No, It’s None of Your Business!

Why we have to stop giving away our information

Lately, I’ve been sharing a little more on social media. I suppose it’s due to the quarantine, Covid-19 has trapped me in my house, which isn’t a bad thing, I like my house.

However, since face-to-face meetings have been few and far between, I’ve found myself relaxing on social media sites. I’ve given a couple more likes on Facebook, dutifully tweeted a few responses to aspiring writers, encouraged a couple of virtual friends, debated the statue controversy, threw my two cents into the virtual windmill — all to stay connected.

However, I’m becoming increasingly creeped out by the observers, the unknown viewers out there reading, commenting, judging, censoring, archiving, and using the information I and a gazillion other users are regularly supplying.

So, having people know it’s your birthday is fun. This part of Facebook is my favorite. I get a notice and never have to worry about forgetting someone’s birthday again. However, where’s all the rest of the information going?

Who’s watching and why? Paranoia, you say, but it is the “reimagining” of a society where there are no good neighbors as Robert Frost says in his memorable poem, “Mending Wall” where his neighbor insists that “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In the poem, the speaker repeatedly suggests that a fence is no longer necessary as there is no conflict of interest: cows, orchards, or anything else:

“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.”

or,

“There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.”

When I first read this poem, I waxed poetic about how wonderful it would be to have no dividing wall, how nature abhors a wall, and how it is not necessary.  Let nature have its way.

However, I am now of the mind that boundaries are needed, not always of course, but in the field of technological intrusion, AI face recognition, and other intrusive technologies, privacy must be protected.

There must be a fence. One reason is that new technologies are a one-way street. That is, they are getting information and data from us, but then turning it around and using it against us. So, from an armchair, layman’s perspective, I’m getting worried. Facial recognition, and programs that track emotions, focus, concentration (educational AI developed in China) levels feed a gargantuan algorithm that will then belch out all this information to the highest bidder.

What are we getting out of this? Hard to say as the efficiencies that are promised just seem like job-killing, dehumanizing consequences. In the case of classroom AI, won’t these “controlled” kids be easier to handle, more passive, less likely to raise thoughtful questions?

If the job of a teacher becomes “easier” because the kids will be robotic and subservient, why have teachers at all? Couldn’t we just program a suitable robot? After all, if the teacher’s primary role is to monitor all the data, can’t a machine do it better? Of course, as a life-long educator, I think we’re going down a rabbit hole and laughing all the way. Why are we giving away our data and wisdom, only to have algorithms use it to destroy our institutions?

Watching people is also wrong because it will change the person who is being observed. Freedom of expression will eventually be a thing of the past. There will be an obsessive interest in portraying, curating, staging, and presenting ourselves in the most favorable light.

Who will determine what is favorable or not? Who knows? It’s time for stakeholders and politicians to protect people from the watchful eye of AI. If we could stop being amused and impressed by the shiny objects of technological innovation, we might be able to figure out where the fences go before we give away our very souls.

2 Comments
  • Harvey Heilbrun
    Posted at 16:46h, 25 June Reply

    Very insightful piece, yet with all your worries about who’s watching you, you post a public blog? If you don’t have one already you should but a tracker on your blog to see where people who read your blog are coming from. I use Statcounter.

    • Margherita Gilley
      Posted at 00:17h, 26 June Reply

      I’m not worried about my blog, but the collection of data for the development of algorithms.
      Thanks for reading, Harvey.

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