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while I was waking up…

June 3, 2011

This post is dedicated in memory of Gil Scott-Heron.

Connectivity, seamless integration, multiple digital devices all connected to my habits and likes. The seamless options to integrate my blogs with my social media accounts…..all provide wonderful opportunities. They simplify many tasks and interactions I deal with on a day to day basis. At times these can get messy and I understand that many of these integrations between the digital devices I use and social media platforms I interact with are still trying to evolve. I believe the future of this convergence of digital devices and communication platforms will only get more seamless and effective, that is exciting. For users the potential is huge in leveraging  these tools and opportunities into our social and professional lives.

and now……

I am noticing something, and it seems in the last few months all this seamless integration of digital devices and social networking media is generating some caution by a few. For me the first odd event was when Facebook suddenly decided without asking me (actually they never asking me anything especially if there are changes) that it would only feature in my news feeds the friends I interact with on a regular basis and not the  friends who I just interact with rarely or periodically…. my news feed narrowed in its diversity of people I could see. Good news you can change this, and I did. The issue is who should make the decisions for us?

I also am noticing with my search results (Google/Bing/Yahoo) that they tend to be little different when I search the same topic as my wife and kids….. the search algorithms seem to learn my likes and dislikes and then provide me with information which falls into my previous search patterns and within my opinion and interest range. Diversity of opinions or information which I do not agree with seems slowly to be pushed away from me, I am reading only what I want to believe .  This seems to be a growing trend as explained in an excellent: TedTalk Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles”

The Apple Developers conference again showed how our devices, operating systems and virtual worlds are now taking on more tasks without us having to be involved, as a way to increase our efficiencies. Now you do not need to save in OS Lion, if you have iCloud there is sinking of content between different devices automatically without you being involved. Your digital devices in the Apple environment now can be independent of your desktop or laptop, giving these devices the ability to do all the necessary tasks right there and now. These are exciting changes and definitely provide the user with more seamless tasks which we do not need to be involved with. This in someways is pushed even further with the IOS5 function that if you have list or tasks to do there is a geographic locater embedded so when say you drive by a grocery store and in your IOS5 device you have a shopping list it will pop up and remind you of the list and the option of doing this now as it has located a grocery store.

The list goes on…. our technology tools and environments are being equipped with algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks which are becoming more intelligent, and at a level are given more independence to make executive decisions to enhance tasks in reaction to our online behaviors and habits. This is a huge shift, and with this a whole set of philosophical questions and dilemmas arise which delve into privacy, who has ownership, who gets to decide what these tools and algorithms do, and how much independence should they have? I am reading and seeing more evidence of this change, where we are asking our technology tools and systems to think for us and help make decisions. At this stage it all seems useful, helpful and harmless. Who minds having something save everything without you having to remember. Who minds having their devices do in the background of our awareness, updates, sinking, and analysis ? At this time it is useful and a time saver….and to be honest this has been going on for a while with a variety of technology tools. An example is commercial aviation which has been relying on automatic pilot controls for a large percentage of tasks related to flying. There are definitely huge advantages, and at many levels these make the processes we rely on more efficient and seamless .

As we move forward with our digital evolution:  our tools, operating systems and devices are given greater independence to manage our lives. The question I currently struggle with is at what point do we feel comfortable giving up control and let many of these devices  have complete autonomy of certain tasks, decisions, and information we get to have access too. To what point do we let convenience and efficiency erode potentially our own independence to make decision ourselves with these digital environments. There is no doubt that for the companies behind these tools, devices and operating systems, this control and information is becoming a critical commodity to generate information databases which leverage a greater capacity to target products, habits and behaviors effectively to the user. This then generating profits for the companies behind these devices, software and operating systems.

I am like many, I love the seamless integration, the fact that more mundane tasks are being taken over, and me not having to think about them. But when is too much, and when will we suddenly wake up and realize so much has fallen over to algorithms and (spiders and robots) automated tasks that we have lost control and now are having many of our decisions and tasks dictated by others who we have little input with.

As Gil Scott Heron says so aptly ” the revolution will not be televised

John@https://beyonddigital.org

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2011 5:40 am

    You bring up some great points here, John, and some good thinking. And that is what is important – thinking. We have to think about which decisions we are allowing the computer to make for us. I’m fine with letting it take care of the mundane tasks. I’m not enamored with the idea that search engines work differently for each one of us. We are just at the beginning stages of this sort of thing, and we need to carefully consider the consequences. Sadly, there is a portion of the population who is unconcerned or at least ignorant of these changes. It is important for people in the know to educate others. And I don’t just mean in schools; digital citizenship skills are increasingly applicable to adults as well as students. Thanks for the thinking, John.

  2. Lindy Buckley permalink
    July 20, 2011 9:25 am

    John, you have put into words what I have been thinking. Actually I am alarmed about too many aspects of my life being organised for me in the cloud somewhere. I purposely like the right hand not know what the left hand is doing sometimes!

    As I sit here in Ireland, having done a load of washing and stacked the dishwasher, I am also thinking that what you describe is, in my other life, a technological continuation of day to day living. In Indonesia, there are some who have everything organised for them at home. (Not me – I don’t like it, but many do) So you don’t know what you’ll have for dinner because your cook will have decided that, you don’t have to go shopping for washing powder because the maid will do that when she sees that it’s running low and you don’t need to think about flowers and plants in your house because the gardener will take care of that…. I actually like to make those decisions myself. it concerns me that in the social/technology area, we do seem to be losing control. It’s a worry…

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