Thursday, February 4, 2016

How Smart-Gadgets Outsmart Humans

As the Internet of Things (IoT) develops more and more within our daily lives, it is important to notice where all of this is heading to.  Twenty years ago, we haven't got nearly the same exposure to technology gadgets as we have now.  Without realizing it, we have become a lot more dependent on having our electronics and "wearables" telling us the weather, dictate our relationships, tell us where exactly to and how to get there and how long it will take us to get to a specific place.  Also, we rely on them to tell us more personal data, such as our calorie intake, how much we burnt and how much more we have to eat in order to be in the "ideal weight"; whether we have slept enough, what time we woke up, what we typically eat, etc.  Even though, some of the personal data we give up might help us to get where we want to go and be, we have to ask ourselves: how did our grandparents managed their weight, routes, calorie intake/outtake, predicting weather and manage their relationships? Have we got any better personally than our ancestors? Why are we relying so much on our "smart-gadgets" where people did not have those 20 years ago and yet they still lived in harmony and peace with themselves? How come there was less obesity before than now even though we have "smart" devices micro-managing what we eat and calorie count?


We have to realize that our lives have been changed unwillingly.  We have to face the reality that we are slaves to a system which condemn us to submit more and more to a machine of control. Living in an era where who has the information has control over the other, it seems we are not also losing but also we give out our information for free and even pay for it.  Jeremie Zimmermann once said that: "If someone knows everything about you and yet you don't know anything about such person, he has tremendous power over you". The whole concept of being smart is not on relying on smart wearable gadgets which sends our information out to third parties so we achieve a level of popularity in this naive world by posting it on Facebook, as well as to feed our commodities but to control what we share because we should have control over ourselves rather then exposing our "private maze".  The main problem for this is that people do not realize how exposing all this personal information puts them in danger and it enforces linking one information to the other in order to make a profile of us called (linkability).  We have to train our brain to this way because every-time we post something on social-media, every swipe of our club cards being linked back to us by using debit card and gets connected with every news feed we read, every website we visit, every call we make, every transmission we emit from our "smart" devices, etc. pose a danger to our privacy.  We need to realize and think before we share private information over the Internet and if it is worth to sacrifice private junks of our lives over a bit of fun, commodity, or simply a few cents of a dollar in our purchase does not make us better people.

The problem resides on private data being converted into useful, profitable information.  Nowadays, lots of people do not know the difference between public and private data because not only our our smart gadgets have crossed the line between them but also because we do it all the time without thinking twice about it. The worst thing of all is that people are always willing to sacrifice that trade-off because they do not see it as a choice. What is odd about it is that this does not have to happen within a secret society, with secret service agents sharing our data in a shady way, but it is done publicly and many of us even know and agree without knowing about it. The worst of all is that most people don't even realize what they are sacrificing in the first place.  Every decision point in our lives is a trade-off.



We have heard or at least know about them. These are companies that became giants because of the gathering of our personal data; also called "data-mining" and sharing it with third-parties and even governments.  Not only government agencies but also Big Data conglomerate machines such as Google, Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn, Amazon (to name a very few), acquire our data every single day and sell it to the highest bidder. Snowden's leaked articles  showed how these companies allowed the government to sniff directly from their servers' backbone and recollect our data as well as analyze it and store it indifferently without a court order.  Our data (personal and private) has value.  Maybe we do not value our data as much as we should but believe me, advertisement, medical, government agencies and insurance companies do.  For example, advertisement companies want our personal data so they can use it for targeted advertisement. Result: we buy more. Conclusion: the country gets richer in debt; which after all we will end up paying all of it with our taxes. Insurance companies want is so they can predict (in a shot and long period of time) if a particular person will be eligible for medical coverage in several years from now and if he is insurable. Result: we might not only end up losing our medical insurance but also being rejected by other insurance entities; or worse, giving us no choice than to join an insurance company with high costs. Medical companies would use it to determine if in a near future it would be cheaper for them to invest in you relying on a medicine pill, treatment or simply let you die if you come across a stroke or cancer by simply relying on statistic charts.  With enough data, they can even predict when you'll have the stroke and how to treat you without even asking or making you sign anything.

Pedometers help us statistically to control our weight, but people before then did not use to do that and the obese rate was way lower than what it is now.  At the same time, Big Data companies use it to help an insurance company to determine if you cover you and for how long by looking at your FitBit's heart heart, how long and when you work out, what you eat, how many calories you burn/take, how many glasses of water you drink, etc and the worst is that we put all that information for them.


Microsoft, Apple and Google have created gadgets in many forms, purpose and sizes which will keep shaping the way we live our lives. Every new product they release gets more intrusive and accurate as well as convenient for the user.  After all, they have to convince the user to buy it and use it every-day all the time so they can have more control over our lives. I've always loved technology but I also like to have control over my actions.  Now we face a situation where it are actions are becoming a problem because smart-gadgets have taken unconsciously decision power.  The problem will always be choice.  It is your duty to find it, understand it, analyze it and make a smart decision from it. We need to analyze if we are better off the old-fashioned way or relying on a cheap piece of plastic and programmable chip which actually can be hacked and make your life worse. The answer is to do hybrid, but the key is to know when to rely on technology and when it's a better idea to go old-fashioned.  Believe me, I love technology but I also like to have control over my information. Now, that is me. It is up to you to decide if you want to share personal information and/or how much information you are willing to share with them. As long people keep sharing their information, these big conglomerates will still be fed and will become stronger until one day we will wake up with no control over our lives.  By helping little by little, we can finally make a change. We need to outweigh the costs/risks/benefits and show these big and greedy companies who really is the smart one because ultimately, who has control over all information, has control over the world.



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