In the Internet age, algorithms are invisibly shaping all kinds of things around us. Whenever we use mobile phones and computers, we are actually using algorithms. So, what is an algorithm? How exactly do algorithms affect us? This article has a total of 4900 words. I will talk to you about the impact of algorithms on humans. I recommend that you spend 12 minutes reading and thinking carefully.
Algorithm-operated Internet company
There is a moral and ethical crisis
In 2016, Tristan Harris, Google’s internal ethics designer, decided to leave his job. At this time, he had realized:
It is unethical for Internet technology companies such as Facebook, Google (YouTube, Google search), and Twitter to use algorithms to attract addictive product designs for commercial interests. This has become “a major threat to human survival.”
He thought of confrontation. In fact, during Tristan Harris’ tenure at Google, Google had a well-known “do not be evil” rule. However, this criterion has not stopped the algorithm from taking a deviation based on commercial interests.
Two years after leaving the company, Tristan Harris took the resigned or current technical experts from large companies such as Facebook and Google to establish an organization called the Center for Humane Technology (Center for Humane Technology), which was established in 2018 , Used to fight against the addictive design theory of Silicon Valley Internet companies.
In addition to Tristan Harris, the people involved in the work of this center are the former Facebook operations manager; the former communications director of Apple and Google Lynn Fox; the former Facebook executive Dave Morin; and the early Facebook investor Roger.
Around 2017, many senior executives of Silicon Valley companies felt that there was a moral and ethical crisis on the Internet platform operated by algorithms and left their companies one after another.
In 2020, Netflix filmed a documentary called “Surveillance Capitalism Smart Trap”. In the film, Tim Kkendall, former general manager of Pinterest and former profit director of Facebook, said that he was worried that the world of algorithm manipulation would eventually lead to the American Civil War an engineer from Google worried about the moral degradation of the entire Internet industry…
Many years after leaving, Chris Hughes, who founded Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg, criticized Facebook by saying, “Zuckerberg is a good person.
But what makes me angry is that his focus on growth has caused him to sacrifice safety and moral bottom lines in order to click.”
What caused such serious concerns, and where is the problem?
Addictive Almost all social software needs
In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said at a hearing that when he founded Twitter 12 years ago, he did not expect Twitter to become what it is today…
This passage coincides with the plot of the second episode of the fifth season of “Black Mirror”, which happened to be filmed by Netflix.
The male protagonist Chris Gillhaney was in a car accident when he was reading social messages on his mobile phone while driving with his girlfriend, and his girlfriend died on the spot. When he recovered, he worked as a driver similar to UBER products, picking up customers downstairs at this social networking company called Fragment every day.
Finally, one day, he received an employee of this company, kidnapped him, by threatening the employee, picked up one by one, and answered the phone with the CEO of the “fragment” company, and he just wanted to tell the CEO what social networking sites are like Kidnapped people’s lives and caused tragedies.
The CEO’s answer is very similar to the Twitter CEO’s answer When I founded this company, I didn’t expect it to become like this.
The CEO of “Shard” stated a logic:
After a product is formed, its trend is no longer for him to decide. Every update and function improvement is the result that users like and hope to get, which is not necessarily what a CEO wants.
Making users addicted has become the pursuit of almost all social apps.
“Surveillance Capitalism Smart Trap” interviewed many former executives and investors of Silicon Valley technology companies.
Tristan, a former ethics designer at Google, said that when he was doing mailbox design at Google, he realized a problem. Never in history has 50 or so 20–35-year-old California engineering designers made a decision. It can affect 2 billion people and influence them to make ideas or decisions that they never anticipated — —
When the user wakes up in the morning, Google Mail tells him that he should work like this.
The meaning of work, culture, and life all come from a sneaky third-party manipulation. And within Google, no one wants to make mailbox less addictive.
Former internal ethical designer at Google
Later, he made an appeal: We engineers have an ethical responsibility to examine and discuss the issue of addiction.
After Tristan issued this appeal, many engineers agreed, and then there was no more…
Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, said that in the first 50 years of Silicon Valley, IBM, Google, and Intel all manufactured software or hardware products to sell to customers, and their business models were simple and good. But for the past ten years, Silicon Valley’s largest companies have been “selling customers.”
Before the Internet age, things that people invented were all for the public. Bicycles, cars, and calculators were simple and neutral tools.
With the rise of the Internet era, technology has slowly evolved into a tool that seeks, entices, and even manipulates and profit from humans. It has changed from a human-active technological environment to a passively accepted and addictive-manipulating technology. surroundings.
Social media is no longer a bicycle or a car that is waiting for people to ride in a warehouse, but something that learns, analyzes, manipulates, and is addictive.
The executives of large Silicon Valley companies are very wary of this problem. For example, the children of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are required to be completely isolated from electronic products in childhood.
This is exactly what an article in the New York Times said in 2018, “Technologists know the true colors of mobile phones, so many of them decide to keep their children away from these things.”
Lei Man once said that the Internet is a feeding society. This kind of feeding is pushed to people after big data analysis and machine learning decision-making.
This is what Marx, Freud and others said about “alienation”, that man passively accepts the world and himself as an object; “things are above man.” It’s like the system algorithm overrides the delivery courier. The machine assembly line is above the workers.
If you didn’t spend money on the product
Then you are the product being sold
Now, Internet companies provide a large number of free products, such as FaceBook and Twitter. Everyone does not pay for the social products they use.
Those who pay for these social apps are those advertisers, the advertisers are the customers of the social apps, and the users become the goods being sold. This leads to a phenomenon: if you do not spend money on the product, then you are the product being sold.
So the business model of companies like FaceBook and Twitter is how to make you addicted to the greatest extent, spend more time on these apps, and spend your life time.
How much is life worth?
Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff said in an interview that in business, FaceBook and Twitter need to give customers certainty in order to sell more ads.
Therefore, commercial advertising sells certainty, and this “certainty” comes from the “data analysis” behind user addiction.
Screenshots of documentaries Big data can record how long the user stays on a certain picture to determine which picture the user is interested in
This is the core of the documentary title surveillance capitalism.
In order to obtain data, these companies need to monitor every place the user has visited, every kind of preference, every kind of behavioral data, unlimited tracking, analysis, and evaluation, and unlimited profit pursuit.
Do you like watching NBA videos? Okay, before you watch the next similar video, I will show you an advertisement for basketball shoes.
These data do not need to be watched by humans, and the machine can automatically deep learn and give predictions. This is what the Twitter CEO said, why these products have become like they did not expect.
But what did the executives do? They made the models that predict people’s behavior trajectories, and they wrote the program codes that can be learned automatically.
All this is for certainty: sell users to advertisers as successfully as possible.
Shoshana Zuboff calls this market: the largest human futures market that has never appeared. In the past, we traded pork futures and diamond futures, but now humans have become futures.
The consequence of addiction is to use algorithms to push the parts you haven’t thought of to you, make them part of your thoughts, and make you feel that this is what you think.
Executives from companies such as FaceBook and UBER have all taken such a course at Stanford University How to persuade users with technology? This type of behavior is called: “the art of persuasion.”
This is an extremely deliberate act of designing people’s behavior. Every time a user pulls down or pulls up to refresh, it is an algorithm re-push. They go deep into the brain, planting an unconscious habit, and let the brain be programmed deeper.
FaceBook has done a “massive scale spread experiment” to test the use of subconscious signals on FaceBook to get more people to vote in the US midterm elections. The result of the experiment is: Yes.
This effect does not trigger the user’s consciousness, but a subconscious, which means that the user will not be aware of it at all.
Google and FaceBook have to do a lot of this kind of experiment on users every year, and users are experimental mice.
What is the algorithm
Ruin a person step by step
All kinds of addictive big data analysis and algorithm push have made the young people of Generation Z in the United States become victims.
According to data provided by New York University psychologist Jonathan Haidt, from 2011 to 2013, there has been a sharp increase in the number of girls who are hospitalized for self-inflicted wrist injuries each year.
A common phenomenon is that when people are alone and doing nothing, they always find something to do. Nowadays, this gap is occupied by online social networking and short videos pushed by algorithms, and people’s ability to deal with emotions is degraded.
Cathy O’neil is a big data scientist. She said that the algorithm is a point of view embedded in the code, it is not objective. Algorithms will be guided and optimized by successful business models.
Generally, in a company like FaceBook that affects billions of people, only a few people can understand the working logic of a certain program algorithm. Compared with more than 7 billion humans, it can be regarded as: humans have lost control of the algorithm system. control.
Roger McNamee said that this is like “Trumen’s World” of 2.7 billion people, and everyone has their own world. No one has discovered the essential truth of the world in which they live. Of course, in fact, there may be more people living in “Trumen’s World”. In China, similar products include Toutiao and Douyin.
Each push of the algorithm represents a commercial benefit.
In China, middle-aged and elderly people like to watch some fake news videos that promote and instigate. It is not that the producers must believe these things, but that fake news spreads faster than real news, and traffic can bring them business realization. Watch videos for free The person who is the product is sold.
Tristan Harris invented a theory:
The first stage of technology surpassing human beings is to surpass weakness. The result is addiction. Addiction can intensify anger, intensify vanity, suppress human nature, and dampen nature. The second point is wisdom beyond human beings.
In the algorithm-fed world, various intensified contradictions are prone to appear. Everyone’s opinions are becoming more and more incompatible, because everyone understands information from different feeds, and these information and knowledge are different because of different feeds.
When two Americans who appeared on the street at the same time because of the advocacy of the same social networking site argued about the same thing, they easily discovered: Oh, we didn’t see the same information.
A well-known example of this intensified disagreement is the “Earth is flat” theory, which has been recommended hundreds of millions of times on YouTube, because some people like it, and algorithms are changing the law to push people to “Earth” every day. The content of “is flat” and “the earth is round” is regarded as a conspiracy by them, and more and more people believe in this conspiracy theory.
The climax of this incident was that in February of this year, American inventor Michael Hughes fell to his death after using a self-made manned rocket for launch testing because he wanted to prove that the earth was flat.
It’s time we think about this issue too
Algorithms only recommend things that people are interested in. It has no sense of morality. Its only motivation is commercial interests. It can push people false and conspiracy theories over and over again.
Today you can believe that the earth is flat, and tomorrow you can believe that drinking disinfectant can kill the new coronavirus.
In 2016, thousands of people in the U.S. believed in fake news-an underground criminal organization of child molestation with the participation of the top Democrats was hidden in a Washington pizzeria.
The algorithm continues to recommend people to join the “Pizza Door” group in this matter, until more and more people believe that it really exists.
The climax of the incident ended with a man holding a gun and going into the pizzeria warehouse to rescue the “persecuted child” and was arrested by the police halfway.
In the United States, rumors during the epidemic and the promotion of algorithms have increased the spread of rumors, and individuals have their own affairs. People marched in the street, some shouting “the new crown vaccine is a conspiracy”, and some shouting “human genes are not suitable for the new crown vaccine”.
Everyone is attached to the information they see. A government official called it tribalism in the new era.
Under the influence of the information pushed by the algorithm, a 2017 Pew Research Center data showed that the political differences between the Democratic and Republican parties reached their highest point in 20 years in 2017.
In Myanmar, since 2017, there have been unprecedented and emotionally provocative statements on FaceBook. These statements have been continuously pushed to those ultra-nationalists who like to watch, giving birth to serious crimes, racist persecution, and leading to 700,000 Rohingya MSL fled Myanmar.