When I studied computer science I obviously learned about algorithms. Simply speaking an algorithm follow a series of instructions in order to solve a problem. But now with Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning they have become "smarter".
It is related to productivity we talk often here on this space, this post today is extremely important for two reasons. One is exactly connected with being productive and the second reason I will explain soon.
I am telling often that time is precious and being productive is being wise about our time. So the main purpose of the algorithm is to improve our life and whenever you use a computer, or your smartphone, you rely on algorithms but there is a "catch" and how they are used by the biggest companies such as Facebook, Youtube or Netflix.
In our western world, our approach to technology is very optimistic. Any new technology appears and we happily implement it.
That was with the internet for example, do you even remember the time before the internet? Now all the company business, education, gaming, shopping, watching youtube, everything we do we are dependent on the internet.
The same with smartphones, at the beginning they were subsidized by telecommunications companies so that as many people as possible could use them, but we did not think about the consequences of using the internet and how getting used to smartphones changed our life.
The same is with algorithms which from a mathematical point of view are neither good or bad but the outcome of it, the way the company uses this data is what consequences we don’t know yet.
Tristan Harris who worked for Google and you might know him from a document in Netflix “Social Dilemma” said that Technology is not improving our life. The whole point of the algorithm is to keep our attention. He studied how algorithms ethically steer people's thoughts.
Every simple app which supposedly helps you do things and make your life easier, wants your attention. And attention means your time and from spending more time on facebook, youtube or Instagram people are getting more frustrated(unhappy) but this is what these companies do.
For example youtube wants you to spend more time watching videos so instantly after watching my video in YouTube you will have another one to watch, and another (by the way I wonder if you watch all suggested videos?). Netflix autoplays the next episode after the first one has finished. Instagram insta stories disappear after 24h, people are forced to spend more time on all these platforms and are more tired and become “FOMO” which stands for "fear of missing out", it is a big problem for teenagers and young people around the world.
Together with the development of social media, which by principle, should give humans a sense of connection, came alienation in our life. Technology grows lack of empathy, people becoming more isolated and frustrated. Actually there is a huge rise of people addicted to technology, they are prisoners of Netflix or Youtube.
70% of people spend from 3-5h a day checking their phone, connecting with people, chatting and watching.
They have the impression that they spend valuable time talking to friends, family, entertaining themselves, relaxing, playing games and getting to know things, but the truth is that they are manipulated by algorithms.
This is the second reason of how the algorithm works. Let's say you watch youtube, you like travel content and occasionally technology. Algorithms are choosing suggestions for you based on things you are watching. Well youtube wants you to watch more therefore can't risk suggesting something that you might not like. You will say that there is logic in that and that is how it works. It is true from the point of view of youtube, you are happy with this platform and you spend lots of time here, it is a win-win situation.
But here is a trick: let’s say after one year you still keep watching the same videos and youtube keeps suggesting you more and more of the same content. That means that you don’t learn anything new, you don’t expand outside the things you are already spending a lot of time on.
One year later algorithms don’t risk giving you different content that you watch and if you don’t search yourself for example new creators on youtube, new things you want to watch about, well, then algorithms will not do that for you. In that sense you are manipulated to watch and spend more time because algorithms decide for you what things you watch.
Tristan Harris, whose TED talk I recommend you to watch said that facebook or youtube algorithms work to hold your attention and that basically steer what you think.
Your opinion, knowledge, yes that can expand and you can learn things, of course you do. If I wouldn’t believe that things here on youtube makes sense I wouldn’t create this channel. What I mean is and I often repeat is to have balance.
Have you thought about that, have you reflected on your time spent on facebook or youtube, are you sure that you feel better and more relaxed after 2h on facebook and another 2 on watching netflix?
Someone said that smartphones are taking away 7 years of our life!!!! 7 years! Average person says that they are not interested in technology, thinking that this is not their world. Well, if you watch this video then technology is in your life more than you think and I encourage you to think how much time you spend on social media, how much time on watching netflix?
Make sure that huge companies like Netflix or Amazon don’t manipulate you to think that you will be better if you buy new gadgets or you will feel better if you watch yet another episode of Emily in Paris.
Yes we are all humans and deserve to rest and have a good time after a day of stressful work. Of course we do, but I encourage you to invest your time in knowledge and learning things and your money spent in the nice cafe after a long walk. Don’t let algorithms manipulate you.
Hasta la vista gente! Monika and Marcelo the content creators of this community "Sapo de otro pozo".