About 10 years ago, I attended an internal new product training about high-speed signal transmission (what gives each of us, in a second, answers we look for on our hand devices), looking forward for it, also because the presentation was done by our R&D Manager, a smart and funny man. At one point, he asked us if we thought Internet was all for free, and he ended saying, with an ironic smile on his face, “remember that when it is for free, you are the product”?? I did not grab it, looked around to check reaction in the audience but didn’t see any and preferred not to ask what he meant . A week later, surfing on the net, a window popped up showing some furniture I wasn’t looking for, but similar to the one I was interested in a few days before. At that moment, I understood what he wanted to say with “you are the product”, and also realized that the technology is not what we hold in our hands, but what’s behind it, the algorithm, which I call “the big brain”.
Let summarize New tech “as anything that wasn’t around when we were born” (Alan Kay Computer Scientist) but the perception of new tech depends also of our social conditions or the position of our needs in the Maslow’s scale. For half of the world population, to get water from the tap or light with a pressure on the switch, can be considered to be a technology. Innovation, is in the human’s minds since the beginning, with the finality to ease our lives and daily routine. By contrast, Humans are the one slowing the implementation process of these new tech. It’s a question of generation or mentality. In general, it takes us time to assimilate new ways or process, for lack of interest in some case or apprehension of the consequences, on the other. Since these evolutions are coming faster as ever, it increases the gap between the have and have not and the younger and older generation within the society.
If we only focus, on the new tech of our devices, that keeps most of the middle class busy looking at the screen as soon as the bell rings, our today’s panem et circenses, they bring us information, way to communicate, allow us to stay in touch with relations and most important to shop and spend our money with a few clicks ! Concerning information, we are submerged with an unending flow of messages that we swallow like fast food, that we assimilate superficially, jumping from one topic to another, that we digest instantly without reflection, allowing the Halo’s effect to make our opinions on the matter! The issue with this flow, is that we end up believing just about anything that we read. Let take as an example, what happened in the war on a Middle East country, where we are informed that the government’s army used prohibited chemical weapons against his own population. The denial of the information from that government, was not heard and not relevant for others, who allowed themselves to launch, on the following day, 59 missiles, targeting military installation. All this without any questioning or clarification, and today I still don’t know if these chemicals were launched from fighters of the government or stocked by the rebels. It sounds similar to an invasion of another country 15 years ago, on the premises that they were building nuclear weapons, which we never found!! What do people retain for information about these events? Probably just a Halo’s effect memory!
For communications, it is true that we have never been so close from each other. We call, write, keep posted or see each other on the screen, no matter where we are located. Probably, the best tool we created to better understand or accept each other’s way of life or beliefs. In order to be able to really communicate on a global scale, we have one big challenge or obstacle to overcome and this is the language. To reach this goal, we need to share a common language (as a second language). If we have to select one language globally, it would make sense to choose the most used, which would be Mandarin. Unfortunately, this would be too complicated for all westerners, therefore I suggest that we take English (mainly because I manage this one), but also because I believe Asians, Indians, Russians, Arabs and others have already some knowledge of it, and certainly the capacity to learn it. This choice is not political, for success everyone will have to make efforts, and this is a part of it. The solution is much easier as you might think, and the Net will be the tool for it. Not that the simple fact to share somehow the same language will solve our problems, but rather that it will give all of us, access to global information and point of view, ease exchange between different cultures and mentality and most of all, for humans to check if what we say over here is in line with what is said over there! Our brain manipulation might become more difficult for the leaders.
The first original scope of the Internet was to allow scientists and researchers to communicate and exchange information with others, around the world. The public, started to use it in 1993, less than 25 years ago! Like for many other inventions, we soon realized his potential and started to use it for commercial and advertising activities, to the point where e-commerce spending will reach more than 2,3 Trillion $ in 2017, and the fastest growing markets are the BRICS countries (or over 3,3 Billions humans). All what is new is not for the best, without some kind of transition or regulation. As already written, this new trend jeopardizes existing model, and is destroying millions of jobs but creates new opportunities as well. The only small danger I see with our new tech devices is that for the first time ever, the technology is smarter as we are, and we rely on it, for the most basic of our needs. Every access and request we make is analyzed and saved in “the big brain and her algorithm”. She needs to understand how we function, think and act, in order to serve us in the best way. She knows us already so well, that she selects the suggestion she will submit to our request, according to our preferences, opinions or political orientation! We are losing control, we are suddenly the product! If the big brain sees each of us merely as a potential consumer, we have to remain aware of it and keep it in mind.
In general, humans have some fears or reluctant about what is new, we see it with our relations or sometimes in the company we work for. When the automobile industry started the mass production line, many thought that cars were a danger for the society. A hundred years later, some cars don’t even need us to move around! This is why I believe in innovation and new technologies that can improve the lifestyle of all of us, and our capacity to work hard to find the right solution. The only mistake we make are the priorities we set for our research, more short term profit oriented as long term humans oriented.
We are moving rapidly in the unknown, in a global society unable to keep the pace of the latest technological and scientific revolutions which are changing our lives, and this within unchanged political, social and economic models. We can wait and see, remain the product or react to upgrade the future of humanity. It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves (W. Shakespeare).
Coming next on the 30th of May: Day 4: Humans, politicians and capitalism