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Over the course of history, technology has continually evolved from science-fiction to science-fact in every discipline. And as a result of this ‘evolution’, technologies have emerged that can and are being used in the most diabolical ways.
Technology is now employed in the psychological control of large populations of people. Americans are now unwittingly being psychologically manipulated through the use of advanced media and communications technologies. In this brief overview, we can gain a cursory understanding of the invasive nature and effect that ‘technopsychology’ has upon America and its People.
News agencies have let the cat out of the bag in regard to the recent hacking of major industry and banking secure computer systems. Taking a step back for a greater perspective, we find that Americans are caught in the crossfire of a cyber-war between terrorists and the agencies of both foreign and domestic governments. These agencies, as well as certain rogue nations and terrorists, are aggressively collecting information in many new ways and at multiple levels that target banking, government operations, industry, and now the personal information of individual citizens. The scope of ‘how and why’ this information can be (and is being) used is very broad–and beyond the comprehension of most people. But to what end could such information be used? Possibly to strike key members of our military? Are the enemies of America now focused on destabilizing our economy through a crippling blow to our critical infrastructure? Probably! And if so, is there data that can be gleaned from individual citizens that would assist these nefarious entities in hacking into and destroying America’s national electrical grid? Absolutely!
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When people first started talking about the NSA spying on citizens, various imagery would come to mind as average Americans pondered that possibility. Some people may have imagined a couple young techies sitting in a room full of sophisticated computers with a desk full of monitors in front of them, drinking Mountain Dew, eating Cheetos, and laughing as they listen in on some poor sod on the phone with his wife telling her about the cool blinking glow-in-the-dark condom he just bought, or something of that imaginary ilk. But that’s not the case.
The reality is that teams of highly educated and motivated hackers (computer geniuses), with the support of psychologists, have established that there is a wealth of data (Metadata, uploaded photos, text messaging, etc.) that’s been collected already (and is continually being collected) by social media websites and stored on relatively easily-hacked servers. The Chinese (and others) are well aware of the ‘jackpot’ of social media data that could be harvested and used by the latest generation of super-computers that are currently being employed by various agencies and groups.
If this data could be timely harvested and compiled by enemies of the U.S., it would greatly enhance their ability to pierce various security protocols that are in place to protect critical computers that manage things like banking, Wall Street, the national electrical grid, defense systems, communications, and much more.
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There was a very interesting article in FORTUNE magazine recently that outlined the reason why the Russian government tore down the memorial to Steve Jobs (Apple’s co-founder). One reason given was that the Russian government claims that Apple uses its devices to spy on its users!
I expected as much given that about 5 years back, I reviewed a contract that DARPA was soliciting to develop a new type of extremely high-speed data-harvesting algorithm. But this was no ordinary ‘data-scraper’! This algorithm would be designed as an application for the new generation of supercomputers that were starting to be developed at that time. The algorithm that was being sought would, in real ‘actionable time-frames’, harvest and compile data sufficient to generate a basic ‘profile’ (the computer creates an A.I. or interactive version of a ‘harvested personality’). These individual interactive profiles would provide insights into individual people at the deepest personal levels, as well as including and providing other more common data such as demographic data, birth-dates, passwords, desires, dislikes, fears, friends, addresses, ages, favorite colors, school info, how often and how many and what types of groceries and supplies a person/household buys, etc… etc. Basically, more information about an individual person than that person could list on paper during a multi-hour disclosure process that would also include a psychological evaluation. And a supercomputer with the right software can compile, create, and manage hundreds of millions of these interactive profiles with great ease.
The supercomputer collects so much detailed information about an individual person that it can create a basic artificial intelligent version of that individual’s personality–or a basic facsimile of the individual’s mind–where an artificial personality is likened to an interactive program. And this program can provide behavioral responses (predictions) to certain inputs or queries, which are provided to the program by the supercomputer as needed in real-time, or as designated by the programmer. In other words, as a simplistic example, the A.I. personality could be given data related to vanilla ice-cream–and the response might be ‘desirable’ or ‘sweet.’ Another input could be a ‘spider,’ and the response might be ‘undesirable’ or ‘creepy.’ Of course, in addition to such responses, there could be nuances or intensities related to the response–I.E. ‘desirable, scale 1-10’ or ‘undesirable, scale 1-10.’
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Sounds like science fiction, right? It’s not!
Prior to 2011, DARPA and DoD were well aware of the data sets that were and are still being collected by the various social media websites like Facebook. A great deal of the information being collected is arguably well beyond the scope of just ‘enhancing a user’s online experience’ as disclosed in their User Agreement.
Generally, the way the proposed algorithm (likely in use today) works is that, in combination with the speed of latest super-computers, it harvests and compiles all collected data and information from thousands of social media websites, personal websites, blogs, etc.
But having instant access to the scores of data sets on hundreds of millions of individual people in real time is only half of the problem when a domestic or foreign government agency or company wants to ‘deal’ with an individual or a group of people in real actionable time. All the data that has been collected, and can be collected, must, in real actionable time (within seconds), be converted into a complete profile of the individual in question, including a psychological profile. Even with super computers that are operating at speeds reaching hundreds of petaflops, which can concurrently communicate with millions of computers at the same time, they cannot create and/or update these highly complex composite interactive ‘profiles’ in an ‘actionable’ time-frame without a special algorithm (the software)–hence the DARPA solicitation back in 2011.
Facebook (and numerous other social media websites) has been collecting dozens of data sets on all of its users for many years now!
Any reasonable person who examines the scope of the data being collected by Facebook alone would certainly be asking: what is all that data being used for? Well, you can bet that it’s not all necessarily being used in the best interests of the online consumer. And this wealth of data is relatively unsecured, when compared to the banking data that’s being hacked on a regular basis. This presents a huge opportunity for those who would use any such data for evil purposes. For instance, where a ‘bad guy’ is seeking access to a secure server for nefarious purposes, one method of many methods is to crack the password protection. Of course, when you have a supercomputer operating at hundreds of petaflops, and you also have an intensively deep insight (data sets) into the system administrator’s (mind) life and highly detailed personal profile, as developed in real time through a well-designed piece of software, it takes the computer far less time to hack into the system.
Alternatively, the same nefarious entity might also know, for instance, that your little daughter’s elementary school gets out and that your wife is picking her up at 3:30 PM (data potentially collected from Facebook posts), and the local street traffic camera has already ‘marked’ the license plate of your wife’s mini-van in the area (the computer has accessed that data in conjunction to the operation). At that point, the perpetrator’s operatives collect your wife and daughter and then sends you a Skype message over your smartphone instructing you to provide the secure access code/password data to a targeted computer server, lest your wife and daughter disappear forever. All of which can happen in the space of 5 minutes, including the hack into a secured mission-critical computer. Of course, this example are somewhat simplified for the purposes of illustration.
A computer like the one being discussed, equipped with the algorithm and supporting software, could accomplish this on its own–and do so (with hundreds of variations of the blackmail) to a thousand people or more in the same space of time, once being programmed to do so. And it could do so with great ease, while concurrently undertaking and performing millions of other complex operations.
I have touched on the ‘big picture’ and who is interested in collecting the data on individuals, and why that data is important enough to warrant such an effort.
But when you follow the money, there are also other billion-dollar motives for collecting and profiling your personal data. The political entities, as well as retail and wholesale consumer products industries, are very interested in your ‘data’. Using the same type of supercomputers that are now in existence and the same algorithm (likely in use today) producing extremely detailed ‘interactive profiling data’ on millions of individual people, analysts can predict what commodities various categories of people will buy, and when they will buy those commodities. Using this harvested social media data, they can also now predict how people will vote; so the outcome of an election will be known to a select few, well before the People know.
The money that can be made from this knowledge is in the realm of billions of dollars annually. Analysts and social engineers with access to such computers equipped with the software can predict how individuals (down to a person) will react to various stimuli, including ‘news’ and ‘information’ that’s ‘tailored’ (or psychologically engineered for the desired effect) and then pumped into the main artery of the social media distribution channels (Internet, TV, radio). So the entities who control these powerful computers can be one step ahead of the public in things like the stock market (where they constantly win), or in the case of avoiding a potential disaster (leaving town ahead of computer-predicted mass social unrest).
The power of the combination of the available data and the algorithm running on a super-computer are not trivial by any means, and it can be abused in ways that are just now being understood by some.
Some scientists and psychologists are working down a parallel path to this paradigm, as you can read in this abstract from the National Academy of Sciences and Princeton University.
So, now that you know, what, if anything, are you going to do about it?
NOTE: In 1999, I developed the world’s first online interactive social media algorithm that collected user data to instantly create a ‘personalized’ greeting card, and received a U.S. Patent for that work.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.