The Threat Of Technology

THE THREAT OF TECHNOLOGY                          

In previous generations governments around the world threatened citizens with totalitarianism as a way to control the population. For today’s generation, the biggest threat comes not from governments but from large technology companies that want to control their lives.

Taking control

The idea of the state trying to control its citizens through the use of surveillance seems like a dated notion from old spy films. In a modern democracy the idea is laughable and would not be acceptable or tolerated. It is assumed therefore that as governments don’t interfere in the lives of citizens, free choice and the rule of law flourish. But in recent years the influence of big tech companies through the spread of technology has created a looming threat to the democratic process in a number of states.

The internet and the growth of the digital economy has transferred disproportionate levels of power to a small number of technology companies such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Twitter. The freedom of the internet and the access it provides for billions of people hides the fact that everyone pays a price for online activities. People’s habits are used to harvest data, influence behaviour and determine the choices made on a moment-by-moment basis. Individuals may glean some advantage from the gathering of such personal details but it is overwhelmingly used to influence and control what we do and how we do it. The advantage therefore flows away from those who use the technology and towards those who control it as they build fortunes from the information we freely give away.

Technology companies gather and sell data as a way to market an endless range of products and services without our explicit knowledge or full understanding. The practice began with online advertising and has spread to engulf every aspect of the digital economy, as companies use intimate details to extract every pound of value from people’s lives. Today’s technology never rests and relentlessly nudges us in certain directions, which are often against our better judgement. What began as a simple ploy to extract money from our pocket has also expanded into politics, as politicians and political parties use the same strategies to influence how we vote.

Losing control

As a result, the threat of the state controlling our lives has given way to the bigger threat of big tech company control, as they develop ever more sinister ways to use us to generate obscene profits. The concern of course is that their ability to manage our behaviour increases at a tremendous rate while our ability to avoid such sway wanes at equal speed. The consequence of the shift in power represents a loss of personal independence and the disintegration of the democratic process as evidenced in recent elections.

So, the influence of the state decreases at a time when the influence of big tech companies increases to undermine the choices people make.