A bird went in search of a cage

The world's richest man has brought a social media app for $45 billion, a number far beyond the imagination of us ordinary people. Communication which was earlier in the public domain through the post and state media has now gone into the centralized hands of a global few, where our inner desires, thoughts, and opinions are analyzed and monetized. We do have a herring of having free communication and global reach with these tools, but at what cost? Social media has increased polarization and is modeled to increase addiction and interaction where our attention is the fodder for a new capitalistic machine whose implications no one understands yet. Things we are scared to share even with our therapists are hidden in databases, fuelling our inclination to buy and buy more. To be disconnected is to be poor, our social fabric is hidden in black-box algorithms, another hidden variable to the mysteries of life.

It is to wonder if our collective data has value in the billions and can be mined for profit, why is it that we the people do not get any incentives for that? Sure, money can be made through these social interactions but at the cost of one's mental health and degrading freedoms. A proponent of free speech, this billionaire has forgotten the vileness that Donald Trump's Twitter feed launched in the last decade. We the people are powerless against these juggernauts as our governments are feeble enablers in the toxic transactions that control the very words we use. A handful of companies decide on what we read and what we see, in effect controlling who we are and what we feel. The internet came with a promise of unbridled freedom but now we are yoked to the whims of the powerful. Now ancient regimes of the Stasi are replaced by the overseeing panopticon, a devil veiled in a cloak of invisibility. “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he does not exist”, modern-day Keyser Soze's are celebrated as heroes, and the propaganda campaigns for future ghettoes are lined with the pocket linen of the haloed billionaires. The critical agencies of what makes us people have now been outsourced to our super-tribal leaders, is this how we imagine future societies to be? Questions can be asked but our depersonalized selves are complex data points in a feverish social order. Researchers from another time will write biographies from our carefully compiled data, perhaps showing that beyond profit, we've been the same people as our ancestors brimming with vanity and little wisdom under the veneer of modernity and prosperity.

Perhaps it's okay to walk naked and shit with the door open when there is nowhere to hide there is nothing to hide. Relax, this won't hurt.. until it does but it won't matter anymore.

#twitter #privacy #capitalism #socialmedia

Why is it expected that a person is always connected to the internet and within the reach of an email account, WhatsApp or Instagram? Why is it that the default mode of communication is over WhatsApp and if one chooses to not be on the platform there is an actual loss of information. Smartphones are also an ubiquitous presence in the public spaces of modern cities where having one is always assumed by default. Payments, check-ins, money transfers, security procedures to access critical apps all require a smartphone with internet access though it isn't implicit that a person should own a phone in the first place.

The internet as a highly deregulated space has a feeling of being a privatized version of the Wild West where the big landowners can do what they want to do and the plebs are at the mercy of these anarchic overlords. Sure, there is a lot of utility to be made with the helps of the tools provided by these corporations, but at what cost? This belief by the general populace that everyone is connected to one of the data exploiters is problematic as any reasoning would only evoke suspicion, as that's what we've been trained to believe. The internet for most parts is still has a very nascent presence in our lives. Most of us weren't born into it, and so we don't know what happens behind the screen – the assumption that if it looks good then it is good applies to our day-to-day usage of the internet.

Getting a job requires a cellphone number, having a twitter account needs a cellphone number, opening a bank account needs one and in a country like India, the government itself starts a bio-metric surveillance project that connects all IDs to a phone number and a person. Even a mundane shopping experience needs one to give a phone number to 'unlock' special benefits and people do so because they're not educated on what the drawbacks of doing so entail. This means that not wishing to have oneself not surveilled means that not having access to State machinery and simple conveniences. This gate keeping helps in perpetuating existing power structures without giving scope for people to move up hierarchies, as who wants to give up political power and status? The inequality index of power should also be considered along with money and this index is closely tied with an omnipotent entity knowing everything about you.

For now, it's hard for one to say how the internet propaganda machine can be used to manipulate us, as our own biases are not visible and the traces of any programming done upon us is further obliterated by the echo chambers of communication the algorithms build around us. We are far into the future where predictive mechanisms know more about us than we do about ourselves and in that extent it feels like the cellphone has become a bionic implant put inside us by a rogue corporation. It is the case anyway, the phones suck all our time through online slot machines of apps and websites, all luring us with an overload of junk information trained to dose us with the right hits of dopamine. The phone listens to us, knows what we think and sees what we capture. It has an eye to the world and another staring directly into our faces for all the time we let it gaze at us. It has a cold, mathematical dissemination with which it investigates and classifies us – for purposes of making us buy more and think less.

I think the luxury offered by the smartphone + the internet is something we will not let go easily, it is an addiction that triggers us, like Opium wars of distant past. Since the government and the people are hooked onto the dope shouldn't force me to become a user. This is the time to exercise my rights further as a citizen, if we are all equal even in a hypothetical sense then it is only fair that what I know of myself should be restricted to me and if entities larger than me choose to consume my data exhaust then they should open their black box algorithms and show me what's up inside. The internet and technology has brought a significant change in my quality of life, yes, and that comes with a price. That price shouldn't be my own self and that too not with my dopamine addled consent.

If I want to junk my phone and cull my internet personality I should be able to do so. If the being registered in a more direct surveillance project is mandatory then the terms have to be clear through law or through coercion. This would at least entail a direct participation for or against the current methodologies in use. The current policy of subliminal nudging only accounts for a deeper disorder while hiding the real fight. I say bring it on, we are all in this together.

#data #algorithms #SurveillanceCapitalism #facebook #google #privacy