Intelligence Squared is considered the world’s leading forum for online debate and intelligent discussion.  This medium recently staged a lively discussion around the role that Facebook plays in influencing public opinion.    Two contriubtors spoke in favour of the motion “Is Facebook Damaging Society” and two people spoke against the it.

Let’s think about this topic

How much thought have you given to the role that Facebook is playing in influencing society today?   My belief is that the results of recent elections has demonstrated the powerful role played by this social medium in influencing public opinion

Writing in July 2019 my hunch is that the election of  Donald Trump as well as the Brexit vote, both of which took place in 2016, were heavily influenced by information gleaned from Facebook accounts.    Potential swing voters were identified by an analysis of personal information accumulated by a custom built app.   The information gleaned was passed on to those with the capacity to target the relevant individuals, thus influencing their voting behaviour.

The Good and the not so Good

Having just listened to this online debate hosted by Intelligence Squared I have become even more aware of the potential of Facebook’s power for both good and evil.   How do we control this monolith so that its capacity to educate, to stimulate business growth and to connect people can be encouraged?   Whilst malevolent information gathering can be controlled.    Some measures need to be established to prevent data accumulated from Facebook profiles being used to manipulate public opinion for the nefarious ends of malign forces.

Following Trump’s Election

The enquires necessitated by the election of the Trump presidency has established the need for some serious monitoring systems to guide the use of personal data.  Some changes have already been implemented.   Many thousands of employees have been taken on by Facebook to monitor every contribution made minute by minute on its site.   Enormous teams have been assembled to peruse every new post in a multiplicity of the world’s languages.   A team of 30 000 employees are checking every fresh contribution made on the Facebook site to ensure it obeys the implementation of new rules.  Mark Zuckerberg has been receptive to the backlash of public opinion and has agreed to play a major role in monitoring all postings.

Is an Ethical Code Possible?

I am asking myself whether it is possible to determine an ethical code around monitoring the 2.2 billion users of Facebook.    How can we possibly delineate criteria for judging items of potential erosion of values, or provocative interpretations?    Is it possible to find an ethics committee to agree on the criteria for what is and what is not moral and ethical?

The power of Facebook

Have you ever ruminated on the power and responsibilities of Mark Zuckerberg?  In the entire history of mankind, has there ever been an individual as powerful as this man?    The Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Kings of Colonial Constituencies were not able to spread information, garner opinions and influence the masses of people in the powerful manner in which Facebook can manipulate its followers today.

There are more Facebook users than there are Christians living in the World.   In fact in some sectors of society the term Facebook is used as a synonym for the Internet.

A Monitoring Board has been proposed

It seems that Zuckerberg and his Facebook acolytes have been made aware that a monitoring system is essential if public faith in their product is to be maintained.     Suggestions around creating a new board of 40 members to adjudicate published information has been mooted.   This board has been likened to the Supreme Court of Justice

Whether or not this analogy is realistic is doubtful.   The Supreme Court monitors the behaviour of 364 million people living in the USA.   Facebook will have to oversee the data of 2.2 billion people living in countries all around the world.

Positive Research Potential

There is a potential for scientific progress in the understanding of human motivation offered by the rich sets of data recorded by Facebook.  The masses of personal information collected could be a force for some exciting new types of research into human behaviour.   There is a growing body of research from a wide range of different disciplines like psychology, sociology and social anthropology which are now deriving useful information from social networks.  The potential of this wide range of opportunities is yet to be evaluated, but the prospect of enriching our understanding of human behaviour is exciting.   Data is a powerful new tool for the development of specialised scientific concepts within the field of the Social Sciences.

Let us hope that the tremendous potential of modern scientific techniques can be utilised for the betterment of society, rather than the blind manipulation of Facebook users.

To listen to the debate you can go here

 

 

Do you remember when you had  to “Keep up with the Joneses?”  It was a serious challenge during the early years of my marriage when the lifestyle of Minimalism had not yet entered the psyche of my cultural group.

Today we need to keep up with technology, a challenge which sadly can only be approximated.   To remain in touch with the consistent developments and changes even in one’s own niche, be it business, the professions, or technology, is indeed a full time job in itself.

Introducing the Screenome

I was fascinated to learn two related new words which have now filtered into our contemporary language.   For sometime I have been familiar with the concept of the genome which describes the individual set of chromosomes possessed by each individual.    And now, this word has morphed into a Screenome.   (At this moment I note that my computer software is telling me that Screenome is misspelt!)

Screenomics

Screenomics describes the individual activities of any one person which may be recorded on the multiple screens on which he or she has worked during the day.

Researchers analysed the screenshots taken every few minutes, from several dozen people who had consented to such recordings. These threads showed that “people switched from one screen activity to another continually, every 20 seconds on average, and rarely spent more than 20 minutes uninterrupted on any one activity, even a full length movie.”

Applications

Doing some research, I have just learned I can subscribe to a service which will analyse my screen time.   I gather this software would be used in a business environment.  It would allow an employer to scan the activities of his employee and note precisely what he has been doing with his time.   George Orwell’s prognostications of Big Brother seem to have arrived.

An interesting article in the New York Times entitled “‘Screen Time’ is over”.    Here is a link:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/health/screen-time-mental-health-screenome.html   It describes the challenges of interpreting research in this area.   There is an inherent problem to this type of investigation because of the difficulty of finding a control group.  Where can you find a group of educated people who do not use (and abuse) screen time?

My own Screen

Internet searches

I decided to do a little bit of research on my own screen usage and have calculated that I browsed 123 websites yesterday.   I have not done an analysis of these sites.    I have not calculated whether these links tied up with my interest in mindfulness, or meditation, or politics, or ageing well, or cognitive decline, or neuroplasticity, or cognitive reserve.

Incoming emails

However, what I have done is an analysis of the 61 emails I received yesterday.   It is staggering to realise that 36 of these incoming emails were on topics related to self-improvement.   It does sound like a bit of an obsession when evaluated by this methodology.  Within this category, 10 were offers were related to the improvement of my Writing Skills, and 15 on what I will term Lifestyle improvement.    The remaining groups were information on Neuroscience, Coaching, Mindfulness, Ageing and Politics.

Opportunities for self-analysis

I have often been asked by acquaintances how I spend my time on the computer.   In the past, I have not been able to answer them.   Now, I have some hard insights into my own behaviour!

This indeed has come as quite a revelation.   It has given helped me to understand myself better!   I knew I had a high degree of curiosity, was always looking for opportunities to increase my knowledge in areas of interest.  However, to learn, I had actually received 36 opportunities in one day to raise my awareness in topics of interest comes as a fascinating and insightful discovery!

Earning Potential

While I am somewhat ambiguous about how I can derive an income on the internet, the temptation is there.   Eight of the incoming emails were offerings of information on how I can monetise my blog going forward.    In investigating this area of earning, I have been amazed to discover how much money is made by those who have mastered the techniques of deriving a passive income stream from ongoing internet offerings.

The remaining incoming emails I classified as Jewish Interest, Existential Threats, Bridge, Politics, General Interest and Social Media.

Human behaviour and Research

Since my study of Psychology in the 1950s, I have always been fascinated by the scientific methodology of research in this field.   Intelligence testing was the first human capacity to receive scientific validations with Binet’s work in 1904 as the creator of the first IQ Test.   Subsequently, tests of personality and emotional intelligence have become essential tools for selection in the army, the police force and private industry.    Following on further human characteristics have been measured and include artistic ability, spiritual quotients, and mindfulness; as well as many tests of the sensory modalities of sight and hearing.   And now we have screenomics!

How would you feel if your boss was able to measure your screenome?