5 Weird Ways Technology Is Changing Our Behavior
From emotion-sensing AI to metaverse shopping, developments in technology are quickly remaking our world -- and it's happening without most people really thinking about it.
Emerging technology is having a major impact on human behavior. Here are five major ways tech is influencing how we act:
1. It's Able to Sense Human Emotion
Until recently, the closest AI could get to reading emotion was recommendation engines, which involve looking at simple human behavior and generating likely matches to someone's tastes or preferences.
But now, it turns out, AI engines can actually “see” us and read our emotions through expression and body language. (Also read: Will Computers Be Able to Imitate the Human Brain?)
“Sentiment analysis and emotion recognition are key tasks to build empathetic systems and human-computer interaction based on user emotion,” writes Gaudenz Boesch at Viso.ai. “Since deep learning solutions were originally designed for servers with unlimited resources, the real-world deployment to edge devices is a challenge...However, real-time inference of emotion recognition systems allows the implementation of large-scale solutions.”
This type of emotional learning has profound ramifications for what AI programs will do to further serve us up what it thinks we want.
There is also the continuing debate over "explainable AI": the ongoing attempt to harness AI's power and know how results are being generated. Experts warned that if we lose control of these technologies, we could see some pretty unpleasant things happen.
2. It's Making Pandemic Response Easier
You could say the COVID-19 pandemic showcased our lack of organization around new technologies -- in many places, technology could have been better leveraged to facilitate things like vaccine delivery and contact tracing. (Also read: How AI and Bots Could Improve Vaccine Delivery and Healthcare Efficacy.)
However, what we tend to overlook is that the biggest new technologies -- and big data itself -- applied to COVID-19 in some pretty fundamental ways.
Millions and millions of people looked at immediately available graphs and charts to determine how to best protect themselves on a day-to-day basis. Everything from the management of essential workers, to wiping down groceries, to mask-wearing and social distancing happened at least partly because of shared data.
Just imagine if these visual dashboards and the data behind them hadn't been available: How would we have understood the threat; and how would that have changed our response?
Technology also helped us function in the context of social distancing, with stock for video conferencing platforms like Zoom spiking during the pandemic's early days.
3. It's Making Life Meta
Most people weren't paying attention to the metaverse until Mark Zuckerberg chose to rebrand Facebook under the name "Meta" and simultaneously announced the company was focusing on this new virtual world.
At the same time, cryptocurrency markets have been booming and evolving at a rapid pace. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become part of common vocabulary. Predictions for the next 10 years often feature humanity jumping into the metaverse and using avatars to represent themselves and mingle in virtual environments. (Also read: The Metaverse: Possibilities and Perils.)
4. It's Bringing Shopping Online
The metaverse is also revolutionizing our shopping habits. What some predict is a kind of "e-commerce 2.0" that builds on what's already established in terms of digital sales and transactions.
But to understand e-commerce 2.0, we have to understand " e-commerce 1.0": the model of purchasing items over the web.
In the last few years, we've gone to from relatively simple e-commerce operations to gigantic monolithic digital point-of-sale platforms, including Amazon, where people increasingly make their purchases.
The pandemic spiked e-commerce, too; and for a time people who generally don't order online were effectively forced into becoming online shoppers. The pandemic had a dramatic impact on bricks and mortar stores, too, and you can still see those traditional merchants struggling.
With all that in mind, e-commerce 2.0 could take this to the next level by introducing sales in a metaverse environment: With cryptocurrency tokens and NFTs, it becomes easier to make transactions through a decentralized internet. Plus, new marketplaces are opening up in the metaverse and virtual gaming platforms that could expand to critical mass within the next few years.
So, when you think about the enormous effect traditional e-commerce has already had on shopping, don't forget to factor in e-commerce 2.0 in the crypto world as well. (Also read: Gaming, Fashion, Music: The Metaverse Across Industries.)
5. It's Compromising Privacy
While the aforementioned technological advances are arguably making many aspects of our lives easier, some people are concerned they will also usher in "uberveillance": a type of comprehensive surveillance which prompts many questions about human rights to privacy.
In a recent interview, Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, talked about what disturbed him about the loss of privacy in the new era:
“I fear deeply the loss of privacy...If we begin to feel that we’re being surveilled all the time, our behavior changes. We begin to do less. Things become less important. You begin to change how you think. In a world like that where we’re restraining ourselves, it changes society in a major way.”
Developments in technology are quickly remaking our world -- and it's happening without most people really thinking about it.
To put things into context, it's helpful to look at where the conversation around technology's trajectory was at the end of the last decade and compare it to what's happening today. If that gives you a sort of conceptual vertigo, don't worry -- you're not alone.
We’re striding quickly into a future that was hardly imaginable just a short while ago. (Also read: Who Owns The Metaverse? No One - Yet.)