The Matrix, but for kitchen gadgets

by Jon Sullivan - 2019-10-02 - Internet

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Either I'm a paranoid techno-phobe, or machines are taking over the world. Or not. Only the machines can know for sure.

Now that I'm all-in at Facebook I'm noticing the ads. Obviously, like everyone, I've been instinctively trained over the years to ignore ads on the Internet and never even notice them. But Facebook ads are on another level. Scanning through my feed right now, for the first 6 ads : 5 are ads for things that are very relevant to stuff I might buy. Three are interesting enough that I stop and look closer. And one I'm pretty sure I'll buy. These targeted ads are too good.

As a software engineer working on automation systems and algorythmic pattern matching, I can assure you, this should fucking scare you. These aren't boiler room sales people who are really good at selling you stuff you don't need. These are whole buildings of machines breaking down your life day by day and knowing what you are thinking. Knowing what motivates you to action.

Now obviously, me buying some sous vide equipment I didn't even know about before isn't a bad thing in itself. And obviously I have free will and can buy or not buy based on my self interest. So if this was just me clicking on ad links on Facebook I'd be silly to freak out about it.

But it's not Facebook that is the problem. It's the technology existing. The buildings of machines that knows what you are thinking is a for-profit business selling a service. And that service is providing buyers with your thoughts and hopes and dreams. Full stop.

And not just selling that to people selling kitchen gadgets. This technology is being used by foreign governments to do things like sway presidential elections. It's being used to silence journalists. The potential bad is endless.

My fear isn't about Facebook, it's about governments. Machine learning, and perhaps soon quantum computing, means all this "machines can control you" technology gets more powerful day by day. Machine learning is relentless. And with enough data it can make the human brain look stupid. With governments having that power, we have no place to hide. And maybe you don't fear the US government, but the ones we know are targeting you are the Russians, Saudis, and Chinese. When Trump asks the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens in exchange for missiles, he's not requesting they ask around and see if anyone knows anything. He's asking them to unleash their version of NSA/GCHQ. He's asking for those same buildings of machines selling you ads to ruin lives.

While I mention Trump, this isn't about him. Anyone in power can use this technology secretly and against anyone. Facebook and server farms build profiles on everyone. Maybe you don't care if Trump wants dirt on Biden. But you might if a company you're interviewing with knows everything from your medications to drinking habits. And US laws won't protect you, as these companies have offices in countries who don't care.

Or.... maybe it's all in my mind and machines targeting everyone's social graph is harmless. Maybe no one should care if the Saudis know what porn your kids like and how clean your kitchen is.

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