Big Tech Is Exploiting People As Data Points At Our Expense

Technology that was intended to make us more interconnected has actually made us more lonely, and large corporations are making it worse.

Think about where we were technologically just 10 years ago, when everybody was really excited about our utopian tech-driven future.

Netflix used to mail you DVDs, now they spend $15 billion a year feeding their content algorithms. Google used to cutely offer you the “I’m feeling lucky” option, now they predict your searches before you finish typing them. Snapchat and Instagram didn’t exist yet, and Facebook was still a place where you could find someone under 45.

With modern smartphones, we have more technology in our pocket than what NASA had to send humans to the moon. We have more information at the tip of our fingers than all the libraries of the ancient world. We can make a few taps and gestures and food or drugs or people show up to where we are.

But think about it. To the ancient world, we’d seem like a society of depressed wizards.

You’d think with all this technology, people would be happier. Theoretically, they’d have more free time to spend with their loved ones, they’re more connected to things and people they’re interested in, and can more easily find communities they can resonate with.

But that hasn’t happened. Suicide rates have skyrocketed. The abuse of painkillers has become one of the most significant public health crises in American history. We whisper about the epidemic of loneliness that is afflicting us all, as more and more of our interactions take place through a digital interface.

This is what happens when human beings are reduced to data points, when they demand access to every swipe of our finger or where we drive our car or what we choose to buy. We lose agency, we lose privacy, and most importantly I think we are starting to lose hope. This is what I hear when someone says “Oh, I have nothing to hide, so I don’t care,” or “isn’t more surveillance better so that they can find criminals? I’m not doing anything wrong.”

When the value we provide to the most profitable companies on the planet is entirely dependent upon us being addicted to spending time on their various platforms so that they can serve us ads and watch what we do so that they can serve us even more accurately timed ads, they are going to optimize those platforms to keep us hooked.

10 years ago, technology was a tool for human beings to live better, more fulfilling, more efficient lives. This week on Everything They Know, as you’ll hear, we are the tools that technology is using to make itself smarter, more efficient, and more ubiquitous.

Curious Audio is a partner of Rantt Media

Opinion // Artificial Intelligence / Privacy / Tech