Now, I love a good conspiracy as much as the next guy. It is a fun escape down a rabbit hole of information which YouTube and the internet has created for us. However, after watching Netflix’s hugely successful documentary ‘Social Dilemma’, I have begun to watch out for the more sinister aspects of this descent into ‘questioning everything’.
Considering that our online experience is predominantly managed and curated by a handful of companies (Facebook, YouTube, Google), it is important to understand how their systems are designed to get your attention, keep your attention and keep you coming back day after day or hour after hour! Algorithms are the often heard yet rarely understood explanation for what happens within these websites and everything algorithms do are done for our ‘user experience’. What this essentially means is that the technology has the ability to show us information and content based on what it predicts we will engage with consistently. This is determined through a myriad of standard factors: search history, interests, age, race, nationality, religion, gender, political leanings, what kind of video you look at for more than 3 seconds etc.
However, the more you use the technology, the clearer picture it has of you. As explained in ‘Social Dilemma’, it is as if each company is creating a 3D “avatar voodoo doll” of a you, based on all the data it has on you, to curate a constant ambush of videos, posts, and ads designed to keep your attention and control your behaviour. While this may seem like a snapshot of some wild dystopian future, it is not. This is an accurate representation of what tech companies and their algorithms are doing right now. And these algorithms are getting better at knowing you. They know if you are sad, lonely and specifically if you are susceptible to ‘being triggered’. The more they know ‘you’, the better they can predict what you will be doing and how you will respond.
This is not a product and you are not a customer. You are part of the ‘human futures’, a new world market which has spawned the wealthiest companies in the history of humankind. These companies are manipulating and enticing your virtual voodoo doll into trading more of your time – and more of your life – so they can sell you to other companies who can then control you even more. The internet was created as a life changing communication tool but it is now more of an AI-powered machine which is designed to manipulate the masses for profit. This article itself might even have your attention due to the same well-orchestrated technology which is programming your unconscious mind. Where it becomes patently destructive is easily outlined in the following example: a young girl searches the popular #thinspiration hashtag which is widely shared on social media heralding weight loss achievements – this girl then clicks on a video suggested in her search results, it is a positive video about healthy eating and training perhaps BUT the next video which is prompted, well that video is put there by programming which understands very well that teenage girls who spend time watching #thinspiration videos also spend much more time engaging with videos about anorexia, bulimia and plastic surgery – the technology is designed to compete for our attention and getting our attention is the result rather than the quality of the content it shows us. This is a cliff edge for vulnerable people.
This is why an enjoyable viewing of a video which theorises that the moon landing was fake, can and will lead the viewer to flat earth theory, UFO sightings, Holocaust denial, 9/11 conspiracies and anti-vaccine propaganda. This is where the rabbit hole only begins for many people as your life becomes a never-ending bombardment of echo chamber ideology. For those of us with little to do or a fragile sense of self, we become moulded by the content and our worldview can be altered irreparably. Which gets us back to vaccines, the question of if and should we all take the vaccine may depend on how we wish to interact with the world. I raised questions about the damage caused by the Swine Flu vaccines to a good friend of mine recently, a doctor at Tallaght Hospital, Dublin. My worry was that we know little of the long term effects of the Covid-19 vaccine and it might not be ‘worth the risk of side effects’, she was simply baffled by the claims and explained ‘’there is no negative side effects from the swine flu vaccine that I am aware of, same with the general flu vaccine so I have no problem getting vaccinated and I would hope the population feel the same way’’.
This wonderful lady has no connection to Bill Gates or Big Pharma for that matter, she is a brilliant mind who is dedicated to helping people. We also discussed anti-vaxxers groups who claim that BCG vaccination caused autism in their children, ‘’After BCG vaccination is the age that children develop autism so when it occurs it can be difficult to explain to parents that it was not the vaccine, it was unfortunately something that would happen naturally, BCG 100% does not cause autism, they have done so many trials on that area specifically.’’ I might have the luxury of discussing this with a learned doctor while many of us only have Google, Facebook and YouTube. Questioning everything is fine IF you are prepared to also listen to everything and resist the urges of the confirmation bias which plagues us. In a fight versus Big Tech, I am not so sure we have a chance.
The recently introduced need for Covid-19 testing to board a flight or attend an event might be a workable non-vaccine solution right now but for many people the convenience of the vaccine will dictate that they will take it as soon as it’s available. My mom wants to get back to living and at 70, she is prepared to take her chances with the vaccine. I might need a little more convincing due to my conspiratorial mind but the convincing should be coming from my doctor and not a video made by a guy who lives in his parents basement. The light at the end of the tunnel is real, don’t let anyone block it out. The future is once again, ours.