Google’s disturbing vision of TOTAL data collection: Leaked video reveals a Black Mirror-style future in which technology could be used to control the behaviour of entire populations
- The video was made two years ago by Nick Foster, the head of design at X
- Titled ‘The Selfish Ledger’, it details how technology can collect a wealth of data
- This data can be compiled into a ledger that details your actions and preferences
- This can be used to control behaviour, help you reach goals and reshape society
- Google admits the video is ‘disturbing’, but stresses it is a thought experiment
Google already knows far more about you than you may realise.
Now, an internal Google video has leaked that provides an unnerving glimpse into how the firm could use that wealth on information to control your behaviour.
The video sets the scene for a Black Mirror-style future in which machines know your needs even before you do, and are able to manipulate you to follow their own agendas.
Google admits the video is ‘disturbing’, but stresses that it’s simply a thought experiment.
However, with the misuse of private data at the forefront of people’s minds following Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, the concepts outlined in the footage are likely to raise concerns.
The video was made two years ago by Nick Foster, the head of design at X and a co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory and obtained by the Verge.
In it, he imagines being able to nudge users towards their goals using data collected on their devices.
Titled ‘The Selfish Ledger’, the 9-minute film begins with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics.
This is the concept of passing on traits acquired during an organism’s lifetime.
It originated in 1809, whenFrench naturalist Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de Lamarck published the first theory for evolution.
He claimed the physiological traits of an entire species are passed from one generation to another via an internal code.
He believed that the experiences of an organism during its life modified this internal code, and this updated version was then passed down to an organism’s offspring.
For example, this theory claims that if a person regularly went to the gym and developed big muscles, their children would inherit this enhanced strength.
This was later proven to be false, as Foster acknowledges in the video.
Lamarckian epigenetics was discredited and replaced by Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection when he published the ‘Origin of Species’ in 1859.
The 9-minute film begins with a history of Lamarckian epigenetics. It suggests that technology can operate similarly to this defunct theory which focuses on the acquisition of skills during a lifetime to enhance a persons ‘ledger’ which can be passed from one user to another
However, Foster claims it is a good analogue for the use of data and can help explain how digital information will be used in the future.
The way we use our phones creates ‘a constantly evolving representation of who we are,’ which Foster terms a ‘ledger’.
Ledgers can be transferred from one user to another, much like genetic information is passed on through the generations.
They contain detailed data on our ‘actions, decisions, preferences, movement, and relationships’.
This can be used to control our behaviour for the betterment of society.
‘User-cantered design principles have dominated the world of computing for many decades, but what if we looked at things a little differently?’ says Foster.
‘What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference?
WHAT DOES YOUR DATA FILE HOLD? GOOGLE VS FACEBOOK
Every search made – even if it’s been cleared from your browser or device history
Every event in your Google calendar – including whether you attended
Every location you have visited – including how long it took you to get there, how long you stayed and when you left
Every image and file you have downloaded
Every file you’ve ever uploaded to Google Drive – even if they’ve been deleted
Every Google Fit workout you’ve done
Every photo you have taken – including metadata on where and when it was shot
Every ad you’ve ever viewed or clicked on
Every marketing topic that might interest you – based on factors like your age, gender, location and web activity
Every app you’ve ever searched for, installed or launched
Every YouTube video you’ve ever searched for or watched
Every email you ever sent or received – including deleted messages and spam
Every Messenger message you have sent or received
Every Facebook friend you have connected with
Every Facebook voice call you have made
Every smartphone contact
Every text message sent or recievd
Every phone call made or received
Every file you have sent or receieved
Every time you signed into Facebook, and from where
Every stickers emoji you have ever sent
‘What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information?
‘What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?’
The video goes on to present the concept of ‘Resolutions by Google’ in which the firm asks users to select goals in life and then helps them achieve it by guiding their actions using alerts on their phones.
For instance, if a user wanted to be more environmentally-friendly, Google would help direct them to better sources of local produce that help save the planet during their weekly shopping trips.
The video goes on to present the concept of ‘Resolutions by Google’ in which the firm asks users to select goals in life and then helps them achieve it by guiding their actions using alerts on their phones
The video sets the scene for a Black Mirror-style future. In the episode ‘Nosedive’ technology is used to rate a person, creating a score for all to see. People went to extreme lengths to increase this score, changing their behaviour in line with the technology
The video fails to mention privacy concerns.
Instead, Foster envisions a future where ‘the notion of a goal-driven ledger becomes more palatable’ and ‘suggestions may be converted not by the user but by the ledger itself.’
The ledger wouldn’t just help control behaviour, however.
It would be able to ‘plug gaps in its knowledge and refine its model of human behaviour’.
If a user wanted to be more environmentally-friendly, Google would help direct users to better sources of local produce that help save the planet during their weekly shopping trips. The video fails to mention privacy concerns
‘By thinking of user data as multigenerational,’ explains Foster, ‘it becomes possible for emerging users to benefit from the preceding generation’s behaviours and decisions.’
Foster imagines ‘sequencing’ the database like the human genome, and making ‘increasingly accurate predictions about decisions and future behaviours.’
‘As cycles of collection and comparison extend,’ concludes Foster, ‘it may be possible to develop a species-level understanding of complex issues such as depression, health, and poverty.’
‘We understand if this is disturbing – it is designed to be,’ an X spokesperson told the Verge.
‘This is a thought-experiment by the Design team from years ago that uses a technique known as speculative design to explore uncomfortable ideas and concepts in order to provoke discussion and debate.
‘It’s not related to any current or future products.’
WHAT IS THE CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA SCANDAL?
Communications firms Cambridge Analytica has offices in London, New York, Washington, as well as Brazil and Malaysia.
The company boasts it can ‘find your voters and move them to action’ through data-driven campaigns and a team that includes data scientists and behavioural psychologists.
‘Within the United States alone, we have played a pivotal role in winning presidential races as well as congressional and state elections,’ with data on more than 230 million American voters, Cambridge Analytica claims on its website.
The company profited from a feature that meant apps could ask for permission to access your own data as well as the data of all your Facebook friends.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix (pictured), after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump
This meant the company was able to mine the information of 55 million Facebook users even though just 270,000 people gave them permission to do so.
This was designed to help them create software that can predict and influence voters’ choices at the ballot box.
The data firm suspended its chief executive, Alexander Nix, after recordings emerged of him making a series of controversial claims, including boasts that Cambridge Analytica had a pivotal role in the election of Donald Trump.
This information is said to have been used to help the Brexit campaign in the UK.
Source: Read Full Article