written by Ashwin Palaniappan Ramani

“The whole world turns upside down in ten years, but you turn upside down with it”

-Spider Robinson, 1977

Little did you know that the first number and the number below that would control the world today! Yes, I mean the zeros and ones. Digitization is the conversion of text, pictures, or sound into a digital form that can be processed by a computer. [1] Anything digital has a binary code which are sets of zeros and ones in substantial amounts. Without digital machines, it is almost impossible to earn and make a living in society. You are all pacing through the digital world where everything seems so fascinating and unreal. Nowadays, people are already posting pictures just to get likes and impress others. They keep checking their phones for new posts and likes and forget to enjoy the moment. Let’s consider the virtual reality (VR) games which are being sold now. Wait a minute, why is it called VR? Is it real? To me, the term Virtual Reality is an oxymoron.

If you are a person who wants a taste of the future, believe me, you are just having the appetizers. By the mid of the next century, robots will be serving your desserts. I just wish technology grew slowly like us.

Technology is the most dangerous weapon which man created. Digital technology and smartphones gave birth to new problems like distracted driving, FOMO (fear of missing out), cyberbullying, Internet trolling, and invented the concept of being alone together. MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s book alone together argues that as technology ramps up, your emotional lives ramp down. It is based on numerous interviews with ordinary people affected by technology. [2]

Time spent on your phone

It would upset the whole social order if men started doing things on their own

-Aldous Huxley,1932

Comparing with Huxley’s Brave New World, the existing digital world is a kingdom where the rulers are the technology providers i.e., the CEOs of companies like Alibaba. They have the god’s eye where they can see everything and store your data in their enormous databases and cloud servers. Next in the hierarchy are the people who influence the decisions made in the kingdom: the hand of the king, the ministers, etc. Today they are the people who support digital tech and convince the investors. Next in line are the skilled workers analogous to warriors and soldiers in the kingdom. They build amazing tools, automated gadgets, codes, and complex algorithms. They do not have full freedom to build what they wish. They are paid a lump sum to do so. Fourth in this kingdom are the people like you who are educated about the side effects of tech and make their own decisions but still use the apps. Last in line are the people who are digitally illiterate and may not understand the fine print of the contracts they are agreeing to when downloading a new application or program. Thus, the corporations may be taking advantage of them. They are parallel to the poor uneducated people in the kingdom who just do the job assigned to them by the king. The tech giants are now trying to create hatcheries.

“The Hatchery’s purpose is to create the humans that the government wants, and the Conditioning Center brainwashes people to think the way the government wants them to think”.

- Aldous Huxley, 1932

Bokanovsky is a fictional character from the Brave New World. He is the scientist who developed the Bokanovsky Process (Human Cloning). [3] The world predicted by Huxley and Orwell is not far away.

The hatcheries represent technology providers and the conditioning centers represent the social media companies who advertise for any app that pays them, you are being forced to enter a virtual domain where everything is artificial. You do not have a choice due to the dominance brought about by the success of apps. All you can do is limit the damage it can cause to you by predicting the near future and taking measures accordingly.

China is the land where new technology is abused, and people are exploited. Sesame Credit, also known as Zhima Credit, is a private credit scoring and loyalty program system developed by Ant Financial Services Group (AFSG), an affiliate of the Chinese Alibaba Group. It uses data from Alibaba’s services to compile its score. Customers receive a score based on a variety of factors based on social media interactions and purchases carried out on Alibaba Group websites or paid for using its affiliate Alipay mobile wallet. Ant Financial is the highest valued financial tech company in the world, and the world’s most valuable unicorn company, with a valuation of US$150 billion. [4]

The Sesame credit system is based unequivocally on an existing Western model: your credit score. As a valid assessment of your financial situation, credit scores determine how much money you can borrow, if you will qualify for permanent residency, etc. The sesame credit system being built in China is the next level. Every person will have a score generated by state-of-the-art computing systems developed by software engineers. This one number — derived by unidentified codes and powerful unapproachable algorithms, is being utilized as a gating component by an abundance of outsiders, for the most part of it is a mystery. According to an interview by an eMarketer with Sarah Zhang, the co-founder of PTS (digital banking), this system is not led by anyone and the codes use around 30 to 50 behavioral variables. Some variables used in the algorithms are profile reviews, speeding tickets, being nice online, among other variables including online shopping behaviours, education and payment history. The rewards of having a high score include easier access to loans from Ant Financial and having a more trustworthy profile on e-commerce sites within the Alibaba Group. [5]

Government authorities are regarded as the top layer in the system. The ChineseSocial Credit System is to monitor government officials. What will the society’s response when the official’s horrible activities don’t influence their score? This system seems too biased because there does not appear to be a checklist of things that are cordial to all. The Chinese government envisions a society from these credit systems where everyone supports each other and resolves conflicts peacefully.

As spread out in the proposition, the social credit system’s expressed object was to keep an eye on government authorities, punish the makers of fake consumer items like non-standard computers, machines, consumable products and avoid mislabelled pharmaceuticals or contaminated nourishment from achieving market. The social credit system comes into tension with the centuries-old Confucian traditions that support open integrity. The function of a social credit system was positively novel, however, they propelled machine-learning frameworks, online databases, city surveillance systems, and pocket-sized micro-sensors. This really is a ‘system that covers all of society’.

Is there anyone without a camera these days? You are being watched constantly. Technologies like Face Recognition, smart cars, smart watches, CCTV systems among other wearable devices made of embedded systems and logical bits are used to track your movements. There are both pros and cons in this system. Suppose you see an old man crossing a road at an empty intersection, and you are in a hurry to reach somewhere. The traffic cameras can recognize your vehicle plates if you do not stop. The system is well designed to send you a fine the next day. The Sesame Credit system in China being built now will reduce the points if you break any similar laws. This is a good thing because people are more careful and think twice before breaking any rules. This would result in good.

In contrast, the potential these kinds of technologies have is massive and scary. They can do more than you could think. Consider a dating app like Tinder which the Sesame credit uses, the most successful dating app so simple to use. This is one such technology which redefines the connection between humans. The user’s connection is not just a representation of digital-age acceleration of intimacy but a world which redefines the speed and fundamental nature of trust. [6]

To trust someone means that you think they are reliable, you have faith in them and you feel safe with the other person both physically and emotionally. You cannot demand or prove trust; trusting someone is your choice. The success of dating apps like Tinder is because of digital trust: the trust that develops from digital content, i.e. their posts which can be a picture, text, video.

Here you are establishing a real-world trust from a digital trust created online. You are also in the early stages of understanding how real-world encounters could alter online trust. For example, you get a match by swiping right, you develop a bond online and maybe you really like the person when you meet them. Nevertheless, the second date with a new match may not go as expected and that is how this digital system works. There is no guarantee that the social profile and the real person are similar or vice versa. By adapting to this lifestyle human interaction and establishment of trust are being reshaped.

When installing any app and touching the ACCEPT option, you give the app owners full access to collective or specific data. For example, Google Maps uses your location, Instagram uses your phone camera, and most apps get access to data. You wake up from the sound on your phone alarm. The system knows you are not awake until you turn it off. You then make breakfast from groceries that you purchased yesterday from Walmart using a credit card connected to your phone via email or SMS. You travel to work using apps like Maps, Transit, Ola, and Uber which track your device’s location. They know whether you go to work or take a detour to grab a burger for lunch two stops before. You now use your restaurant apps to get a coupon or make a payment using your phone, card, etc. After work, you do the same thing to get back home. You buy alcohol on the way for the night. Later, you order food from your phone and go to sleep. This is a regular pattern and the system knows this is normal. Now imagine the whole system connected to your social media and e-commerce websites. They even have access to your bank account statements and apps and can check if you pay the balance on time. Since most people are so dependent on technology, it is hard to give up the convenience of these services. Some proponents of technology have argued that the convenience of these applications outweighs some of the aforementioned concerns. Because they are assistive, they help save time, and I am not going to argue otherwise.

Any form of data follows the ETL Process and ends up in the destination which are operational data stores, data marts, or data warehouses. Data is the lifeblood of every IT firm independent of its size. It is your duty to protect your data from cybercriminals and hackers. Do not install unverified apps from any website. While installing an app in your smartphone, it will generally inform the user what permissions it requires to run on the device [7]

Every smartphone user does not know how their data is processed and whether it is collected only after consent. For instance, according to The Guardian Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg was explaining to the U.S. Senate recently on how and why the data of 87 million Facebook users ended up in the hands of Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company. Now, you can be sure that information from your devices can be used for the company’s benefit and have huge impacts like a biased presidential election.

Even if the company is not selling your information, numbers of cyber attacks and incidences of internet fraud are on the rise. Right now, when you are reading this article on any website/blog, your Google Chrome browser history is saved in a tiny chip in one of their server farms.

These intelligent machines store what you are reading in bits and can use the information when needed. Google promised that they do not sell your data. However, in this information age, even the most impenetrable firewalls could be hacked. According to a recent paper on Disks for Data Center’s, Google must add one Petabyte (1 million GB) of data center storage capacity just to manage the videos uploaded per day. [8]Try to imagine the size of their farms needed for data uploaded on the cloud by the entire populace.

It is still too soon to know how a culture so engaged with technology, involving steady observations and ratings will turn out. What will happen when these servers, outlining the social, moral and money related history of the whole populace are hacked and dissolved? How much further will security and the right to speak freely be dissolved? Who will choose which way the system goes? Today it is China, tomorrow — your dream destination, and, day after — your own city where you grew up. The genuine inquiries regarding the eventual fate of trust are not mechanical or financial; they are moral.

If you are not cautious, conveyed trust could move toward becoming an arranged disgrace. Life will turn into an interminable ubiquity challenge, with every man and woman competing for the most elevated rating that just a few can achieve. All these will build a constructed world where people no longer have free-will. This change is not going to last forever, for change is immortal. Today digital society would not last more than two generations because technology too, would eventually lose its vitality.

“Control is simply conterminous with society, and in examining the former we simply describe the latter”

- Nadel S. F., 1952

You let the tech industries create a world where they make products that might be harmful to your life. Imagine yourself 30 years from now. With an augment in the usage of new tech like Augmented Reality, you are now implanted with contact lenses not for adjusting your sight, but for seeing people how the automated digital world wants you to. When you see a human, it shows their social score. If the person has a score when you see them, you judge them before even talking to them. How will you feel if someone looks down on you for no reason but a computer-generated number? The whole concept of rating people makes them transform into someone they are not. This gives rise to increased artificial behaviour because you will want to impress people daily. You will want strangers to like your posts and give you a 5-star rating. When you start working for the so-called social ratings, you lose yourself and your lifestyle changes drastically. You would not express your emotions and start living in artificial fake-smile prisons. The tech companies take advantage of your wanting to get a good rating and exploit the situation to the maximum. The government might add new rules where humans get subcategorized into quality people and mid to low range people. Then they might start restricting people with a lesser rating to have access to amenities like apartments, good communities, rental cars, restaurant. This is worse than the ancient caste system introduced by kings to differentiate people based on their profession, race, etc. You would be caught up so much in your digital rating dreams and dramas and it is simple to forget what matters. You might start losing sight of reality and your thinking may get altered deeply. Not every social encounter has to be meaningful, just for a boost to your score.

The cry of ‘give me a 3D TV, VR games, toy bots and do not bother me with the responsibilities of liberty’ by the tech-addicted population is happening around the globe. No one should not end up crying:

“Give me liberty or give me death”

-Patrick Henry, 1775

Is this free world if you cannot do what you like? Even today, it is easy to lose sight of what is real, what matters. So, just be you and do not blindly use something because others use it. Look at things with a long-term vision, instead of the instantaneous pleasures.

The future seems exciting and tech-savvy with microchip implants behind your right ear, lush green mountains in your UHD screen, digital crypto-currency instead of paper currency, however, it should not change who you are. I just want to dream about the future and not be depressed.

“You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him find it within himself”

- Galileo Galilei, 16th century

I believe in Galileo’s words. You can’t teach anybody anything, you can only make them realize the answers are already with them. Do what you love, love what you do!

End of 00000001 in queue …!

References

[1] “Digitization,” Oxford Dictionaries, [Online]. Available: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/digitization.

[2] S. Turkle, in alone together, Basic Books, 2011.

[3] TINICRAW eNotes educator, “What is the purpose of the Hatchery and Conditioning Center?,” eNotes, 1 April 2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/what-purpose-hatchery-conditioning-center-666778.

[4] “China might use data to create a score for each citizen based on how trustworthy they are,” Business Insider, 15 December 2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.businessinsider.com/china-social-credit-score-like-black-mirror-2016-10.

[5] [Online]. Available: https://www.chinalawtranslate.com/seeing-chinese-social-credit-through-a-glass-darkly/?lang=en .

[6] E. Lisitsa. [Online]. Available: https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-digital-age-the-times-they-are-a-changin/.

[7] “Applied Informatics,” Inc. Blog., [Online]. Available: http://blog.appliedinformaticsinc.com/etl-extract-transform-and-load-process-concept.

[8] B. Kleyman, “Why Google Wants to Rethink Data Center Storage,” [Online]. Available: https://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2016/05/02/google-wants-rethink-data-center-storage. [Accessed 2016].

[9] Markus Spiske, Picture credits https://pexels.com

just a common millennial you wouldn't notice normally