Letters to the Editor 2019

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To the Editor: 

Data is a double edged sword. It is the bull work of decision making. More than just an impression or a feeling, data provides the hard information that enables steps to be taken. Those steps lead to more data and theoretically better decisions.  

I was told that you can take a group of people, young men between the ages of 18 -34, look at their encounters with the court system and basically predict who will be involved in violent acts either as perpetrator or victim.  

Kind of like William Gibson's Pre-Crime.  

Data, the life blood of artificial intelligence (in the form of algorithms) constantly stalk us on a daily basis. 

Ever search for a coffee table only to find ads for coffee tables popping up all over your daily online wanderings.  

It's not Hal9000 from the Space Odyssey we have to worry about, but rather, a jungle of useless information we are forced to hack through to get to where we are trying to go.  

Google is an enormous advertising platform that gives us exactly what we want, based on preferences that have been assembled during our online wanderings. We are pandered to, and fear mongering is a very large part of what gets our attention.  

The algorithms are constantly crying out Fire in a crowded theater.  

It is precisely this pandering that has facilitated the destruction of discourse. The algorithms are just doing their job. They know what we like, they know what offends us and they provide a steady diet of both all for the clicks, the eyeballs, and the sales.  

It is a business model based on fear, division and panic.  

It's an information universe where we are all fed what we want to hear and more importantly what gets under our skin. And Data Driven A.I. enables whoever wields it a victory in the essential battle for the hearts and minds – all over the planet.  

AI's are the ideal workforce. They never take coffee breaks, are late for work and they will not charge you with sexual harassment.  

Users, (interesting term) are constantly stalked by weapons grade psychological operations. This was a charge the British government leveled against Cambridge Analytic after their involvement in pulling the Brexit Vote off. Shortly after that win the company went into receivership and all records went missing (see https://bit.ly/3aSC2lo).  

These are the people who “bought” 5,000 “data points” on each of 50,000,000 facebook users. And like Claude Rains in Casablanca, Facebook was “Shocked” that someone would use their data.  

The very rabid spread of disinformation is a testament to the power of these weapons grade psychological operations.  

No one questions the views of their particular platforms, as everyone making comments is of the same mind. Any dissenting opinion appears ludicrous or maliciously intended.  

The results of Google searches are accepted without question, just like the edicts of any totalitarian system. The difference is, that in Nazi Germany or Mao's China, friends, neighbors and children were used as snitches to keep people in line. 

This is now accomplished by simply using our cell phones. It's just a matter of time, in the name of national security, or some vague threat of the lone wolf terrorist, before that information is marshaled to face the “coming storm”.  

In fact, we are already there. So it's no use complaining about our right to privacy. We have abdicated those rights the moment we boot up our mobile phones.  

We are tracked, traced, recorded and our faces are recognized all over the planet. An intrusion we gleefully brought on ourselves. 

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