Will the Internet Lead to Mind Control? - Steve Blacker

By Legends & Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: Will the Internet Lead to Mind Control? - Steve Blacker

1. There are currently almost five hundred companies that are able to track every move you make on the Internet, mining the raw material and selling it to marketers. Marketers are not just looking at what you bought on the Web, but what kind of pitches appealed to you when you did. Once they have compiled your "persuasion profile," they will refine their targeted ads even further. And if marketing companies can do this, why not political candidates, the government or any lobbyist?

2. It was if the two groups were getting different information and messages about the science of climate change and most likely they were. By having our own ideas bounce back at us, we inadvertently indoctrinate ourselves with our own ideas. Whether the Internet does produce mind control; time will only tell. Right now if you write the word blender in an E-mail, the next set of ads you're likely to see will be for Waring and Oster. Search for information on bipolar disease, and drug ads will pop up when you're reading baseball scores.

3. This could lead to a lobbying group, a political party, a corporation, a government - anything with an agenda, to flooding the echo chamber with information central to its cause. According to some, this is what has happened, on the right, with climate change. A study reported by the Sociological Quarterly examined attitudes towards global warming among Republicans and Democrats in the years between 2001 and 2010. It showed the percentage of Republicans who said that the planet was beginning to warm dropped precipitously, from 49 percent to 29 percent. For Democrats, the percentage went up from 60 percent to 70 percent.

4. In this way, the Internet, which isn't the press, but often functions like the press by disseminating news and information, begins to cut us off from dissenting opinion and conflicting points of view, all the while seeming to be neutral and objective. When ideology drives the dissemination of information, knowledge can become compromised.

5. By tailoring the information you receive to the algorithm's perception of who you are, a perception that it constructs out of fifty-seven variables, Google directs you to material that is most likely to reinforce your own worldview, ideology and assumptions. For example a search for proof about climate change will turn up different results for an environmental activist than it would for an oil company executive. The same would happen if you were a Democrat as opposed to a Republican.

6. Eli Pariser's new book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, explains how Google has aimed to contour every search since December 2009 to fit the profile of the person making the query. The search process, in other words, has become personalized, which is to say that instead of being universal, it is idiosyncratic and oddly peremptory.

7. States Pariser: "Most of us assume that when we Google a term, we all see the same results.' With personalized search, now you get the results that Google's algorithm suggests is best for you in particular - and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google anymore."

8. According to Michael Chorost the author of World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet, "a highly ranked page will garner more page views, thus strengthening its ranking. In this way pages that link together think together. If many people visit a page over and over again its Page Rank will become so high that it effectively becomes stored in the collective human/electronic long term memory."

9. This process is anything but unbiased. The algorithm is, in essence, an editor, pulling up what it deems important, based on someone else's understanding of what is important. This has resulted in creating an industry of search engine consultants who game the system by reconfiguring a website's code, content, and key words to move it up in the rankings. Results can rise to the top in rankings sometimes because an invisible hand is shepherding them there.

10. Google's Page Rank is to an extent a self-perpetuating system, since it uses popularity (the number of links) as a proxy for importance, so that the more a particular link is clicked on, the higher its Page Rank. This is why many companies have not necessarily even minded bad reviews of their products.

11. There are currently fourteen billion pages of the World Wide Web! Unfortunately, the algorithm that produces the results of a Google search is not at all unbiased but highly personalized. The Google algorithm that oversees any search i.e. Page Rank is composed of 500 million variables and 2 billion terms.

Steve's new book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned and insider tips from Gayle King, Cathie Black, Chuck Townsend and 28 others; Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is blackersolutions@aol.com

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