Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Network is the Weapon

I recommend a read through this FT article on Cognitive Hackig, TikTok and the use of AI to hook users - it's not too revelatory if you've been following tech news, but it's succinct and well researched, and sadly I don't think the message about the dangers of modern tech is being spread widely enough (he says, still posting to a Google blog...)

In particular though, we can start to see the extension of Web 2.0 to perhaps 3.0. Whereas 2.0 was, in hindsight, all about turning the user into the Product, the new round seems to be about turning the user into a Weapon - the phrase "weaponising" is becoming increasingly employed around our own behaviour, and the actions we trigger through how we amplify and endorse political emotion disguised as information. (This could be an alternative definition of "disinformation", in fact.)

Suddenly the naivety of myself 'just' abandoning social networks is thrown into a new light. The control of online behaviour is likely to turn increasingly into a battle for a wider power than advertising money. Indeed, given the capture of politics by capitalism in the first place, it's almost strange that the separation of more overt politics has been kept so distinct already.

This s an intriguing development biting at the West - the networks and techniques developed around user addiction and big data have made their way into states with mass population control in their blood and intents, and nobody seems really sure about how to detach big money from big states. Europe is defining the battle along personal information lines (such as GDPR) which is good, but needs more encouragement for users to engage and understand data and why it's becoming dangerous. America are adopting the old wartime spirit of using national borders to fend off influence, but mainly because they want that control for themselves - see TikTok.

And the third aspect in the mix is, well, until at what point do we actually understand what our own deep-scanning algorithms are doing? At what key event of complexity does some emergent system behaviour produce shocks that we can't predict, and don't have the paradigm to analyse and interpret, let alone the scientific and social solutions.

You are the Weapon. As the networked surveillance technology permeates ever more into not just our devices but our streets too (hello COVID and smart cities, looking at you), the ability to track and influence populations will become ever more like a tabletop game with thousands, millions, billions of tokens. You, and all your friend, are the new soldiers.

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