Social media and search engine algorithms rule how we see the world. They lock us within a particular worldview that’s hard to escape.
Incidentally, the tools we use to search for answers determine which answers we get, preventing us from accessing information that runs against content providers’ policy or political affiliations. The widely lamented lack of critical thinking is further escalated as the internet makes it next to impossible to access conflicting information that could help one form an unbiased opinion.
Algorithms, however, aren’t inherently evil. On the contrary, they make our online experiences more seamless and relevant, encouraging us to spend hours upon hours online. But the process of scrolling through social media, online shopping or gaming is intrinsically addictive because these activities release dopamine just like illegal substances do.
Tech corporations are well-aware of that and work hard to improve user experiences even further and entrap as many users as they can, winning their time and attention. Those, who realise that they are slowly immigrating from reality into the digital world against their will, practice digital detoxes and monitor their screen time. Still, most of us leave enough traces of our online presence to make it possible to create our online aliases.
This time cyber security experts aren’t talking about swindlers eager to trick unaware users out of their money, but about the so-called digital immortality. It’s still a theoretical concept; it’s possible to replicate one’s identity as a sum of all the content one has generated in their lifetime - including videos, posts, and messages. Although it may sound like a plot of a sci-fi movie, it is quite possible since all of our online presence is being recorded and stored somewhere, whether we agreed to it or not.
Sceptics wonder: if one’s personality can be recreated based on his digital footprint, does it mean that tech companies are de facto owners of our souls and identities? Or will the world of digital aliases mark the dawn of the noosphere anticipated by philosophers 100 years ago? All these possibilities and legal and ethical issues that arise from them are yet to be fully grasped.
Episode 8 of the I Am Hacked TV series gathers cyber security experts and tech analysts to talk about the scenarios of the digital future that we could face in the following decades. They suggest the current trends and scale of digitalisation depend on us, whether we’ll end up in a ‘Matrix society’ or harness existing technology to benefit all.