Discussion: We Are Already Being Controlled By Technology
At the time of writing this (and I say that because all writers know how much we procrastinate writing), I have just begun the experience of reading ‘The Circle’ by Dave Eggers (I also just realised that his name is unfortunately Eggers). I’m sure most of you have either read the book, watched the film, or at least heard of one of the two in some aspect or in passing. If not, the premise is basically revolved around a company – The Circle – that has control over everything – all your internet activity is in one place on one profile (labelled TruYou). I’m obviously busy working my way through the book but I’m already riveted and the premise has definitely got me thinking about the advancement of technology and what it could lead to.
At first, thinking about your online presence, as well as your social presence, all being collated on one platform – on just one social profile – is fairly far-fetched. Or at least we think it is. The average internet user will have a Facebook profile, along with a Twitter account, a Tumblr account, a YouTube account, a LinkedIn account, a Reddit account – you see where I’m going with this. The idea of merging all thee profiles into one for each specific person would be revolutionary – it would completely reinvent the way we interact with ourselves, our belongings, and with each other.
The Circle makes evident note of this – yes, total exposure would cut down on trolling, reduce scams and predatory attacks; it would generally make sure the internet is continuously monitored which, in real life, we have yet to achieve. Though, in reality, this would spark retaliation all over the world. So many people make use of the internet and its various services for the point of being able to take on the guise of (near) total anonymity. Of course, some use anonymity in a much more dangerous way than others and, indeed, things do need to be monitored on that front. The Circle introduces the company to have changed the world for the better, though I don’t agree that this will be the case. Without anonymity, people are exposed and, in turn, they feel vulnerable and threatened because they don’t have those invisible walls up. Exposure takes away a safety net that we’re all unknowingly used to. If ‘TruYou’ was real – and it’s not far off from being real – we would have our lives categorised as a corporate file.
The reason that I say it’s not far from being a reality is simple – profile merging is already happening. How many times have you been prompted to allow one profile access to another? You can link your Instagram to your Twitter to your Facebook – it becomes a chain that your information is continuously passed along. This is also due to the fact that so many social media sites are being bought by specific ‘top dog’ companies – it’s not difficult to think of these corporations merging together or one overpowering the ret and becoming the conglomerate.
Your individual profiles are all already collecting data from you in some way or another. Cookies on browsers will store your internet history, caches will collect your passwords. In the ‘terms and conditions’ of most, if not all, social networking platforms you would’ve stated that you are to agree to data collection and monitoring. Your likes are recorded, your dislikes are recorded, your thoughts – in a very raw sense – are recorded and stored away in some sub-file of a digital folder. Facebook (along with other sites) is already taking strides to monitor their news output and content more forcefully and more directly. This means they’re going to be interested in how users are interacting with other aspects and purpose of the internet. Your phone, more likely than not, currently tracks how many steps you take, how many hours you sleep, what apps you spend the most time on, which physical locations you visit the most. Even writing this and considering it in a more blatant perspective makes me realise just how little we know about how much personal data is being gathered about is and permanently stored. Our phones can now record your health status, mental state, social status – they allow us to connect our bank details, passport details, and generally all life details to one single device. That device can then pass all that information onto whatever and whichever profile or platform you may have unknowingly agreed for it to. So, no, having a single, all-inclusive, all controlled social profile is not far off from happening because, look, it already is happening. We’re just too busy gawking at the wonders of some other futuristic aspect of technology to take note of what the small print actually means. Though, when we open our eyes – if we do – when ‘The Circle’ actually goes happen, panic will scour the Earth, not peace. But it’ll be too late because your file would’ve already been in the making for years. Think ‘The Sims‘, think ‘Westworld‘ where we are all the hosts (concepts like that aren’t far from being a reality either).
Is it scary? Yes, it’s damn scary because it is going to happen. We’re running at it full speed but it’s almost as if we’re wearing blindfolds at the same time – we can’t stop it and, when the world will want to, we won’t be able to because the power will lie with the conglomerate that has us all profiled down to when we last took a sip of water. The technology is amazingly terrifying and, realise, that these accounts have already been created and labelled for us. People try to hide their presence on the internet – they try to preserve their identity – but that is impossible! If you’ve owned or interacted with near anything (technical, but also otherwise – banks, registrations, etc.), you have been stamped and made note of. Sorry, but no, ‘deseat me’ or ‘just delete me’ is not at all saving you as much as you naively want to believe it is. We can’t escape it so, sooner or later, it looks like we’ll need to accept it.
As ‘The Circle‘ introduces, collective profiles are then going to wreak havoc as social status standings will be introduced in full force. We will be ranked much more openly, which will lead to a power hierarchy. Again, you’re already being ranked. Think of any high scores you’ve collected – how often do you use a ‘point card’ at a specific store? How many posts and followers do you collectively have? All these factors will make up a single profile which will, in turn, make up our identities and the ways our lives play out.
Look at ‘Black Mirror‘ – notably the ‘Nose Dive’ episode – and just think of how close we actually are to achieving that extreme level of monitoring. Even the fact that shows like ‘Black Mirror’ are coming up with fake technology that’s capable of all these things showcases and consolidates that it’s not going to be ‘fake’ for much longer. People – lots of powerful people – are already working on these things and they are making strides when it comes to technological advances that, years ago, we would’ve assumed to be impossible. These ‘crazy’ ‘Black Mirror‘ concepts are only going to be concepts for so long until they’re integrated into our everyday lives. They already are but we, and I am including myself in that demographic, just don’t realise it until, one day, maybe we will wake up and realise how different our ‘normal’ now is compared to our ‘normal’ a decade ago. Perhaps we will notice how seamlessly it changed – how unobserved, how overlooked, as it was just passing in the background instead of actually being the entire foundation.
Has reading ‘The Circle‘ caused me to have a crisis? Most probably – just add it to the list – but these are factors that make up our lives and we have to come to terms with them. Technology is going to skyrocket to unbelievable (but very real) heights and, in my own assumption, the results will be catastrophic. As much as we can, we better try to batten down the metaphorical (and maybe not so metaphorical) hatches and prepare for a storm that we cannot predict in foresight. All we can assume is that it’s going to be a hell of a big one so I leave you with one last question: how much time do you think we’ve got?
I’ll write you later.