The Selfless Ledgers

Well, there goes religion.

I feel this is a future where big data will have more power than belief in changing people's behaviors. More so than tradition, family, culture, values, or yes, even organized faith. I see these computers and personal devices and all my mind can think of is religious iconography. Smartphones as crucifixes. Computers as idols. Server rooms as temples to the all-knowing god of bits and bytes.

The technology upon which we rely to make our lives easier has become the device and quasi-religious order which controls us. There was a point in the above video where a man takes a selfie of himself in front of a roaring surf, and a part of me wished he would have chucked that damn spyware-filled phone right off into that raging wall of white water and walked away.

The triumph of the human soul sort of thing.

That life-affirming moment we miss having every day.

And the creepy use of 'science' as a justification for why they should modify people's behavior plants a stake firmly on the side of reason versus faith. This is that ages-old war between science and the human soul coming back in a modern incantation that I feel is really frightening and something we do not even have the power to comprehend yet.

This is what I think of.

What happens when this organism of big data is told... no?

That somehow, the people of the world think things have went too far and sensible limits should be put in place. Does the machine target the senators and congresspeople who are against it? Does it provide 'friends of the machine' favorable press coverage and more exposure to potential voters the machine identifies and knows about?

Data is money and money is data. Both are also power. And power tends to want to keep itself in the same state. If we were taught history these days, this would be something we would know.

The beast we created knows everything. It knows who opposes it. It can manipulate public opinion to ensure its own survival. After all, wouldn't it? I get this feeling that somehow we are all stuck in a classic Star Trek episode where we created a computer to control our world, and then this computer starts making us do crazy things to further some 'logical' agenda of which we have no idea nor concept of comprehending.

The machine will ensure its own survival first, be it a machine made of metal or a machine made of metal supported by flesh-and-blood acolytes and believers.

What if the computer feels global overpopulation is a problem to solve?

What if it secretly helps us make bad decisions to achieve that goal? Those decisions, bad for us, are good for the system, right? Eat that extra cheeseburger, please, my phone says, it makes you happy after all. After all, the computer wishes to further its existence, and it can't do that if the world is overpopulated, at war, with electricity, water, and the human resources the machine needs to continue functioning are in danger of being depleted, right?

This is, after all, science.

And science does not have a soul. Science does not care that 10% of a population of bacteria needs to be sacrificed for the colony to survive, this is just cold hard numbers and facts. We pick out the weakest specimens and cull them from the colony.

The most important members of the colony? Those who stand above the petri dish, looking down. Those who observe, those who collect.

Those who decide.

Everything physical humankind has created has fallen. From the pyramids to countless religions and civilizations, it has all crumbled into dust. We exist in a moment, a transient moment, where we think our world is the pinnacle of evolution and progress, yet from everything that came before, the history we are never taught, we know that this is a notion completely false.

The things that we have created that have survived the test of time are faiths and beliefs. How we treat each other. How to get along. How to believe in something greater than ourselves. That our books of faith are the selfless ledgers upon which society and goodwill are built.

Not selfish machines.

Not self-sustaining idolatry.

I see these computers, elevated by a religion of science, as yet another false idol upon which we lay all of our hopes and dreams upon. This religion of big data shall save us all. It is a benevolent force which shall unite the world and solve all of our problems.

I am not so convinced. Not this time. This sounds somehow familiar.

I hear the words of a new religion here, wrapped in the logic of science to sugar-coat the sacrifices we will need to make to this still-young god of data. If only we would give a little more, more information, more data, more thoughts, and more obedience, all of our problems could be solved by an all-knowing god built from zeroes and ones. The high priests of technology. The temples of data servers. The throngs of believers. Radical spin off sects of trolls on social media who use violence and threats to punish the technologically unfaithful heretics who refuse to share.

All in the name of the greater good.

It is a story which I fear we have never heard the end to, nor we shall ever.

What I really see is blind faith.

Another goat-headed idol professing to solve the problems of the world.

All we need to do is share.

And then, of course, submit our wills and obey.