Written By: Adam Peach
Everyone has “their side of the story”. A unique opinion or observation based on their experiences in life. Things such as education, geological location, gender, ethnic descent, culture, political views, age, moral values, emotions, and we could go on all day with this. Opinions are formed from the perception of the individual making it. People from the countries of, let’s say Canada, Egypt, and Greece are all dealing with completely different issues in their own respect and live in a different society than one another. What is reported in the news will differ in each region, again, due to cultural differences and political issues. Some countries have suffered huge atrocities. Education is different in regards to teaching what is relevant to the particular region, as well as laws and even extreme cases in which education could be better described as indoctrination for certain regions. Reality is different for everyone. The old saying “back to reality” can mean a totally different thing depending on who is saying it. Everyone lives in their own Augmented Reality.
Everything we do or say is based on each individual’s personal interests, physical and/or mental ability, age, and again – the list goes on. The interactions we make, decisions we make and activities we participate in throughout our daily lives is based on a mixture of past experiences, location, beliefs/values and ability (regional laws, financial situation, etc). This makes every person’s perception of the world around them different.
Companies such as Facebook, Google, Youtube, and many data-tracking entities, are working to make our experience on the internet an augmented reality. For example, this is why when you make a purchase online, the ads in which you see on the internet afterwards are of the same product or related to the product you previously purchased(think ebay, amazon for the best example). The same applies for news on sites like facebook (currently the #1 news source for people, with 1.79B active users as of January 2017). If you generally click on more right wing news sources, you’ll get more suggestions and ads for those kinds of sources. If you like to click on entertainment news sources for a specific musical genre, such as Heavy Metal, you will get ads and suggestions related to heavy metal. This goes for literally everything you do online. While this is an amazing technology, the augmented reality is essentially a box based on your past experiences. Limiting us from exploring the internet indiscriminately. Limiting us from seeing other perspectives from the actual world around us.
This kind of packaged existence is very dangerous, socially. (1)It’s already very evident that people are completely addicted to their phones and the internet. It has become so integrated into our daily lives. We learn and get information, read news, earn money, spend money and interact with others every single day. This degrades our ability and experience in communicating with others physically, or in person due to basically living on your device and not articulating actual conversation or getting any actual human interaction. It takes the personal aspect out of communicating with others, while creating a sort of “wall” between you and the person you’re communicating with. Meeting an online friend in person for the first time can be a very awkward situation in a lot of cases. Things such as body language, height, weight, voice, and general demeanor can all be “turn-offs” if you’re perception of that person was significantly different in anyway before meeting. Not to mention, text messages do not indicate context. Messages can very easily be taken out of context. The perception of context can differ greatly from the intended context to the person on the receiving end – which can change our perception of how we think a person’s real personality is. These things all contribute to our Augmented Reality.
Big Data collects massive amounts of data from everything we do, including, but not limited to those aforementioned interactions, listed above. The information collected is then used to create your online Augmented Reality giving you an informed, however, manufactured reality of the world and people around you.
Data is collected as our devices pass through all kinds of different networks as we travel and interact in daily life. As we walk past restaurants, subway stations, schools, retail stores, libraries, you name it – data is being generated from your device whether it be a computer, phone, tablet, or car. It’s commonly known by now, that our cars are also on the internet and as we drive we are interacting with all of the other public networks around us, which generates data.
Despite what many say, data is personal. It’s personal because while it doesn’t necessarily identify the individual by name, it creates a user profile of us which is stored and used to analyze our trends, where we usually go, places we eat, cars we drive, places we shop and what we buy, who we communicate with. We are essentially a nameless entity identified by a number. IP data, metadata, and geotagging making up “who we are”.
Now, before anybody goes posting any conspiracy videos, please understand me here. We should not fear Big data – as a technology. It allows us to generate and analyze data for any kind of scientific or medical field on a level we have never been able to before. I’m just mentioning those fields for the purpose of making my point, but there are many more great uses for these systems, obviously. The Big Data industry is still going through a “golden age” in which developers are making successful, huge advances with data systems and what they can do with it for things such as medical advancements, scientific research and financial forecasting, for the purpose of recognizing business trends. As someone who was born in the late 80’s, I was an elementary student in the 1990’s, when conventional desktop computers were starting to become more integrated at home, in education and business. A lot of people still didn’t even own a personal computer. Not necessarily because they couldn’t afford it, it just wasn’t as common as it is today. People didn’t “need” them, and was more of a “luxury” item in a sense. This was, from my perspective, a sort of “golden age” for computers.
While there were so many amazing and successful advancements, a lot of people in general didn’t understand them yet. Some people even feared them in regards to computers becoming more and more integrated into industry-related functions, performing tasks more efficiently than humans. A justified fear in some ways at the time. The other side of that is, people just didn’t understand all of the benefits of those advancements yet. Most of the general public to this day, don’t actually know what HTML is. Everyone has most likely heard of it, or have some idea of what it is, but coding and programming languages such as basic HTML are still “foreign languages” to most people. This proves that society STILL has not been able to even come close to catching up with what is considered extremely basic computer skills in today’s world. There are less jobs in the labour sector all over North America due to technological advancements in industrial or business-related computer systems. People seen this in the 90’s, and they feared it. Fear of becoming obsolete.
But wait, if more of the general public were educated about computer languages such as HTML and the many others, then they would NOT feel so obsolete after all. We could forget about some of those labor-intensive jobs of the past and adapt to the technologically advanced society we have become. Instead of accepting defeat and crying about being left behind in the job market, while expecting people to sympathize with our inability to apply outdated standards, we have a responsibility as citizens of our society to learn and adapt to it’s technological advancements.
That being said, programming languages should be taught in schools from a very young age. When my generation was learning to use for the first time, in grade 2 of elementary school, the extent of our learning was basic navigation of Windows 95. Other than that, computer classes consisted of typing tutorials and countless hours of Math Circus. Programming languages, in today’s society, should be considered as important as math. Children deserve to have access to the tools needed to adapt in our rapidly changing technological society – and we have a responsibility to provide these basic tools! Why not let a computer program, or a robot do a labor-intensive job that can cause long-term physical conditions for some? You have real working computer skills! You don’t have to confine yourself to exausting labor jobs anymore – you’re a programmer! There will, however, always be demand for some kinds of labor jobs. Still, basic knowledge of computer language will go a long way in 2017 and beyond.
My generation and others before (and after me), were not provided with that specific tool from a young age to adapt to computers in the way we should have. Yes, we learned how to type and use Windows, however, almost nothing at all in regards to ms-dos or any kind of terminal-based operations, on any platform. However, where would we have found the amount of teachers required at that time, with working knowledge of terminal commands and programming languages to enforce it in the education system? For that reason, it would have been impossible then. Now, in 2017, there are enough people with working knowledge of those skills to accommodate the education system, at least by helping supply all teachers with working knowledge of programming languages. Technology, it seems, has moved far past the general public’s understanding of it. It’s our responsibility to now adapt to these changes.
Big Data has been growing rapidly and right now has virtually no restriction on how it collects data in regards to metadata over public networks. There are also so many advancements that it’s hard to keep up with them. However, we shouldn’t fear these systems. We should try to understand them more. There needs to be more debate about privacy in regards to data collecting and more debate about the Augmented Reality topic. In an age where the internet is the lifeblood of our technological society, Augmented Reality distorts an individual’s already Augmented perceptions of the world. This can especially be very dangerous to a democracy, allowing authoritarian governments to influence the public to suit political agendas. I believe data collection, without clear consent, for the purpose of generating augmented reality for consumers is a breach of consumer freedoms as well as privacy rights. We need to be vocal with our government and phone companies about why encrypted services and products such as (2)The Blackphone are a required tool in todays society, as a right. We should be demanding more encrypted products, as consumers, from developers of these products.
*** Technological advancements in computer science = GOOD.
***Indiscriminate mass collection of personal user/consumer data without some form of consent for the purpose of capital and/or use by government agencies = BAD
***Enforcing basic programming languages such as HTML from an early age (grade 2?) in the education system with the same importance as math, and using it as a platform to learn and apply other subjects such as math and english = GOOD
***Failing to acknowledge that computer technology will never go away or stop advancing rapidly, not realizing that basic working computer knowledge in basic languages is a staple in today’s society, and most working-class people are still extremely far behind = BAD
(1) Cell Phone Statistics
(2) The Blackphone