Thursday, January 28, 2021

Don't let your Organic Intelligence box me up

Recently WhatsApp had to roll back an initiative to share data with her parent company Facebook. This is after receiving a severe backlash from users, which led them to switch to alternative messaging services like Signal and Telegram. The perception of the data sharing between Whatsapp and Facebook is that if two persons are messaging each other about cars on Whatsapp, both of them will start seeing personalised ads for cars on Facebook. It might not be like this in reality, but that's the perception and hence people are pissed off about the perceived privacy intrusions by these MNC.

I think when communicating with people, we are also collecting personal data. Inside our minds, we have a little secret dossier about the things we know about that person. His likes, dislikes, personality quirks, birthday etc. And from this collection of data, we form an idealised form of what the person is like in our minds. It may not be the real person, but that's the perception of that person in our minds. And perception is often reality. 

So what do we do with the personal dossier formed in our minds? We do more of the things a person likes and do less of the things he doesn't (unless we invert it to achieve other more nefarious objectives). Isn't this similar to personalised ads from Facebook and Google? Their Artificial Intelligence is trying to mimic what our Organic Intelligence is doing unconsciously. In truth, we also collect data on others, often without their explicit consent, with the aim of helping us to achieve some aims. This is called under various terms, like team bonding, dating, networking etc.

I'm okay with the things that are forwarded to me because of my perceived liking. If I like ebooks, and I'm shown more ads or information on ebook devices, or new listings from the authors that I like, that's perfectly fine with me. But what I'm not okay are the things that are missed out because of my perceived dislike or just general disinterest. I might not like it eventually, but I still want to be exposed to it. Maybe after a few more exposure, I'll begin to like it? How many opportunities are missed out because I wasn't forwarded some information that I am perceived to be disinterested in or even hate? I guess we'll never find out because this is censorship straight from the source. Others just stopped sharing.

And here is the thing. While I hope Whatsapp do not share my data with Facebook, I also hope that my friends do not stop sharing things, especially those things that they perceived I do not like. I want the dossier in their minds to list me as curious, open-minded and not afraid to try new things. No matter what my age is. I want my child to tell me his favourite band, his first love and his misadventures. I want my friends to tell me new things that I am never exposed before and that I've never shown an interest in before, because they know I might change. I want them to believe that I can change and adapt, and not box me up.

So, delight me with your surprises.


Patrick T. said...

I think the problem with Facebook is that it isn't so much of nefarious than it is unscrupulous. Like a snakeoil salesman who is really persistent. The algo ensures that you are only fed things you are interested in and even random stuff from your friends will be suppressed by the paid ads that you are expected to see first. I think, for now, Twitter is a better place to observe opposing culture without the danger of getting smoldered by either side due to some over-reaching algorithm.

la papillion said...

Hi Patty,

It's true. I only see ads all over the place, in front of post from those I follow. It can be quite irritating, because I know I want to click on those recommended links (damn, they are that good), but it'll suck up more time than I want to.

The last I've been to twitter is a long long time ago. Maybe can go back and see around.

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