With the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves in an unprecedented time and more reliant on technology than ever before. If it wasn’t clear before just how far we have come along from a technological standpoint, there is no question that we are all on the same page now. Our society has shifted dramatically over the past year and technology has now become a coping mechanism.
In our Information and Communication Technology in Business class, we were examining the legal, social and ethical issues of technology, privacy and security. In order to unpack some of these issues, we watched Netflix’s The Social Dilemma documentary film.
Below is a list of quotes from the film selected by students thought to be the most interesting or powerful:
“If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.”
“There are only two industries that call their customers “users”: illegal drugs and software.”
“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”
“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behaviour and perception that is the product.”
“We’re training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or loney or uncertain or afraid, we have a digital pacifier for ourselves. That is kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.”
“The way to think about it is as 2.5 billion Truman Shows. Each person has their own reality with their own facts. Over time you have the false sense that everyone agrees with you because everyone in your news feed sounds just like you. Once you’re in that state, it turns out you’re easily manipulated.”
The purpose of this film is not to scare people into thinking technology is bad for us and should be avoided. Instead, the point is to inform and educate people that technology can be addictive and manipulative. Even when there are genuinely good intentions behind a design, there are oftentimes adverse and unintended consequences. For example, when Facebook created the “like” button, it was meant to spread positivity and love. However, when you look at it today, you can see teens getting depressed because they don’t have enough likes or a political polarization which has fuelled endless hate comments.
The Social Dilemma shows us that social media is intentionally designed to be addictive and manipulative through subjective algorithms that determine what you see and the psychology of persuasion that is built into AI technology today. In essence, technology is now created and designed to use you and having that knowledge doesn’t necessarily make your need to fulfill your cravings less susceptible. This serves an important reminder to teens and adults alike that technology is extremely powerful and it ultimately comes down to us how we choose to use it.