29 May 17
Do our gadgets know more about us than we do? These days, our technology can work as a “hyper-mirror”, reflecting so much more about us than we realise.
How will we use it?
These fascinating, if somewhat concerning, claims come from the work of Michal Kosinski, who figured out a way to identify people’s psychological traits through their Facebook activity. Your digital footprint can reflect a staggering amount about your personality, political and religious stances, education and even relationships – without you ever coming out and saying what these are.
There’s so much data these days. At one time researchers used to struggle getting a decent sample size to study a group of people; now they have the numbers for entire populations.
Apparently the technology not only can tell what kind of personality we have, but even how we’re feeling at given times of the day. Who would’ve thought?
You may have heard lately about the possibility of Facebook targeting teens who feel emotionally vulnerable at certain moments. The controversy was not about whether Facebook was able to do this, but rather whether they should. So it seems they can.
Look, obviously all this tech is being used primarily to flog stuff. No surprise there. The data not only helps marketers offer us the right products, but – more powerfully – search us out to sell to in the first place.
In the end, this will be an advantage for us when it shows us things that we need at a good price. It will be less so if it creates new “wants” or even persuades us to spend on things we don’t want at all.
All of which brings home the need to make our own plans for our money – before someone else out there does! Sorted’s budgeting tool is made to do just that: get our plan in order so that we’re then prepared as we shop online. (That tool, incidentally, is not as nosy as other tech and just takes your input, helps you organise and does the sums.)
Comparison shopping still has its place – searching the internet for the best deals out there.
But it’s also important to know that our browsing is leaving even more digital tracks that say a lot about us. The tech hyper-mirror changes what it reflects back, depending on what we look at and like.
Beyond just the products we’re offered, there is also some fear that even the price tag on these may get adjusted based on what the tech predicts we’ll be willing to pay. Will we all see different prices for the same product? Watch this space.
In the end, all of these tech developments are like any tool, and if you think of a hammer, it can be used to build or break. Will we use the new tech to make our lives better?
Take the budgeting tool I mentioned. Once we pop in our incomings and outgoings, we can either use it to keep things at the status quo, or we can make key adjustments to get better results with our money. Which would you prefer?
Tech can be used in either way. I’m heartened by new sensors such as Fitbit or weight-watching apps that track progress. These are obviously aimed at improving how things are.
One fine day the hyper-mirror of tech will reflect back exactly what we need to do in order to improve our financial situations the most. After all, the data should show us what we need to become our best selves, not just who we are now.