free will and free choice? No democracy. No persons, just bots… What a dark, dystopian picture, but still possible…

Hoping that the governments will control the corporations in doing this, is futile. At least for now. So, it is a responsibility of the society to develop some kind of a “brain firewall” , “psychological immune system” in order to be resilient to the eventual ongoing psychological diversion, coming from many sides. This resilience could be developed through communication and sharing, thus the appropriate culture, corresponding to the current reality, to be developed.
 
AndreaHirschmann
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Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

29 Oct 2017 16:51

Boyan Taksirov wrote:
So, it is a responsibility of the society to develop some kind of a “brain firewall” , “psychological immune system” in order to be resilient to the eventual ongoing psychological diversion, coming from many sides. This resilience could be developed through communication and sharing, thus the appropriate culture, corresponding to the current reality, to be developed.


Agreed - I don't think it is very utopic what you describe; manipulation is nothing new, only the means and methods are way more efficient now than in the past. Just think of commercials, they work fine, and lots of research is already put into merchandising. Unfortunatly corporations do have much more means and money to put into research - probably also research on how to weaken resilience - than those opposing it and trying to do educational work, also in everydays life, in their direct surroundings, whether in RL or online. Are you trying to collect ideas here how to strengthen this kind of resilience?
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Boyan Taksirov
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Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

29 Oct 2017 17:16

AndreaHirschmann wrote:
Agreed - I don't think it is very utopic what you describe; manipulation is nothing new, only the means and methods are way more efficient now than in the past. Just think of commercials, they work fine, and lots of research is already put into merchandising. Unfortunatly corporations do have much more means and money to put into research - probably also research on how to weaken resilience - than those opposing it and trying to do educational work, also in everydays life, in their direct surroundings, whether in RL or online. Are you trying to collect ideas here how to strengthen this kind of resilience?


Yes, I think, that the science of manipulation has gotten to a whole new level with this huge amounts of personal data, collected from the IT companies. What I do hope is, that the culture of the people will become aware and adapted to any means for manipulation and control, used by IT companies, and/or other groups and circles having financial and political power. But this adaptation may happen only through sharing and communication. Discussions should be raised and developed, and then many new ideas and concepts for more resilient mindset will appear.
So, the answer of your question is yes, I would welcome any ideas in this direction.
 
Jan-Marten
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Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

15 Dec 2017 14:03

"Do we know how they are written and how do they work?"

Well, yes, sort of. Yesterday, NASA revealed that it discovered a solar system like ours (2500 light years from here if a remember correctly), by employing artificial intelligence on a huge amount of satellite data. NASA used software from Google to mine through their dataset. Some of us know how this software works, as some of us are aware how neural nets are build and operated. The maths behind neural nets is not a secret and not property of google or facebook - you can find enough on wikipedia, youtube and websites to build your own neural net and start playing with them.

The problem is not the technology (the algorithms), the problem is the data. You cannot misuse a neural net, but you can misuse data with a neural net (or other mining algorithms). More generally, technology is never a solvable problem in itself - you cannot uninvent the machine gun, gene manipulation or nuclear weapons. The crux is how to cope with the changes and dangers it introduces.

You will likely be interested by the work of Michal Kosinski (http://www.michalkosinski.com/), whose research sparked the formation of cambridge analytica (must see: https://cambridgeanalytica.org - it is mind boggling in both scope and openness ), a company that is already doing now what you fear may happen, not only commercially, but also politically. It is said this company played a significant role in brexit and trump elections - but few really know.

"Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook "likes" by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were divorced."

Our future is increasingly going to be dominated by 'dataism' (as it is called), up to a point that statistics+AI+big data will be able to know you better than you do know yourself. In which case one may ask how the free will (if it exists) survives. Google - should i see a doctor? Should i take this mortgage? Should i buy this stock? Should i marry this person? What should i vote?

In the political realm, one of the dataism-alarmist noted that broad political slogans aimed at average citizens (yes we can!) is going to be replaced by targeting individual voters with
tailored and more effective manipulative messages.

A historian (forgot his name) said about dataism: first, power was held by those who owned the land. later, power was held by those who owned the means of production. In the future, power will be held by those who own the data.
 
Boyan Taksirov
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Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

16 Dec 2017 00:18

Jan-Marten wrote:
A historian (forgot his name) said about dataism: first, power was held by those who owned the land. later, power was held by those who owned the means of production. In the future, power will be held by those who own the data.


Yes, data is power. But who knows what kind of processes the data based power will start. I could share my personal opinion here. As we know from life, everything adapts. The fact of knowing that an individual could be a subject of manipulation from any side - ads, media, communication, etc. changes the consciousness of the individual and the collective consciousness and culture as well. The awareness of this is a new variable to the social equation which makes its solution much unpredictable. The more sophisticated the methods are, the more resilient the people will become. If everyone is a subject of manipulations and suggestions coming from all sides, serving to one elite purpose, the values of freedom, free will, democracy, etc. will be greatly endangered. I do not think that manipulations and suggestions will be sufficient to tackle the discontent, apathy and nihilism that may spread after a critical mass of people realise that.
The level of mutual trust, necessary to support the society will likely fall. And if so, this will open the doors for a new ideas and concepts, satisfying the social demand for justice and purpose, which are inherent to people.
So, the progress doesn't go just in one direction.
 
Jan-Marten
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Joined: 17 May 2017 21:51

Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

17 Dec 2017 23:08

Boyan Taksirov wrote:
The more sophisticated the methods are, the more resilient the people will become.


resiliency can only be developed against something that is experienced. if sophisticated manipulation is administered unnoticed, it is not experienced. so i think it is essential to raise awareness.
 
Boyan Taksirov
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Location: Sofia, Bulgaria
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Re: Do IT corporations program our minds?

18 Dec 2017 09:22

Jan-Marten wrote:
Boyan Taksirov wrote:
The more sophisticated the methods are, the more resilient the people will become.


resiliency can only be developed against something that is experienced. if sophisticated manipulation is administered unnoticed, it is not experienced. so i think it is essential to raise awareness.



I state the same conclusion in all my posts in this topic. That's why such problems should be raised and discussed, so the different manipulation methods to be constantly exposed and analyzed, the circles, reasons and objectives behind them as well. This will change the culture and values of the society, but they are about to be changed anyway, but in a different direction, favorable to the elites.