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It was never a DILEMMA!

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Prashant Mishra
Prashant Mishra
A lawyer who dabbles in intermittent thinking.

The recently released documentary The Social Dilemma has received animated response worldwide. It has raised some pertinent questions regarding the modus operandi of the companies operating in the social media domain. Various ethical issues have been raised by some of the former employees of reputed companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. India is one of the largest user bases for many tech giants that rule the roost. Social media behemoth Facebook has largest number of users in India. Same goes true for many other companies belonging to this ilk.

Artificial Intelligence has emerged as a novel technology that would be impacting the human lives at an unprecedented scale. Its use by the social media companies requires a rethink in light of the emerging facts. What lessons can we learn as small city dwellers from this very timely documentary? As the maverick entrepreneur Elon Musk posited in his famous interaction with Joe Rogan, artificial intelligence may pip the natural human intelligence in the times. Would the science fiction nightmares become a reality in the near future?

Homo Sapiens can no more be complacent regarding this scientific evolution. Artificial intelligence has all the attributes of evolving into a Bhasmasura. It might lead to the creation of a world that would be ruled by machines. Human brain might lose its supremacy and get tamed by the machines created by it. Kabir exhorted few centuries ago that excess of anything is bad. Has the human race breached the limits pf sanity in the urge of outdoing itself?

I feel that this race towards the so-called excellence is devoid of any shock value. It is reflective of the primal human urge of survival of the fittest. Human being is a paradox. Human race creates society for ensuring its survival. This does not attenuate the urge of the individual human being to compete with fellow human beings. We keep searching for a competitor who could be trounced to assert our supremacy. Social media panders to this desire surpassing all possible constraints.

Social media reflects this hedonistic urge of the human being in form of erstwhile untasted cocktail of technology and human psychology. The documentary showed the human being like a voodoo doll under the spell of a charlatan called artificial intelligence. Humans has the distinctive ability to emote. When these emotions become a subject of some algorithm, it is the death knell of the fleshy existence. Are we ready to move to an existential state that would be governed by self-evolving algorithms? Corona-induced lockdown has witnessed the rise in courses like coding for children. Isn’t it too early for a child to follow the set of instructions rather than understanding the nature surrounding him? These are no trivial questions. Answers to these questions would shape our future. The way we think or are forced to think would lead us to a land of nothingness.

Where is the dilemma in this whole development? A decadent psyche is devoid of any dilemma. Human psyche in its quest to dominate has succeeded in dominating the idyllic aesthetics of human existence. We are unknowingly moving to an era of homogeneity. Social media sets certain standards of acceptance forcing the users to conform to a particular behavioural mode. This mimicking is very subtle and not discernible easily.

Social media, is not an outright villain. It has many benefits. it has changed the way human interact. Canvas of communication was never so large in the human history. Social media has helped people speak up. One might find it inanely hilarious, yet it has provided platform to many nondescript people. The proverbial aam aadmi got his own stage. Some of the viral videos are nothing less than folk artistry of the modern times. Many popular democratic movements of recent times owe their success to social media. A trending hashtag wields a great power in these times.

However, all these benefits are marred by the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation. Hate speech, unrelenting hydra of unverified content, lack of regulation and other associated vices are turning the social media into a directionless juggernaut. Most dangerously, social media is distorting the way social interactions take place. Phubbing is a malaise that hopelessly ails our smartphone wielding society. Cogbitive abilities of children is being hampered irreparably. Human brain is becoming dependent on the technology to such an extent which might trigger atavism. Privacy concern is the perpetual reality where a closeted existence is nearly impossible for a person. Finding your own space within your control is a big issue in itself. Right from your travel history to the food habits to the sleeping pattern, everything is in hands of corporate giants in form of data.

Data is the new diamond. Every corporate conglomerate is aiming to get hold of the data. Big Data, as they call it, are the new fingerprints of the society. Nothing is secret in the data dominated world where an app cam measure your appetite!

I remember watching a magnificent movie Her in which the protagonist falls in love with an Operating System. So future might see breakups between human and operating systems. Would these operating systems express their agony in prose and poetry? As people say that anything that can be imagined can be created. The butterfly has flapped its wing. What shall be its effect is unknown until some machine delivers an algorithm that can prophesise better than a clairvoyant’s crystal ball.

Till then, the best way to tackle this so-called dilemma is to discipline oneself. Stop being slave to the amygdala. Everything is so intricately interconnected that one neural mismatch can throw the person into bottomless abyss. Self-awareness devoid of dopamine kick is the only way to obviate unnecessary changes in brain. The anachronism between the biological evolution and technological evolution is ripping apart our society. Next time, if you buy an ice-cream think again. It might not be your favourite flavour. In fact, it might be the specimen of your loss in the psychological battle between you and the social media platform that hosted its advertisement. Subliminal persuasion has reached and altogether different level with the onslaught of the technology-data duo.

Understanding this slavery is essential so that one learns to rule rather than submitting helplessly to the engagement seeking and money earning spree of tech-giants. It must be understood that we are standing at the cusp of transformation where robots might act as mercenaries. When the people become product and everything including emotions is saleable, morality nosedives to destruction. Homo Sapiens need to take a call now! It is not a social dilemma but an existential crisis. Reduce your screen time. Talk to your friends. Use social media on the need basis. Reclaim yourself by being the master of your fate once again.

Let the birds of love tweet in your heart rather than the blue bird on the screen. Humans have evolved to ensure their survival. Regulating artificial intelligence is essential for saving the natural human intelligence.

The Social Dilemma started with an intriguing quote of Sophocles– “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse. ” Human will is distinguishable by its resolve. Let us resolve to thwart the process of transmutation of social media into a curse. World needs to communicate without losing itself to avarice. Life is the best business. Rest everything must revolve around it and not control it.

Small cities can provide and example by clinging to their social cohesion and warmth. A hearty laughter, few cups of tea and unlimited gossip is better than stalking the profile of your ex. Let the poetry drip from your heart, fight your heart out, walk alone along the banks of small rivers. Nothing artificial should ever trump the ingenuous human spirit.

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Prashant Mishra
Prashant Mishra
A lawyer who dabbles in intermittent thinking.
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