Mark Nitzberg, Olaf Groth and Mark Esposito, AI isn’t just taking away our privacy—it’s destroying our free will, too, Quartz, December 14, 2017
By replacing human-curated judgement with data-backed judgement, AI ultimately narrows our field of vision and reduces our social and economic choices—in retail, dating, entertainment, education, health care, and job opportunities. Taken individually, the nudges of mercantile and political interests may be of little consequence. But en masse, our lives become more and more subtly influenced and molded by the companies we let make decisions for us.
Through the WI lens
Earlier this week, the scathing attack of a former Facebook senior executive against the behemoth went viral. He expressed “tremendous guilt” over his work at Facebook, confessing that social media is in the business of exploiting vulnerabilities in human psychology. Most notably, he said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works.”
This week’s article should be read in the context of the monumental backlash currently brewing against tech in general and social media in particular. It makes a fundamental point: we look at AI (Artificial Intelligence) in terms of privacy issues, but the more fundamental problem is that it narrows our choices. This, we think, will have major medium and long-term implications on the wellbeing industry – particularly hospitality and retail. The industry is currently in love with big data and the way in which machine learning can leverage it for client retention and acquisition. But what will happen when the customers increasingly realize that the choices they make are not their own but those generated by an algorithm without their conscious involvement? Many will try to seek alternatives to regain part of their free will. For hotels and retail businesses, any offering that is not obviously algorithm generated that has a capacity to surprise in terms of place or experience will have an edge. Human-curated ideas and judgment will play an increasingly significant role as compared to data-backed decisions.
What this article goes on to explain is how positive thinking – described here as ‘thriving’ – can counter the effects that come from the negativity outlined above, from reduced memory to diminished performance. Based on studying people in a series of organisations in different industries, one of the authors has found that people who attain this state are more resilient, experience less burnout, and are more confident in their ability to take control of a situation
“Behind the jargon what this is really about is how we address the challenge of biodiversity under threat, move away from fossil materials like plastic and concrete, and use nature in a sustainable way, all of which could be summed up by “living in harmony with nature”.”
“In the new ‘consensual contract’ between employer and worker, what’s required is a commitment from the employer to safeguard the wellbeing of their people, and a commitment in return from employees to take personal responsibility for their performance of their job.”
“Could loneliness not only be damaging our mental and physical health but also be making the world a more aggressive, angry place? And if so, what are the implications for a cohesive society and democracy?”
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”