"In the same way that in industrial capitalism, a whale is worth more dead than alive, a tree is worth more as lumber than as a living tree, in the attention capitalist model, a human being is worth more if they're addicted, outraged, polarized, misinformed and narcissistic because that's better for producing effects in human attention."
I came across this quote from an unknown source, and it inspired me to share my thoughts and write. If anyone knows where it originated from, please inform me so I can attribute it to the respective author.
Happiness is something all humans strive to achieve. Many believe we all have a purpose in life and are on a journey to fulfill it.
I propose the following question: Is it becoming increasingly difficult to achieve "happiness", in a society where all your habits, search queries, shopping trends, financial state, emotional state, contacts and so on are actively collected and processed for the simple goal of using it against you?
This is a legitimate question I have. I am basing this on the theory that algorithms are designed to "keep the user engaged".
For example, this can apply to platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, mobile games and Instagram with the use of their "infinite scroll" technology.
The more the algorithm knows about the user, the more it can apply this information to engage you longer. It can be a reminder e-mail asking you to 'come back we miss you'. Or it can be recommending you certain types of videos it knows you enjoy watching, at a time when it knows you are in a impulsive emotional state. It is very difficult for a human being to be conscious and aware 24-7 that they are currently engaged with a system that is profiling and manipulating them to maintain continuous engagement.
Let's take the "default user" for example. Who is the default user? Well it seems to be everyone. If you ever purchased a laptop at a store such as Best Buy on black Friday, you may have noticed the laptop is significantly marked down in price. This can have something to do with it being loaded with "add-on" and "enhancement software".
Once you turn on the laptop, you are also bombarded with notifications from not only the Operating System, but the pre-loaded software telling you what to do, how to search, where to store your photos, asking for access to your contact list and so on.
What chance do new computer and mobile users have when they are increasingly engaging with services that apply shady and even insecure "default settings", for the "default user".
Children, teenagers and regular adults are all vulnerable, and once you are in their platform it can seem tough to get out. You already established an account, an identity, stored your data in their "cloud". Many can feel as if they are in too deep. Not only that, you already invested a large sum of money for the computer!
Back to the question, can we achieve happiness in a world designed to grab our attention? The average attention span keeps dropping, it was 8 now it's 7 seconds. In a world where we rely on computers and phones more then ever, shouldn't we be empowered more then exploited?
Now I understand the word 'happiness' is subjective. So let me define it for the sake of this post.
Happiness: the confidence to use the Internet and reach ones full potential without having ones engagement online exploit & manipulate the humans reality, emotional state and privacy.