It’s a warm Monday morning in the capital city. You woke up to respond to your alarm, played some refreshing songs, ordered coffee online, got ready for office and booked a car using an app. On the commute to your office, you browsed through your social media accounts, read an interesting article, checked for a restaurant offering good breakfast, and paid using a phone. While working in the office you searched about a few things on the internet. You got back home. Ordered dinner via an app and settled down to watch the latest TV shows on your laptop while texting your loved ones.
This was a normal routine for a young working professional. So, we can assume that Google Homes woke you up, you booked a car via Uber (Amazon is an investor in Uber), you browsed Facebook on the go, Google recommended you a restaurant, while working you searched on Google Search, and at the end you were watching your favorite TV shows on Amazon Prime. Even if it wasn’t Amazon, Netflix is also hosted on Amazon’s cloud services. And, you were texting on WhatsApp, owned by Facebook. Also, most of you use a smartphone that runs on Android, owned by Google. So, you’re basically on surveillance by any of the Silicon Valley tech giants all day long.
With technology setting up a higher bar for itself every other day, gadgets, applications, and intelligent products have become an inseparable part of our lives. Introduced into our lives with a promise to bring us comfort and elevate our living standards, these smart devices have taken a toll on our time, behavioral patterns, and day-to-day actions and everything that has deeply changed us as human beings come from a handful of Silicon Valley tech companies. Enterprises that were established to make our lives easier, in a quest to improve their services, have acquired so much of our personal data that now they’ve intentionally started to determine our activities.
The so-called Internet Revolution leveraged some of the tech-savvy companies that though started as a service, later began digging deeper into the realms of data. Today, they have become the most influential companies in the world. Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, in 2000, predicted that the internet would become an apparatus that tracks our every move, erasing important aspects of privacy and free speech in our social and political lives. And, that’s what we’re up to.
The store which started selling books online started recommending more books with “If you’ve bought this, you may also want to buy this”, thus started determining our future purchases. It started with books, but today Amazon sells everything you need.
It’s evident that the internet era born in freedom has evolved into a creature that controls its users. Post-Snowden, we realized the scale of NSA and GCHQ surveillance.
With the unexpected results of the US elections, the technocrats are of the opinion that artificial intelligence and data were effectively used to influence the behavior of individuals, particularly on social media sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Google’s parent company, Alphabet has invested in SpaceX, while Facebook and Amazon are all set to get into the space business.
Of course, you can have your point that these tech companies have helped us evolve as human beings, so what’s the issue if they’re taking our data for the benefits they offer for “free”. Agreed. But, the issue is that a small group of companies is ruling the world, and that’s a monopoly in technology. The monopoly of any kind is not good for the world we live in.
Mark Zuckerberg, the young Facebook founder is said to run for the President. No doubt how easily can Facebook build his persona and brand value during the elections with the kind of influence it has on its 214 million active users in the US.
So, try to understand the impact that these tech companies are creating in our lives, the way they can influence our decisions and make us buy products and involve in activities of their choice, while we keep believing that we’re living our lives on our terms. It’s high time now that we realize how our lives are dominated by these technology companies and for these companies to acknowledge their power and influence and become truly accountable for the data they acquire. Yes, we can compromise on our privacy for the services they offer for “free”, but until when? Maybe, “up to a point” would be your answer, until you reach your threshold. But, when will that point come? Not until your brain is hacked and you start killing people.