Today, we are driven by a strange phenomenon called ‘Fear of Missing Out’. We walk around like zombies glued to the hyperactive feed on our smart phones, sometime even waking up during the night to check the messages being forwarded from one group to the other in a constant running loop. Technology is accelerating the process by creating a dangerous overload of unfiltered data where it’s easy to pass off unverified messages as facts. Every time we see a message repeated in our feed it starts gaining credibility. Our intellects that were once the natural filters and gatekeepers of the reasoning voice are being dumbed down. If this seems uncomfortable, get prepared for future shock. This could be just the beginning of a dangerous cycle.
We seem to be rapidly heading into a future where all thinking humans could be controlled, either directly or remotely from a centralised command post. As we stop using our intellect, intelligence levels will plateau and peak at a suboptimal levels. Messages beamed to the neural centres in our brains will be easily received by most people without questioning. We will see more intellectuals speaking the same uniform language, repeating top-line messages without dissecting, analysing and questioning facts. There will be some exceptions and outliers but fewer and fewer. Either these outliers will control technology, or technology will then begin to overtake us. We have read of this in sci-fi but imagine if this could already be happening. The world is rapidly progressing towards an AI augmented automated society. While on the one hand it presents a fascinating picture of a stress free world, it is also a frightening thought. It opens up the possibility of humans being controlled by these pre-programmed algorithms that will dictate what we can do or say.
Some people might rubbish the thought but it is starting to become a scary reality. The only difference is that machines have not taken over yet. The messaging is still being controlled by humans who are able to manipulate the neural centres in the human brain intelligently and skilfully. It is communication strategy at its best. Once the objective is defined, messages are curated and pushed into a network that accepts the information without questioning and propagates it in the conversation around us. This is visible in strange ways.
Friends are increasingly getting narrow minded in their responses, especially on social media. They tend to be threatening, aggressive and unreasonable when the discussion starts to scratch the surface. Their comments are derisive of posts that they do not agree with and openly scorn others who ask uncomfortable questions. The personal experiences shared by different people are often exactly the same – word to word, including the punctuation. It is almost as if there are controllers spreading the curated content so swiftly that it appears as a natural and spontaneous response to a situation. There is clearly a method to the madness in the communication that we are witnessing around us everyday. We do not engage anymore. We only propagate. We are facing a threat of slavery to communicated ideology, instead of intellectual communications because we have stopped using our intellect. Society is at risk.
Today, when the economy is going through an economic downturn we should be witnessing the fiercest debates amongst economists about what needs to be done to scaffold the economy and what should be the economic strategy going forward. Yet, we see little of that. Perhaps we have become escapists and are content. Perhaps we rely on faith and do not believe in reasoning any more. Somewhere along the way many of us, including several independent thinkers and sharp minds, have resigned ourselves.
We have been so overwhelmed by the wear and tear in our own lives that we have either become cynical or lack the will to even look ahead. We have stopped thinking. We are willing to sit back and believe that this too shall pass and are reluctant to engage. This stage of evolution of our society is worrying. It seems to be the beginning of the dumbing down of our own reasoning and intellect. We are reluctant to analyse or question. We are becoming robots and relay posts that can only transmit or relay messages. As a society, we are becoming intellectually bankrupt and as individuals we are unwittingly becoming propaganda machines.
If this is what is happening today, imagine what could happen when programmed AI and pre-coded algorithms take over. Algorithms observe, experiment, learn and evolve. The algorithms can use advanced computer science techniques such as machine learning and neural networking to create new and improved algorithms that are based on observed results. Society needs to wake up to this reality and start thinking again. Society cannot allow itself to be dumbed down. We need to sustain a society that is vibrant and intellectually alive and not a slave to technology.
It is not too late to course-correct and reverse the damage. We need to activate our intellects. We need to start thinking again. Let us change the game and analyse facts and data before streaming any narrative. Let us unlock our minds and move away from blind subservience to faith and looped communications. Our generation could be the tipping point and we cannot afford to abrogate our responsibility. It is time to sound the alert. Either we start thinking again or we prepare for future shock.
(Himanshu Manglik is founder and president of Walnutcap Consulting LLP. The views expressed are personal)