When Big Tech Becomes The Human Subconscious

Categories: Digital Era

When technological inventions cannot effectively fulfill a company’s motivations in serving the interests of its users, the user becomes the product, malleable and manipulated. In the context of Zuckerberg and his Facebook Empire, there is an innate need to continue serving users their interests, especially with privacy scandals and hacking allegations in tow. It’s possible that technology has yet to advance to the stage of achieving total privacy, and perhaps that is a good thing. However, to keep Zuckerberg’s pockets full, Facebook’s clout rising, and users’ happiness managed through facades of privacy and independence, Zuckerberg has figured out ways to not only reengineer various algorithms, but to edit how those in the engineering field and those who simply log in think and act with a semblance of oneness, often at the risk of exploitation.

Like any exploitative puppet master, Zuckerberg masterfully markets power.

Cultural appropriation has extended to the redefinition of the English language with only the semblance of creating space for innovation and creation, while in actuality motivated by the financial benefit of Facebook LLC.

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Zuckerberg has recast the model of what it is to be hacker, making “hacker culture” accessible and communal, challenging its reclusive connotation by greater society outside the Facebook bubble. What was once seen as the central definition of a hacker is now, in the eyes of Zuckerberg, a “cracker”. A cracker, the recluse “ur-disruptor” searching for spaces to showcase their rebellious outcry and disturb the web-utopia. A hacker, according to Zuckerberg, the harmless tech-heavy innovator with a passion for breaking from impounds of technological trends.

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Physical manifestation of Zuckerberg’s new-wave hacker culture and emerging human economy via One Hacker Way and hack-at-thon hosting, Hacker Square, breaks tradition and challenges perhaps bygone definitions of “hackers”, but is ultimately another complexly human-psyche targeting marketing ploy by Facebook to lure tech-minded geniuses into the company rather than become the target. The entire culture is disingenuous, redefining language of the defiant to something mundane, “engineer”, but with sex appeal and power. Zuckerberg, “Extolling the virtues of hacking”, had reengineered the meaning of “hacker” in any traditional sense and “distilled it into a managerial philosophy that contains barely a hint of rebelliousness… the opposite of rebelliousness.”

The appeal to Zuckerberg’s audience, which ranges from user to employee to the high ranks to Facebook is not alien to hacking, in the true mutinous sense; take the data breach of this past year. Rather than spending the company’s billions on increased cyber security in the name of securing user data, Zuckerberg, perhaps ingeniously, employs his own snipers, gives them a rebellious and powerful title to step into, makes them apart of a community and serves users a more promising actuality of security; all at a discount. Perhaps the rebranding of an entire culture, hacker culture, has been purely genius, but perhaps it is evidence of Zuckerberg doing whatever in his power to secure the pockets of Facebook at risk of his users’ safety. Endorsing hacker culture can be seen as synonymous with the allowance for employees to increase their access into the intimate lives of Facebook users. With greater power to information, the more at risk that information of being leaked out or used as weaponry. Information of the common user used as weapons also becomes a threat when the idea of transparency is proposed. Common rhetoric dictates that, on the Internet, there is nowhere to hide. With the presence of incognito mode, how true that rhetoric holds is debatable. Zuckerberg, conceivably recognizing this, and motivated by the simplicity of societal sameness in running a company to pander to all, is an advocate for ultimate transparency.

Ultimate transparency, “The theory… that the sunshine of sharing our intimate details with disinfect the moral mess of our lives”, is a seemingly innocent motivation, but comes with dangerous implications such as the war on human rights and access to privacy for users of Facebook and other digital platforms that would like to adhere to the idea. The revelation of all one’s Google searches, potentially harmful or embarrassing browsing history or expressed interests, with truly nowhere to hide, is, in theory, universally beneficial.

In accordance with Zuckerberg’s philosophy, complete transparency leads to the curbing of potentially threatening behavior in the real world, creating more responsible citizens, at least on the surface level. While a fascinating and kind sentiment, the complete lack of privacy on the Internet, a place of its own ether given the monstrous number of daily users, is not a simple personality curb of the angry citizen, but the suppression of a society that desperately fears “the looming threat that our embarrassing information will be broadcast”. Despite Zuckerberg’s golden claims to the rusty idea that total transparency is ultimately more so for the security of each individual user and the whole of greater society, due to the use of fear tactics against Facebook's’ users in accordance with this philosophy, the benefit of transparency to whom, the user or Big Tech, is blurred. Ultimate transparency can only go so far before violating human rights to privacy, before turning the relationship between internet access and internet users into a regime, a society suppressed, living in fear of mortification or exposed indiscretions. The innate nature of the human being, which travels alongside certain inclinations of insurgent behaviour, is not to be cured by ultimate transparency, but rather curbed, leaving plenty of room for the same users to pose threats as they would have before. However, this time, the outlandish majority of users who post no threat are under lock and hard watch, feeling disabled to explore facets of who they are or educate themselves through the internet by fear. To relay that transparency is completely fruitless would not be accurate either, just not to society as a whole. To Facebook, to Zuckerberg, it again becomes a question of money, security and perhaps reliability. Creating fear is society makes society easier to curate to, spending on keywords to trigger danger responses in search engines diminishes, the human is controlled by the power of the machine – the ideal society for a company that survives off human consumption and reliance.

Ultimate transparency becomes an increasingly complicated venture when presented with the multi-personality of internet users. Having multiple personalities has become the natural default of human existence in the age of the computer, people finding solace in the quiet depths of the Internet where solitude is a comfort enjoyed by many in oneness, where people explore the intricacies of whom they are privately. Users may see the benefit in having an Internet persona that does not reason with who they are outside, but Zuckerberg sees “Having two identities of yourself {as} an example of a lack of integrity” and means to do away with the ideal entirely. Given the scope of his outreach and database, users amassing 1.47 billion daily, the goal may not seem as lofty as it is.

The possibility of Facebook removing a limb from its users is slim. Though Zuckerberg insists that the days of “having a different image”(61) of the people around you are “coming to an end pretty quickly, it is hardly plausible given that the benefits and drawbacks are double-edged swords. “The point is that Facebook has a strong, paternalistic view on what’s best for you, and It’s trying to transport you there”, or perhaps the company is situating its fatherly expectations onto his children for his own benefit. One of the major drawbacks of having dual personalities is that half of a user’s life is a fantasy, making tue contentedness in life less feasible. In the same thread, the solitary nature of an online persona in the developing culture of people forgetting how to communicate interpersonally might actually improve the quality of life of a person living through difficult circumstance. Perhaps hermetic habits are best for those with social disorders to explore their identities. Encouraging single and consolidated society may not meet the benefit of it, but in terms of Zuckerberg and the means of running a company, being a tech mogul, adhering to the requests of users, consolidated society is a method of control. Removing one identity from every user leaves Facebook with the half the algorithms to customize. Endorsing brainlessness, ridding oneself of their multiple facets of exploration separates users into distinctive groups easier to curate content to, adhering to Mark Andreessen’s philosophy that “Software is eating the world”, chewing down until it relinquishes control. As more people start to live within these groups, the more they start to think the same, the more Facebook starts dictating how people think and who they are, the more money into Zuckerberg’s pocket for playing God.

We all have our Gods, and engineers are a class no different, opting to marvel at enlisted “Engineer King”, Herbert Hoover, whose ideals slip themselves into the attitude of modern day tech sham-gods like Zuckerberg. Deep in the trenches of American xenophobia, racism, and the economic wastelands, side effects of World War I, Hoover was inspired by Thornstein Veblen and Henri de Saint-Simon, as well and Auguste Comte’s, vision for a “technocracy - .. strip(ping) the order of its power, while governing in the spirit of science… impos(ing) rationality and order”. This would eventually lead to a technological system that would accomplish lofty goals, like feeding Europe, and impressively so. But a computer cannot do to satisfy a human being’s needs in every facet, as a pulseless, faceless method of the lessened human output of energy like tech can only serve limited purpose before being challenged by the true reigning god of advancement, the mind. Despite the impressive, but ultimately flawed, nature of Hoover’s mindset, we have yet to be governed by the engineer, still under the dailly pressed thumb of tech script writers. We are met with an entirely differently mindset, Zuckerberg’s engineering mindset.

The engineering mindset dictates, according to Zuckerberg, that “Anything, whether its hardware, or software, a company, a developer ecosystem, you can take anything and make it much, much better.” In line with the beliefs of Marissa Mayer, words are no longer for people, they are for computers in an eerie relationship where human needs machine but machine is no longer in need of who was once its creator and operator, “translat(ing) languages without understanding words… by uncovering patterns..”, in the view of Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg’s ideals fall into the philosophy that technology is a vessel for creation, one that inspires its own progress at the hands of engineers, but is not per say its own creator. The motives of his mindset lack any forwardly menacing quality, pointing towards simplicity of mind in society as a whole, but is functionally another method of societal control for the dollar benefit. While tech as absolution does have the credibility to push certain issues in society into remission, as evident the King’s experiments, advocating for a reliance on technology in the governance of society, no matter how artfully worded, opts for a better world in the eyes of the engineers, not the users. This preludes more online activity, and therefore increased ability for companies to market specific products and alter opinions, gather data via algorithms and use them to the effect of cost effectivity. There is no real power for “the people” in a tech-ruled world, just the guise of one atop a greater, less innocent, marketing scheme. Perhaps a more innocent marketing scheme on the surface level, technology, like any other method of convenience, sets out to solve a problem. Namely, the issue of “our inability to sift through the ever-growing, always-looming mounds of information”.

Facebook has confidently self imposed labels as a tool,utility and a platform as the basis for connections in user life. While holding true that the platform does employ issues of convenience and allows users to meet their cravings for interconnected at their fingertips, it is at the expense of privacy and trust between user and product. Sifting through the ever growing piles of user information to curate and selectively make programs available in accordance with what users want out of a product like Facebook gives the company a face of an altruistic ruler. A ruler who dictates to the ruled why its interference in their lives is for their benefit, leaving to the side the amoral undercurrent. While Zuckerberg himself does not seem to be using user data in a particularly malicious way, allowing ease of access to information on both the side of management and managed, the line is thin and blurry between what information is passed from the mouths of users into the stomachs of tech moguls and digested to meet each other’s needs for money and access and the point at which the constant active gathering of information makes the internet comparable to a watch-heavy political regime. The user is satisfied with the ease of media and access to the world, but perhaps that is because the daily user does not understand that their lives operate in a false sense of self security. Big Technology is not satisfied with laying claim to users’ rudimentary interactions through basic data screening. With the development of algorithms, tech companies have found the user and the computer spiritually embedded into each other’s existence. Algorithms take on a beyond human capability of pattern seeking in order to benefit corporate profit. “Reflecting the minds of its creators… motives of its trainers”, algorithms are efficient tools for refining user interest and guiding them towards products that monetarily benefit the greater corporation.

The encouragement of particular products over others, like in Netflix’s promotion of independent films over Blockbusters, exemplifies the mutual relationship between the needs of the company and the wants of the consumer. The motivations of the company through the usage of algorithms seek to benefit it and the user and succeed in this. While the company is able to draw in greater profit by marketing, and therefore purchasing, items of lesser expense, the consumer is gaining access to inventory that matches up with search trends and expressed interests.

The use of algorithms also has its drawbacks. Tracing over user data and “torturing” it, adjusting it to fit in the grey area where the cravings of the consumer meet the company’s needs for monetary gains, can be seen as a manipulation of users who have come to heavily depend on the reliability of internet outlets for daily access to the world.

Not only does this manipulation swindle users into the corporate affluence ladder, but also contributes to a culture of mindlessness. Feeling they have control over their own interests, users remain unawares that who they form to be through interaction with online platforms is who they have been manufactured to become.

Tech giants are not only manipulating users, but manipulating their oppressive devices too. Algorithmsmay be beyond human capability, but they are not without human biases. Father Algorithm, Gottfried Leibinz, born and growing in a time of Germanic warfare and religious unsettlement naturally found himself “crafting scheme to unify humanity.” Thus was born the universal characteristic. Stemming from his aspiration for tranquil society, the universal characteristic aimed to be an “alphabet for human thought” (64) in which each core concept of society would be given its numerical code in order to formulate new philosophy. While the concept of human error being corrected by all-knowing numbers is intriguing, it is also heavily idealistic and contributes to the thinking that “mechanical thinking… (makes) the power of the tech companies so potentially menacing.” The algorithm lacks empathy, sympathy, any sort of connection that would make reliance on it safe, and this is where the subconscious of its creators come into the picture. Completely left up to human error and human interpretation, the analysis of the results provided by algorithm-examined user trends is dirtied by any potential biases held by the analyst. Racial bias, sexual bias, religious bias, all of which are reflected in the user’s web page and perhaps, eventually, the user’s minds. Algorithms are no more inhuman in practice than a person themselves, so their implementation in data-run trend spotting sites like that of Amazon, Google or Facebook may just be a way to expedite the exploitation of the malleability of human behaviour to better serve the pockets of Big Tech.

Human behaviour is the creator and beneficiary of the creative spheres of society. The use of algorithms by tech companies like Facebook puts otherwise tactile and heady reflections of culture, like art and story writing, into the clockwork hands of encryptions and threatens the use for users in the creative world. More than any human artist, algorithms are able to contrive creativity and curate it to specific audiences with a guarantee of success. Not only can Facebook analyze user “likes” to reveal who the user is down to their favourite colour, but the ongoing series of trial-and-error testing of what particular grouped audiences see and ignore further enables “Facebook’s capacity to give us the things that we want and things that we don’t even know we want”. This ability challenges the future of creative work fields, creative mindsets, easing the user sweetly into a universe in which art can go unchallenged by bribing them with simple appeal to what is on their NewsFeed. When algorithms compete with the uniquely human capacity of creation is when the push for profit by technology companies becomes sinister. Art, as considered the emotional backbone of history, is predisposed to argument and controversy, two qualities that challenge profits of online corporations. Though it can be argued that the key to an expanding mind and world culture is accessibility to traditionally niche, upper echelon dominated spaces like discussions of the meaning of art in greater society, what must be paid close attention to is the instant loss of value in art when it is made and placed to be universally liked. The war on challenging differing ideals that comes with algorithm-based creative curation is a dangerous threat to the mental capacity to analyze and digest pure concept, slowly doing away with intellectual comprehension with public appeal as compensation. The malleable and manipulated user body remains threatened by the sources of information, communication, and entertainment it relies on most commonly: the internet, or rather, the purveyors of internet content and policy. Issues of users’ ability to seek out independence in their online endeavors, unclouded by Big Tech moguls’ ruthless abandon for consequence in the view of profit is an issue of human rights and the security. Campaigned as a war on at-risk users, controlling streams of information through curation and creating new cultures to fit deceptively innocent marketing schemes allows for platforms to shape people’s opinions, personalities and lives for the sake of corporate gain. While the internet can be a place of interpersonal and intrinsic exploration and does offer its users access to the world in an extraordinary way, that is not to say that approaching content with weariness is unwarranted.

Online forums and platforms, like Facebook, are here in the inter-ether, if not forever, for a very long time, making the implications of the lack of security all the more pertinent. Where there is money, there is the corporate mindset, and it is up to users to be their own advocates, push for their rights to expression and encourage being intellectually challenged so that we as a society do not become left to the mindless, soulless devices or our devices.

Updated: Feb 16, 2024
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When Big Tech Becomes The Human Subconscious. (2024, Feb 16). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/when-big-tech-becomes-the-human-subconscious-essay

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