Deceptionomics – Dataset you
Would I lie to you?
Both your team members have just returned from a business trip. You can’t be sure, but one of them is falsely claiming she did all the work. Keep in mind that this is 8 million years ago and we hadn’t yet mastered speech. The business trip was to capture lunch and you only have her gestures to go by.
Fast forward a few million years and with the power of speech your colleagues can now add nuance and inference to their business trip narrative.
The deft use of language is much more energy efficient than actually having to pull one’s weight.
Thus language gave us an effort-saving alternative to maintaining our social status in the tribe. A drop in social status could lead to life-diminishing tribal ejection.
The writing is on the wall
The arrival of the written word enabled us to capture our thoughts in space and time. Initially the focus was on counting and accounting. But the Phoenicians, Mayans and Sumerians took this to the next level and thus the first epitaphs emerged.
The arrival of the first printing press however was less about a life well lived and more about control. Only the powerful could afford to commission a book. Propaganda is as old as human communication itself. The printing press gave it industrial scale.
The fireless fire
It’s easy to imagine why the radio set became so popular. In many respects, it provided a focal point not dissimilar to the fire around which our ancestors sat. It also meant that we could let the radio carry the social and thus energy burden.
Hitler couldn’t believe his luck. He now had a means to sell his poisonous ideology to the world. But the allies were no innocents in this respect. Radios served as weaponry and the listeners were the targets.
Control and now exploitation too!
The glow of the television set better mimicked the hunter gatherer fire. Glowing, transfixed, flaccid faces staring at the box. The business world saw the value of this new medium. Working with the programme producers they created a cocktail of advertisements and role models that in essence communicated that you were not enough.
Despite its broadcast nature, it somehow managed to convey that it was talking just to you.
Radio and television were useful tools for those looking to programme media consumers. But they were still a little crude in respect of personalisation.
The Internet was created by the military to avoid a single point of network failure. Scientists used it for sharing research. Tim Berners Lee subsequently created a multimedia cape draped over the Internet called the World Wide Web. Today we carry the web around in our pocket.
Unlike TV, the web knows who we are and so provides the perfect medium for deception and manipulation.
It’s like having a butler who is both obedient and dangerous. A butler who occasionally asks inappropriate questions, such as, “What are the 10 albums that have most influenced your life?” or “Take this test to see which animal best represents you?”. The clever thing with Facebook is that they get your friends to do the dirty work. With a better understanding of your emotional triggers, they can work you like Pavlov.
Today you are no longer an invisible person hidden amongst the masses. You are a multi-dimensional dataset.
A new, yet simpler you
Social media makes life easier. Your best friend has breakfast. ‘Like’. Your best friend runs an ultramarathon. ‘Like’. Your best friend’s mother dies. ‘Like’. What could be easier? If needs be, you can demonstrate your true humanity with an emoji. In some respects, we are returning to the days of Cuneiform.
A more pliable you
Your personality is captured in data. In fact your personality has been assigned to you. Once your triggers are captured, engineering the new you can commerce. The more time you spend in cyberspace, the easier you are to programme. Social media is the lovechild of the Truman Show and the Matrix. If Facebook sells ten products, then for all intents and purposes it only needs ten personality types.
Being a dataset is one thing, being imprisoned in this dataset is another.
We are in danger of becoming so decoupled from reality that our senses are shutting down. Our nervous system serves as nothing more than a keyboard used to drive our behaviour.
It is up to you whether you perceive your butler as malicious or not. If he seems to do what you ask and gives you what you want then what is there to complain about. Though keep in mind that butlering is an industry and as such it is not for free.
I suggest that you fully understand the price you are paying.