Ch 08: The Attention Economy as Dystopia

Artificial Intelligence Is Making Us Artificial

For this week, instead of an article, I am going to focus on a Ted Talk. A Ted Talk spoken by Zeynep Tufkeci, a speaker who highlights the unfortunate events of modern-day society as a result of artificial intelligence. It is not creating havoc within the human world, but it is making a dystopia out of what could be a utopia. The world was always messy, but now the exposure is at a whole other level. With the help of technology and digital inventions, human flaws are becoming more and more obvious.

Tufkeci sheds a light on two different terms: persuasion architecture and algorithms. Persuasion architectures is basically what it says it is: a metaphoric blueprint or structure on how to persuade people to believe something or better yet, buy something. It works on everyone. Tufkeci gives the example of when a child is going to the supermarket with his/her parents, as they are heading out the cashier’s line, the child sees a bunch of Hubba-Bubba gum packs. Just when the parent things they are done with shopping and ready to go back home, the child throws in a request (or most likely tantrum) to get the gum. Why is it put there? What does the geography of the item do to the consumer? This all falls under the study of persuasion architecture. It comes down to how to locate a product, advertisement, etc. so that the consumer can easily fall into the trap whether it’s a pack of Hubba-Bubba gum or a vote for a presidential candidate.

The algorithms, which is the other star in this movie of artificial intelligence, is what puts those likes and interests in front of you when you are on the internet. Your search history is stored into data files from browsing about Leonardo DiCaprio to your financial information. YouTube takes advantage of this as well, lining up Ariana Grande videos on the side column when you were curious to hear only one of her songs. The data figures out what you like, and starts customizing your digital experience for you, bombarding you with all forms of videos, pictures and ads that you really could not care less about. Senior year of high school, I was assigned to complete a baby project with my classmate. My friend and me played sisters, who were both staying together to take care of her baby after her husband left her (hypothetical so don’t worry.) After searching up a couple of baby items for our presentation, my homepage and Google started lighting up with all these baby clothes and toys ads. I thought to myself, “Seriously? Google, if you’re that smart, you would know I searched it up for a project, not for anything else.” It categorizes you, and people like you who seem to have common interests and passions.

This becomes a bigger problem when it deals with political. In 2016, if a citizen watched a video about Donald Trump, YouTube would start providing you with more and more videos about white supremacy and extremism. Without realizing it, if you are gullible enough that is, you would be in the process of converting. On the other hand, if you watched about Clinton or Sanders, it will be about the conspiracy left. You can be converted on the other end of the spectrum too. Which side will you start with and which side will you end with? It all depends on you much you let the algorithms of artificial intelligence influence you. This system builds itself up to become authoritarian without the regular consumer and citizen realizing it. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to political ads on Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere on the internet for that matter. On the micro and macro level, it’s creating a dystopia and all because we are letting it. Speak out for the need for transparency and rebel against these various digital platforms. Is the freedom of speech really free? If it’s changing how you are as a person, or rather forcing you to change, what type of freedom is that? Artificial intelligence needs to support and be built on human values, not be its enemy. As Tufkeci expresses, “Attention is not for sale; we are not for sale.” Don’t let yourself be sold. Don’t let yourself become artificial in the world of artificial intelligence. Stay real.

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