Through out science fiction’s history the concept of creating an artificial intelligence which eventually achieves the ability to take over the world has been a dominant theme. The central character is often a robot who wires together the world computer networks and holds humanity at threat of nuclear war or some other catastrophe.
Here is what I see as we increasingly depend on the incredible insights of technology assisted decision making. Maybe what will happen is that technology will bring so much value to our decision making processes we will be unable to question it in the long run. This certainly isn’t an anti-technology rant since day to day I live and breath how to powerfully assist companies use technology for strategic advantage in delivering value.
In the long run, are search engines changing the way we make decisions and in fact making decisions for us? For instance search engines bring up thousands of results and yet we only look at maybe the top 6 results. Generally people decide from the information presented. They reference those top listed and highly relevant sources of information might lay hidden in the depths of search results, tragically not optimized to pop to the top.
The search engine optimization profession is all about making a company’s information float to the top regardless of the value to those who read the results. So here we have a system where people make choices based on those having an interest in influencing those choices rather than receiving information which best suits their needs.
The question is are we making better decisions or are we making those decisions which have been influenced by those with the most to gain from the choices we make, regardless of the value they bring us. We confuse the search results with being relevant to our needs or alternatively we redefine our needs based on our search results. What we find is a pattern where people are increasingly unwilling to invest the time to think through their needs without the first being highly influenced by that information which is easy to find.
So the question is, as this trend continues and the volume of information presented to us expands how are we reinforcing our decision making powers to ensure we are not being lead down the garden path? In the end, are we being programed to make the decisions other people want us to or are we informing ourselves to make decisions which best reflect our needs?
And so here it is we, are through the convenience of information reducing our independence by letting those who want to position themselves with the highest influence on the decisions we make. Perhaps, its is not that we will program a technology which eventually takes over the world but rather that we will be programmed by technology in to a decision chain which fails to consider our own best interests as represented by the alternatives.