Smartphone addiction and the technology of control

How many of us can be honest and admit to the deep addiction to our phones and the apps on them?

Awareness about the psychological harms of tech addiction is slowly becoming part of the public discourse.

But tech addiction is not just a psychological problem.

It is also a political problem.

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A world in which everyone is swiping on their phones, attached to the stimulation that comes from an app that was designed to trigger addictive behavior, is a world in which people have consented to being controlled.

This is a world in which all of our behavior is analyzed by algorithms.

The control and addiction becomes ever more potent, ever more refined. The AI will know how we will react 4 or 5 moves down the road, in a way that our own brain cannot even fathom. 

This is a world in which the corporations that own those algorithms become de facto masters: overlords and controllers of the minds of millions of users.

There is already a debate as to the role played by Russia in "influencing" the last presidential election through the use of Facebook ads.

The debate misses the point.

It misses the point because we should really be asking why any of us would be so susceptible to such advertising in the first place.

And it misses the point because even as this debate has started, technology companies are as unregulated today as they were prior to the election, and likely far more powerful.

Tech addiction presents a terrible challenge to democracy. Democracy posits a social structure in which free citizens are able to exercise a knowledgable vote in order to push their communities and society into directions that enable social and political freedoms.

As we all continue to be addicted to our phones, and as corporations refine their algorithms so that the stimulation is ever more addictive, our societies will hollow out and we will literally be doing what these corporations say. We will be doing what the algorithms push us to do.

This is not a world that is far away. We may already be living in it.

I write these words not to scare, but to empower. We have to be honest about our smart phone addiction.

I don't know the answer to this.

It may be necessary at some stage to "downgrade" to phones that do not have apps, in order to avoid the addiction that has become ever present in so many of our lives.

We have to really look at this issue. And we have to understand that the accumulation of such power and data by technology companies presents a grave danger to democracy. 

One of the many dangers to democracy that we who walk the path of the Hero must eventually confront.