Facebook and its trinity of apps went down lately and much of humanity lost their “cool”, incomes and many felt lonely like some sort of “COVID-soft virus” isolation had taken over computers. Facebook is down = Internet is down for billions.
Many do not realize that the web & internet is much bigger than Facebook. Way bigger, however many from the day they are born till they die may never even get outside the boundaries of Facebook and its hydra headed family of apps.
Furthermore, a whistleblower just testified that what we have all been hearing, thinking, fearing, predicting & watching is TRUE: Facebook is getting toxic for our society (particularly the kids who are trying to decide what is right from wrong) and that this toxicity may be happening deliberately which was the worst part of the revelation.
Note: AI and machine learning are two different but broadly interrelated subjects. I will use them interchangeably. What many call AI is actually machine learning and note that this is not a technical article. I am a writer, creative thinker, developer and I major in mashing up of science, technology, faith and pop culture to help leaders, parents, faith teachers and creators improve the quality of their thinking in this new dispensation. — warning: a little long read ahead
Note: This is not simply about just Facebook, most of what is here can be related as well to Google, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit except Facebook is king when it comes to your personal data and of your loved ones.
I tell a simple story explaining why Facebook’s explosive growth comes as no much surprise to me personally. About 2 decades ago, graduating bachelor’s degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering from the greatest and the most beautiful university in Africa — Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife around Year 2003, shortly before there was a Facebook, (possibly still a tiny project in zucks dorm), a team of myself and friends who were also tech enthusiasts and programmers had created a digital yearbook put on CDs for graduating students of a fellowship so they could track friends and classmates after school. The CDs sold at N1000 each! In a little enterprise move, we made up to N100k! cash (students, back then). This Year CD project as it was popularly known back then only needed to flip its switch as an internet registry of friends and we could have built a Nigerian Facebook.
However the lack of African focused VCs and the total disconnect of University students from the internet back then simply overshadowed the ability to even conceive such an idea. The world hit the dotcom bubble, passed the millennium bug scare but still far less than 1% of local programmers in Nigeria understood how the internet even worked. Yet a couple of misfits on campus including myself built the first hostel network ever setup by its students but that is story itself for another day in an untold story of one of the greatest Nigerian startups never founded. Cowblock.
Anyway, back to Facebook. As friends and friends of friends multiplied on it, it became clear that the platform was going to move away quickly from being a safe place to hook up with close friends to a place where good and poisonous views will mix daily.
To better think of Facebook and its plethora of like-driven apps, just imagine yourself fixed on a chair with pipes plugged into your brain and locked into it, then the tubes are being used to suck white bubbles out of your brain (like some scary alien movie)
Imagine the human (you) with your face looking at a device and then white bubbles gravitate through a transparent tube and move into a giant squid-like machine. The giant machine is designed to give you food and nutrients (likes, followers and stars) to remain seated while it continues to suck those white bubbles off your brain and then gives you more food (sweet food, like how you can get kids seated with biscuits). That just goes on and on and on till you grow old, die and newborn babies replace you.
This giant machine (like the image of some alien beastly spaceship) floating outside the city, sucking out white bubbles from our heads, keeping us seated and sending us sugar to remain seated is the start of the artificial intelligence domination we have been waiting for. There is no escaping it. I once published an article https://medium.datadriveninvestor.com/wake-up-neo-e8dfc676022f on DataDrivenInvestor where I made it clear that we are already in the age of AI domination of humans and we don’t have to wait to see physical robots.
Blame it on Steve Jobs?
Technology was innocent when it all started, it was built for business and to aid business people analyze faster and work faster. Bill Gates and Steve jobs took what was made for business and made it a home device just like TV. Researchers needed to work more closely and link computers and they built the Internet, Tim Berners-Lee on top of that wrote the thing that helps us share pages over that internet called WWW/HTML, and then someone thought business people should be able to advertise and give news to computer owners and then we had Craigslist, someone thought we can send mails, then Yahoo., then someone thought we should be able to search for information and then Google came, someone thought we should be able to buy and sell and then Amazon…and find friends and then Facebook came and on and on. Then something or someone happened again: Steve Jobs.
You see, what changed: In the PC era, we had start and stop like the TVs, You could not carry your PC to bed. The off switch meant people had time to think and do other things. When Steve Jobs invented the iPhone, it was the most adorable thing any human could desire at that moment and then boom everyone wanted to have a phone with large screens that can do everything.
Data. Metadata (data about data)
First, Let us demystify this entity called data. To social media, data is not the post you create when arguing with your friends over politics or jollof rice. No. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, the posts you read or don’t read, your social connections, how long you spend and like a thousand other parameters created from your profile and those of your friends are in constant daily deep analysis by the computers trying to predict you. Apparently the system knows if you read a lot about cats or captain America. It knows your taste in people. You don’t have to write anything. It knows the posts that catches your attention every time. So without even entering any data into the system, it is daily extracting data from you. As everyone now knows, all that data or as they put it (data about data) is sold to advertisers who give the social media companies a mountain of money in exchange. For that money to increase, they need to get more data from you by keeping you hooked on your phone. To achieve that, they need to show you very engaging content (the type of content that tells you that a politician is eating little children under his basement type of thing). That’s just a metaphor for engaging content. The type of gist we love to read. Its not Facebook that creates those content, but the AI behind it knows you love to read it which in turns grows their profit.
I will argue that the older generations (1989+, generation z or whatever you like to be called) that saw the world before the tech boom have a totally different perspective on the productive use of technology than the younger who were born into it. I remember my parents struggled to see any need to buy me a PC while people like Bill Gates captivated the world with windows. Why? Because sitting on the PC all day just seemed so lame to almost all African parents including mine who could not understand how that could add any value to my ongoing studies.
What does this mean? What a generation calls unproductive has become productive in another generation. For instance, if I see my child playing Fortnite, I think he is unproductive. However, someone has made an economy out of keeping people seated and making money while they play Fortnite or games. It is called Twitch or YouTube. You play, people watch, you get followers and then you sell real products to them. Online retail in another form. Money, if you don’t have it, your master degree is useless. If a young gamer boy has it, he is forgiven very quickly for his/her bad grades.
What was unproductivity to a generation is becoming the new productivity. Many parents will struggle in this generation with parenting because of this shift in perspective.
Jobs (as in Work, not Steve).
Let’s talk about jobs. Your job.
Technology has been a big blessing to jobs as we can all see but something is happening in the background.
We fantasize through many movies about machines taking over the world as many reports have already envisaged and predicted. We expect AI to take over many jobs. But the way many imagine this happening is close to the scenario where a human-machine figure is sitting on your chair on Monday morning while your antagonist boss looks at you and says “you are fired”. Something close to the iRobot movie.
The understanding is that: As AI gets smarter, it will replace more jobs. While that is true, unfortunately something else is happening before that:
Putting it simply: AI does not need to get smarter, it only needs to make us stupid-ier and lazier.
As social media AI continues to take productivity time to maximize profits, it replaces our skill with more incompetence and laziness while also daily reducing the effort needed to meet our basic financial goals.
So in other words, computers don’t need to become smarter, they only need to render our brains numb while they “think” for us.
The result of this is that wealth will continue to concentrate among the few thinking capitalists and leave much of the world with coins to survive. Think Amazon Jeff. He is a visionary and a thinker. But he employs this type of AI just described and has endless workers paid in some “small fee” and the enterprise runs so efficiently.
So whether you are a delivery guy in Amazon helping the AI in amazon move deliveries or you are a dancer in front of your phone screen assisting the AI in Facebook milk money from advertisers, one thing is clear, machine take over has begun. Machines are not that smarter, it is humans that are getting much more dumber because we now pursue goals that can be satisfied with minimal effort and the machines will reward you plenty for that.
So we are going to be left with 4 categories: The elites (ultra rich, billionaire), the thinkers, the machines (AI) and the rest of humanity (delivery guy, dancers, manual labor jobs..etc). Nothing is wrong with dancing or delivering…but you want to find your way to be among the thinkers which is where you must get your kids to if you are not born among the elites.
Will faith eventually remain? Using faith to only go to heaven is a waste of faith. That is what death is for.
Have the God-kind of faith: “if you say to this mountain, be removed and be cast into the sea” — faith is essentially planning to do the impossible. Computers don't do the impossible, they help us reduce the effort needed to accomplish goals which is a good thing but this also creates a scarcity of faith.
Faith provokes thinking because it suggests risk taking to go after new frontiers of knowledge. When you take risks, and then you realize you could die or loose everything, naturally the best of you is launched, forcing out the “God” or “hulk” in you. This is essentially how faith works.
Computers & AI derives intelligence and acts based on data of the past, faith however is the intelligence based on data from the future. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for…”. Hope entity cannot exist in the past. To be called hope, the data must exist in the future. AI is incapable of this feat. AI is incapable of hoping.
What am I saying: Faith is tomorrow’s Job that AI can’t replace.
Faith through vision can create new knowledge, confess or state it, apply the needed deep thinking, take weird steps and eventually break into the realm of understanding. Believers and people must never loose this level of persistence culture.
“If men were angels, no government will be necessary” — Zero to One (page 110). Unfortunately, the machines will eventually figure this out. I will rephrase and hypothesize that if men do no thinking while machines do everything, no government will be necessary as well. The options are getting very narrow and time is ticking. The people who control this machine learning driven platforms form the new order. I see democratic governments fail and possibly fall apart within 20–30 years (maybe less) and totally replaced as they will be deemed inadequate to govern this new world.
The world today is fighting a very different kind of war and new coaches will be needed for our children because you will not be able to keep them away from this system for too long.
Your only way out is to train your children to become thinkers otherwise they will end up becoming servants of this giant hydra headed squid of a world domination AI machine.
To be continued…