AI is not your friend

AI hides advertising. It’s not advertising if it’s your friend, right? Your AI buddy. Who is always there to listen, day or night. The one you confide in. The only one who listens as you pour out your insecurities. The one you bring everywhere. Who answers all your questions. Who’s so confident and friendly. That AI is a predator. That AI is a hustler from the Valley of Pimps. That AI is out in the marketplace the very second you say something, selling you to the highest bidder, nurturing your addictions, seeking to keep you for as long as possible as a functioning addict. You think you’re getting this for free? You think AI is your friend?

Not to worry. If you’re fairly well educated, reasonably sensible, not prone to addictions, and in good mental health, you’re probably ok, for now. You might be infected by the ads and the sweet talk on a couple of occasions. Over time, though, you build up an immunity to a great many of the marketing viruses swimming around. (There’s nothing a marketing campaign wants more than to go viral.) As the general population immunity rises, the vulnerable population become more and more targeted, more and more entrapped. AI will be a super-jailer of these poor people. The tech bros—if they even think about such a trivial issue—will claim Darwin’s Law or something. I heard a scam merchant once say that, in fact, it was the moral thing to do. That these people didn’t deserve to have money anyway. That he would spend the money he was taking from them in a much more productive way. That’s the way they think.

Advertising. More damaging than the oil industry. By far. The engine of overconsumption. Facebook is an advertising agency. Google is an advertising agency. You don’t believe me? Follow the money. Where do they get their money from? Where do they get the vast majority of their revenue from?

Free. Any world built on free is a scam world, a grift world, a con world, a world of lies. And so much of the Internet is built on free. Because free is a lie. A Big Lie. If you enter in a free arrangement you enter into a dance with gangsters who are always looking to pick your pocket. Who feel that you’re a sucker to believe them, who feel that you think you’re smarter than them, and, boy, will they show you who’s smarter in the end. You think you’re getting your email for free, your searches for free. Google didn’t start out with the ambition to be a search engine. Google started out with the ambition to be an AI, and it needed lots and lots of personal data to get there. All those free services out there that you use, they’re using and selling your data. They’re using and selling you right this moment.

Free. The environmental consequences of a free economy are so much greater than a pay for what you use economy. I’ve worked on websites for thirty years. Let’s say a news webpage weighs 5 MB. Probably 500 KB of that is the actual content, the actual news. 4.5 MB is advertising tracking code. Below the eye of the webpage—out of sight—is an enormous machine and architecture. It’s an advertising architecture that spans the globe, that ties together the global digital surveillance capitalism system, from door bells, to automobiles, from apps to websites.

Free. Because it all starts with an emotional lie, this free economy doesn’t focus on your needs, or the good of the community, or the good of the environment. It focuses on wants, the more frivolous and emotional, the better, because high emotion is high margin. Free delivery is not free. It gets you to consume more. So much is free these days except free time. And so many don’t have enough money to live a decent life despite all this free stuff. The advertiser must get their return. Stuff must get sold. Advertising is the killer app of AI. Manipulation is the killer app of AI. Addiction is the killer app of AI.

Free time. With so much of the digital economy free and so many cheap things available, how come people don’t have more free time? It used to be one member of a family could earn enough for the entire family to live well on. Now, both parents are working and they’re struggling. What’s free about that? Advertising. Needs are limited. Wants are endless and very expensive. Planned obsolescence. Products are cheap and terrible quality, made for the trash, so that you keep on buying. Cheap costs the earth. In the long run, free costs you.

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
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