It has been quite interesting to see the reaction that has erupted over the sudden expose of the fact that people with good noses, strong technical skills, a serious purpose and the opportunity to make a dollar will use whatever they can get to their own personal advantage and nobody cares; until they undermine the system that others thought they controlled. Mind you we’re not talking about the economic system, but the political system! The minute that it was realised that someone had been using readily available, but voluminous, information to then influence how people may act came as an amazing surprise. The reaction has been substantial and is being viewed and assessed by many well beyond those that were directly involved in the currently known uses.
Man communicated for a long time by word of mouth and then by paintings, pictures and ultimately words; originally scribed on cave walls, the earliest of which date back to 38,000BC. It was then many years later that it moved onto parchments and then ultimately books. The advent of communicating over great distances was not to start until the 19th Century (some 40,000 years later)… but then, we did suddenly see things begin to move far more rapidly.
In 1844 the first Morse Code was telegraphed between two cities and essentially the Telegram was invented, then 1876 saw the advent of the Telephone, Radio was introduced in 1900/1901 depending on which book you read, then Television in 1925, Telex in 1933 and finally Facsimiles become commercially practical in 1964 but did not really take off until the 1980’s. One hundred and forty years as opposed to forty thousand. The main notable point of all of these is that they were seen by all, including their inventors, as a means of communication; to be used to extract profit certainly, but primarily as a means of communication, getting a message, regardless of content from one place to another quickly.
Nowhere was it ever really conceived that the title to the message being sent would transfer from the sender to transporter, let alone saved, stored and retained to be used by the transporter for theirs or potentially others own benefit.
After the 1980’s technology and ability sped up and we now have the internet and the communication systems of today that we all use. During this period however there have been a number of internet based products that have provided “new ways” of communicating with colleagues, friends and family, as well as the community as a whole and they were quickly grasped by all with the same trust and faith that our then century old technology had already been accepted. Yes you clicked on the ‘Agree Terms and Conditions’ button, but every one believed “it’s the same as anything else … wasn’t it?”
Alas no, in these agreements the owner/developers saw the huge potential value in the future retention, consolidation, and analysis of data that could be used for all forms of commercial advantage, from simply acquiring a valuable piece of video (try selling something to the news after you’ve already put it up on social media), right through to knowing more about you than your partner and being able to manipulate your decision making by what is actually fed to you…personally. Yes it only started by doing you a favour by telling you about things that you need to know, but it only had to be time before we got to a point that the influence would move well beyond that level.
This is no longer just a personal thing it’s also a business thing. How is your business being impacted? How are your staff being impacted? Who is trying to send what message? Are they the right (i.e. correct, truthful) messages, or to use the new buzz word is it ‘fake news’ that someone wants to influence your business with.
This could have easily been better managed had there been greater regulatory effort put in when it was really needed, i.e. at the start, but at least now as a result of this new necessity that attention may well finally be achieved. Let’s hope so anyway.
What is amazing though is the perception that this is a new issue, in reality it’s not. Find me a movie before 1970 where the majority of the cast did not smoke, or one that truly gave women the lead; think what was the woman’s role in the typical American family of the 1950’s? The difference was that these messages were communal, and needed much repletion to achieve their aim, but they did work. Today the message is more targeted and therefore more effective; and it is quite possible that you may not realise you are receiving it because the person next to you sees something different and thus corrective conversation and debate may well not follow. We are all a product of what we consume.
If the subliminal message of the ‘B Grade westerns’ of years gone by was that everything could be resolved with a gun and that is why we see the plethora of shootings today, then one can only dream about where we might all be tomorrow.
Well it’s something to think about at least.