The Disturbing Effects of the Digital Revolution That Only A Few Talk About by@fearsomelamb789

The Disturbing Effects of the Digital Revolution That Only A Few Talk About

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‘Surveillance capitalism’ is an economy centered around transforming personal data into a commodity. This could signify the end of digital democracy as we imagine it. The number of people involved in spreading privacy and digital security to the masses is exponentially increasing in the last few years. Open Source alternatives to most mainstream applications are being developed and improved over time with the goal of becoming better than their original competitors
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The cutting-edge technology that has been developed over the last 2 decades has led to a dazzling revolution in how humans communicate with each other and consume and share information.


However, this might have been the beginning of a new era known as “surveillance capitalism”, which could signify the end of digital democracy as we imagine it. In summary, surveillance capitalism is the descriptor of an economy centered around transforming personal data into a commodity, thus turning our data into a traceable asset that has an associated economic value.

It is fairly common for modern societies to fall into the trap of the lights, bells, and whistles of Silicon Valley Venture Capitals and other corporations.


However, more often than not we fail to detect the real intentions behind those companies, which could end up mining our own personal private information with the goal of shaping their users’ behavior. To put things into perspective, I am not an avid listener of the Optout podcast (https://www.optoutpod.com/).


However, the name of this show serves as a reminder of what most users should be able to do whenever they want to interact with a digital product: either Opt-In or Opt-Out and this decision should be made under the user’s own criteria.


Side note: I highly encourage anyone interested in privacy and self-sovereignty today further into VPNs, the interests behind Internet Service Providers, the importance of personal responsibility in privacy, how to collect funds when creating open-source alternatives, email aliasing, online pseudonymity.


First, when we look at the challenges derived from a mass to an individual-oriented economy, we encounter a series of unforeseen challenges that are more preoccupied with tracking our digital fingerprints and attracting our eyeballs towards misleading advertisements. In fact, surveillance capitalism could be described as a unilateral claim of private human experiences as free raw material that will be sold for a profit in the form of behavioral data that will be used in future markets.


These businesses customers with a commercial interest look forward to capturing behavioral data for the purpose of anticipating human consumption trends ahead of the consumption and, more often than not, their “smart” or “personalized” products might effectively act against our confidentiality and human ethic principles.


Second, even though it might seem contradictory, there are several reasons why consumers are tricked into ignoring that information awareness does not equal information integrity.


A third reason is that these strategies are designed to keep society ignorant of the pioneering surveillance techniques that are being developed with the goal of misleading our thoughts via obfuscation and misdirection.


For instance, it is logical for the mainstream population to claim that we should enforce “total information awareness” and not impede technological progress. Therefore, the thought is that if these disturbing practices are inevitable consequences of new technologies, we probably just have to accept the circumstances and live with them, which can be a dangerous error. In fact, it is impossible to imagine surveillance capitalism without the digital realm, but it is easy to imagine the digital without surveillance capitalism.


Nevertheless, the number of people involved in spreading privacy and digital security to the masses is exponentially increasing in the last few years, due to a number of abusive measures that are being taken against Internet users. Even though most people are unaware of Open Source alternatives to most mainstream applications, they are being developed and improved over time with the goal of becoming better than their original competitors.


While most people prefer Android and iOS, or Windows and Mac, there are a wide variety of products created out of the Linux operating system, such as TailsOS, Purism, PureOS, AOSP…


Do You love traditional video games like Minecraft?

Alternatives exist too: Minetest, Terasology, Voxel.js, TrueCraft, Freeminer… Architecture and Engineering?


How about alternatives to AutoCad?

You can try Salome, BRL-CAD, FreeCAD, LibreCAD. Looking for designer tools? Feel free to look into LibreOffice, Scribus, Markup, Inkscape…


What about chat applications?

How about RocketChat, Mattermost, Element… the list of alternatives is endless! You just have to go the extra mile if you truly care about protecting your digital rights


Third, we should embrace the opportunities to reject the practices that threaten our empowerment in the digital realm. In fact, every time that the average Internet user is shown the practices that are executed against their own information behind the scenes by third-party companies that they have not authorized, they drastically reject such unethical practices.

All of these problems that seem unsolvable given the current industry standards that dominate the Internet, can be solved with a new Web.


Some people refer to it as the decentralized Web or Web3, a brand new form of a user-owned website. Facebook. recently changed its enterprise name to Meta, however, the Web3 revolution and the arrival of the Metaverse could not happen without decentralized identities — the ability to own your own name and thus your identity in the Metaverse. In the Metaverse, you need to own your name — proving on the blockchain that you are who you say you are. When paying an annual subscription for the right to use a name or domain, we don’t truly own that domain name. For example, the domain provider can censor it at any time.


Hackers can target the providers’ servers as an attack vector to shutting down your domain name — thus restricting your website’s access to the internet. With decentralized domains, the individual owns the domain name, and no one else can use it or take it away without the individual’s expressed consent.


If we combine decentralized domains + decentralized data storage protocols such as Filecoin or Arweave + decentralized compute layer like Ethereum, we create a Web3-native world web — where the identifier/resolution, storage, and processing are all done in an open, permissionless, and decentralized way across thousands of computers instead of large datacenters owned by Microsoft, Google or Amazon.


As a thought experiment, imagine if your whole digital life lived on Facebook and you were only fed news that Facebook wanted you to see. If you said something in the Metaverse that Facebook didn’t want you to see (i.e., in concert with an authoritarian government), they could shut off your entire livelihood — akin to deleting an Instagram account if that account constituted your entire digital life.


With Web3, end-consumers take back the ownership of their own data. Instead of forgoing their data and their privacy to the big tech companies, they’re able to control their own data — living in a cryptographic, decentralized mesh of computers that combine to become a distributed data center rivaling GCP and AWS. Instead of Facebook owning your digital home, you actually own it. And you own the digital land on top of it. And all of your digital furniture.


Fourth, the Internet has become part of our daily lives. Whether we are interfacing with our health provider or we are chatting with our friends through social media, we are still using the same channels that act as surveillance supply chains. There is even a Wikipedia article covering the well-known “I do not care about privacy, I have nothing to hide” argument (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_to_hide_argument).


For reference, here is the original quote by Edward Snowden: “Saying you don’t need a right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is like saying you don’t need a right to freedom of speech because you have nothing to say”. To put it other words, I have also heard the argument “If you have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, they’ll give you a reason to hide and fear.”. Find also this Ted Talk covering the importance of privacy and how privacy deprivation can render someone powerless.


In other words, the competitive dynamics of surveillance have created powerful economies that drive these new innovative firms to produce better behavioral-prediction products towards their goal of fine-tuning a herd of people with subtle and subliminal cues, rewards, and punishments that shunt us towards their more profitable outcomes. This means that companies like Facebook and Google are concentrating an unprecedented amount of knowledge towards predicting our futures for the sake of their own profits.


The more information they compile with their products, the more competitive advantage they will have on the markets.


What can users do to stop and prevent this problem? First of all, a change in public opinion must be achieved. This process would ideally begin with the awakening to a sense of indignation and outrage, where society finally says d“enough is enough”. Second, the support of a regulatory framework might be key towards moving beyond privacy and antitrust laws. We need to develop new regulatory institutions that can specifically address the operative mechanisms of surveillance capitalism.


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The ethos behind the Metaverse is the creation of a digital space for us to live, socialize, and work — that transcends the space-time of our physical world. Web 1.0 was the period of time describing the advent of the Internet. The term Web 2.0, however, was coined by O’Reilly and others between 1999 and 2004 — the early years post-Web 1.0. Web 2.0 catapulted the world from simple static desktop web pages designed mainly for news — to interactive experiences, user-generated content, and marketplace economics that brought us NASDAQ giants like Uber, Facebook, and Twitter.


Web 2.0 was mobile-first, social-first, and cloud-only. This unlocked trillions of value for the global economy but, in doing so, we, as consumers, gave up a lot of agency over outlives in favor of the services that were provided to us by a handful of companies. Since we have had both our personal and financial information exposed in many hacks over the last years, we are no longer comfortable with these companies holding our data. As a result, we’re entering a new era of the internet: Web 3.0 (or Web3) for short. An era that champions open, trustless, and permissionless networks.


What if I told you that all hours that you spend carefully building your digital image can disappear in a blink of an eye — purely on the whim of a few individuals? You’d probably think twice about investing your time on that platform. But what are the chances of that happening, right?


It happens every day — to the thousands of accounts that break the community guidelines established by platforms like TikTok and Twitter. And that’s not to say that companies aren’t in the right — they ultimately have the final say on what can and can’t be posted on their platforms. And we agree to those conditions in the T&C when we join the platform. OK — but what if we could exactly keep all the content that made for each platform? What if we could move our content from platform to platform, curating each feed based on the context of the platform?


These platforms would look a lot less like walled gardens, and more like open platforms that wrap content in a delightful user experience — potentially providing services on top of the core experience as a way to monetize. Then these platforms would have to compete for the best experience and the best services — a lot like how banks have to differentiate their services, products, and customer experience to compete for our money.


In order for that to happen, we need to have true ownership of our digital content — and thus our digital identity.


As the world becomes more digital, the need for trustless digital ownership will arise, and NFTs will solve that need. In summary, just as industrial capitalism claimed the world’s natural resources for economic benefit, the digital multi-billion companies are expropriating our private experiences to produce behavioral data that will ultimately be used in the marketplace. Users’ information is collected through opaque algorithms that regulate our actions.


Just as the Industrial Revolution came with more cost-effective production models for cheaper goods, the Information Age is coming up with quantitative and qualitative models that can gather almost all existing information about anything. Computers, indeed, have become an extension of our own brains.


For instance, an Apple Watch is an extension that helps us to track our steps, count our hours of sleep, understand our environmental factors.


Also, the Internet of Things devices like Smart TVs, smart homes… help us to go the extra mile with 5G networks, self-driving cars, and even optimized services like Facebook Messenger, Apple Wallet, and more complex video editing applications.


Nevertheless, even though corporate-controlled the means of production and held the power under industrial capitalism, its workers and consumer still could retain their power by organizing for a fair share of the wealth they generated by boycotting unethical products. However, in the digital era of surveillance capitalism, these counteracting forces are no longer interdependent. The reason for that is that, instead of labor, surveillance capitalism needs every aspect of human experience.


This ecosystem of information is controlled by only a handful of powerful companies that determine how information is exchanged. As a consequence, the power structures in the marketplace are shifting. For instance, if you want to use a GPS, you must give up your location. If you want to download music or have a video call with your friends, then you must agree to their terms of service and privacy agreements.


Therefore, there is no negotiation in the digital marketplaces. In fact, it can be deemed as a unilateral relationship in which users have no guarantees of safety or protection and no way of claiming back their information once it has been collected. This can explain the techniques that helped advertisements to improve up to the point where they can do much more than just promote certain products.


Advertising has, therefore, evolved from making us believe we wanted something to know exactly what we want, and when and where we want that. This has led to a new set of prediction products that are sold into a market that trades exclusively in future user-customized behavior.

Sources


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