Using Smart Gadgets As Tools Of Social Control

How devices will soon begin pressuring us to “fix” our behavior. Via the Wall Street Journal, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Many smart technologies are heading in a disturbing direction. A number of thinkers in Silicon Valley see these technologies as a way not just to give consumers new products that they want but to push them to behave better. The central idea is clear: social engineering disguised as product engineering.

Last week in Singapore, Google Chief Financial Officer Patrick Pichette restated Google’s notion that the world is a “broken” place whose problems, from traffic jams to inconvenient shopping experiences to excessive energy use, can be solved by technology. The futurist and game designer Jane McGonigal, a favorite of the TED crowd, also likes to talk about how “reality is broken” but can be fixed by making the real world more like a videogame, with points for doing good.

Insurance companies already offer significant discounts to drivers who agree to install smart sensors in order to monitor their driving habits. How long will it be before customers can’t get auto insurance without surrendering to such surveillance? And how long will it be before the self-tracking of our health (weight, diet, steps taken in a day) graduates from being a recreational novelty to a virtual requirement?

Thanks to the proliferation of cheap, powerful sensors, the most commonplace objects can finally understand what we do with them—from umbrellas that know it’s going to rain to shoes that know they’re wearing out—and alert us to potential problems and programmed priorities. And because our personal identities are now so firmly pegged to our profiles on social networks, our every interaction with such objects can be made “social”—that is, visible to our friends. This visibility, in turn, allows designers to tap into peer pressure: Recycle and impress your friends, or don’t recycle and risk incurring their wrath.

But there is reason to worry about this approaching revolution. As smart technologies become more intrusive, they risk undermining our autonomy by suppressing behaviors that someone somewhere has deemed undesirable. Smart forks inform us that we are eating too fast. Smart toothbrushes urge us to spend more time brushing our teeth. Smart sensors in our cars can tell if we drive too fast or brake too suddenly.

, , , , , , , , , ,

  • lazy_friend

    There is a science for everything. Now the real trick is to discern what is Good science from Evil science and the in betweens .

    • echar

      PBCK ERROR

    • jnana

      and who will be the priests/inquisitors to determine what is good science from evil science for us.

      ,

      might makes right, right

      might makes right

      but it is the meek who shall inherit the earth

      • lazy_friend

        you decide for yourself. No one should be deciding shit for you unless you want them to. I guess I am talking about technology, as science is just the study and technology is applied science. Tech that enriches our lives while keeping their impact on the environment to a minimum is good in my book, for example lets say, solar panel and wind harvesting. On the other hand, tech that produces deadly weapons for a our bloated military is evil. But in the grand scheme of things who the fuck knows whats good and whats bad, we cant see years into the future, all we can do is look back at some history and assume something is good or bad based on their track record. When it comes to new discovery we just don’t know yet, and we can try to figure them out with the scientific method. I just try to choose whats best on my own or with a small group of trusted individuals and if it turns out I made the wrong assumption I try my best to correct it.

      • lazy_friend

        you decide for yourself. No one should be deciding shit for you unless you want them to. I guess I am talking about technology, as science is just the study and technology is applied science. Tech that enriches our lives while keeping their impact on the environment to a minimum is good in my book, for example lets say, solar panel and wind harvesting. On the other hand, tech that produces deadly weapons for a our bloated military is evil. But in the grand scheme of things who the fuck knows whats good and whats bad, we cant see years into the future, all we can do is look back at some history and assume something is good or bad based on their track record. When it comes to new discovery we just don’t know yet, and we can try to figure them out with the scientific method. I just try to choose whats best on my own or with a small group of trusted individuals and if it turns out I made the wrong assumption I try my best to correct it.

  • Anarchy Pony

    You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

  • echar

    I can see some near future iteration of hipsters glomming onto the way of thinking that allows for being manipulated by hardware/software

  • echar

    I can see some near future iteration of hipsters glomming onto the way of thinking that allows for being manipulated by hardware/software

  • BuzzCoastin

    right after
    money, laws, social custom, edumacation, workplace rules, etiquette, EzPass et al
    comes the smart phone/gadget/tracking device

    but most have still yet to perceive the medium is the massage

  • kowalityjesus

    The implementation of this type of technology seems to beg the question “How far-gone do you want society to be in the event of a computer supervirus, solar CME, or malicious EMP assault?”
    I, for one, do not see progress in the further appeal to what are largely the infantile impulses of the technologically connected. When will we stop looking at the “technology haves” as synonymous with “spiritually above”? The last shall be first.

  • alizardx

    They’re just tools. Use the ones that are useful, discard the ones that are a PITA.

    However, the concept of solving all our social problems with them breaks down rather quickly when one realizes that the majority of those problems come from the lack of public resources caused by the refusal of the superwealthy to contribute to the maintenance of the society that made it possible to accumulate their wealth.

    The techno-capitalist superwealthy are among the most obnoxious examples. The famous airship hangar at Moffett Field was restored by Google contributions. That hangar now contains the private jets of the people who run Google.

    Google on:
    “Irish Sandwich” google
    including the quotes to find one of the tax avoidance schemes that make this kind of accumulation of wealth possible.

    Don’t bother looking for that kind of insight in Morozov’s article.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/fantoccini* Chaos_Dynamics

    Modern delivery systems for advertising.

    Humans are commodities that are bought and sold via these systems.

    Google stock at all time high – They are an advertising company.

    A message from Bill Hicks: …if anyone here is in marketing or advertising…kill yourself.