Why is the world so divided today? We are either pro-Trump or anti-Trump, liberal or anti-liberal, Brexit or anti-Brexit, globalization or nationalist, environmentalist or think global warming is a hoax.
Only a decade back centrist parties where in power world over. Far right and extreme left were always in the fringes and no one could get elected if they were not somewhere near the center. Policies even in capitalist economies were generally right of the center but never extreme. The world movement was towards globalization and we lived in a far more tolerant world.
Gone are the days when left and extreme right parties were found in the fringes. Centrist parties and views have all faded and the world at present has swung either extreme right or leftist with likes of Bernie Sanders calling for a total revolution for those who have missed the bus in this rabidly evolving technological world.
Why is the World so Divided?
Why has this division taken place? Why is the world so divided?
Are the politicians to be blamed or there is something more sinister happening.
Let us examine these.
Politicians always used fear and divisions in society to gain votes, there is nothing new to here!
Is it because the middle class is shrinking due to changes in technology? Is there too much of wealth gap in todays world with very few billionaires controlling disproportionate share of world wealth. To some extent this is true.
However, the real reason seems to be the use of artificial intelligence coupled with social media that shapes our thinking and opinion today. Have you noticed that if you are looking to buy an airline ticket you will start getting advertisement on Facebook or YouTube by other competitors? If you don’t buy the ticked and go back to the website the price will increase putting pressure on you to buy. This is true for any product or service.
Advertising by businesses have progressively shaped our buying choices and consumer tastes. Internet combined with artificial intelligence has taken targeted advertising to a whole new level.
There was a time when customer was king or customer was God. These days, customers are more-or-less idiots! This is because most brands can change customer tastes easily! They know that with the right kind of advertisements and marketing strategies they can create demand were none existed.
This means, customers are no longer the true kings! Businesses can us anything by changing our tastes through targeted advertising.
Big Data – Is this New Gold Rush Destroying our Harmony?
Personal Data collected on the internet through social media has become a trillion-dollar industry. It is being sold to the highest bidder with utter disregard to your privacy.
Selling personal data to businesses was one thing but when data started being sold to change our political views has become a very dangerous game. Not only political parties are using it but also enemies of the state to elect favorable people in power and destroy faith in democratic institutions.
With the help of social media, you only get to see the news you want to see. For instance, I like to watch Fareed Zakaria GPS program. As soon as I open Youtube his videos appear on the front page.
If I go to BBC I get news about New Zealand and India because I usually like reading news from those two countries.
If you wish to understand how our political views are being shaped then please watch Netlex serial ‘The Great Hack’.
The Great Hack focuses on one of the biggest scandals of all time! To be more precise, this movie deals with a scandal that hit out millennial generation. Carole Cadwalladr has broken down the entire movie into a beautiful story, which makes sense in many ways. If you are focusing on learning more about surveillance capitalism, this is one of the finest stories to begin with.
The Great Hack is about how ‘Cambridge Analytic’ a firm in UK was using personal data obtained from Facebook to shape public opinion towards electing Donald Trump. They had 5000 data points on target audience and plastered them with videos and ads to change their public opinion.
This happened 4 years back. Technology has advanced leaps and bound since then. These days it is possible to collect millions of personal data points.
Let us take for example biometrics for health. We won’t mind sharing our health bio-metrics so that artificial intelligence and doctors can monitor our health in real time and warn us in advance of a heart attack or anything else with our bodies.
However, this data has potential to be misused for commercial and political reasons. For example, if I am watching an advertisement on TV about a sports car or an exotic holiday in Bali and get excited about it then this excitement can be captured through my biometrics and passed onto business firms.
Same is true for politics. We get very passionate about our ideology and leaders. This can be exploited by those who have access to our data to change, influence or re-enforce our views.
Similarly let us talk of monitoring our movements through smart phones. Most governments have introduced apps to monitor our movements so that we can be warned of any person having coronavirus in our vicinity, a very sensible thing to do and most of us will download this app. However, this app is equivalent of wearing and electronic bracelet around our leg like what most prisoners use when they are out on bail. Government can now monitor our movements. Which social groups we meet and who are our friends with what political leaning.
Most of these measures are instituted as emergency measures but part of them remain in place long after the emergency is over. Bush administration implemented monitoring of phones and social media after 9/11. Unfortunately, after a decade some of the measures were in place even after a decade as revealed by Snowden who is now exiled Russia for revealing state secrets.
Our political views and lifestyle choices today are unfortunately being dictated by unscrupulous businesses and politicians. Privacy of the personal data being misused for shaping our views is the biggest problem facing us all today.
Our opinions are being shaped and divided. The cohesive fabric of the society is being torn and divided. Unfortunately, there is little or no debate on this very vital issue that is affecting us all today.
Democracy is the greatest gift to us. It is the main reason why inclusive societies have progressed economically ahead of authoritarian regimes. If we allow our minds to be programmed by artificial intelligence controlled by vested interests then it will lead to divisions and strife.
We have to stop belittling one another and focus our energy on getting governments to enforce our privacy laws. If this is not done, then we will be handing power to authoritarian regimes that will be death to our democratic rights as we know today.