Freedom of thought is a human right

4 weeks ago

In his 2019 In his Stanford talk, Tim Cook warned of the threat to our “freedom to be human” from technology that seeks to get into our heads and rearrange our furniture. His “freedom to be human” is, in fact, our fundamental right to freedom of thought—an absolute right that has so far been largely ignored. The importance of Tim Cook’s speech was in recognizing that Silicon Valley itself could never have come about under the current conditions. Technologies that undermine freedom of thought end up undermining innovation, which is no good for anyone.

This will be the year we take back control of our minds and find the freedom to think for ourselves. From persuasive design to behavioral microtargeting through emotion recognition technology, predictive policing and neuropolitics, the goal of many new and emerging technologies over the past decade has been to curate what Shoshana Zuboff calls the “human future” by using our data to evaluate and control . what we think and feel and, ultimately, how we behave. However, we are now at a tipping point, and in 2023 we will begin to see shifts in both regulatory and technological innovation that strengthen and protect our right to freedom of thought in the digital age.

In 2016, as Cambridge Analytica probed the minds of voters around the world using behavioral micro-targeting techniques commonly used in online advertising, the idea of ​​stopping surveillance-based advertising—the data-driven fuel that powers the Internet—was unthinkable. However, last year we saw the EU Digital Services Act suspend targeted advertising to minors. Even President Biden, in his 2022 State of the Union Address, highlighted this as an issue that needs action. In the US, the Washington, DC Attorney General is suing Mark Zuckerberg for his role in facilitating the use of Cambridge Analytica data in the 2016 election. And in Belgium, the Data Protection Authority has reached a conclusion that calls into question the entire structure of real-time bidding for online advertising.

In 2023, we will see regulators and legislators around the world make it clear that the business model of surveillance capitalism based on targeted advertising is no longer acceptable in law or in practice.

There are already signs that big tech companies are carefully considering the implications of their work for freedom of thought and are taking drastic steps. In 2021, Facebook abandoned research on wearable brain-computer interfaces. In 2022, Microsoft announced that it will be phasing out public access to controversial emotion recognition technology. Google after the overturning of the decision of the US Supreme Court Rowe vs. Wade, scrawled to point out the dangerous ways in which data can be used to reveal our opinion on the front lines of the culture wars. Apple has announced a new “lockdown mode” in response to the Pegasus scandal that will prevent phones from being hacked to access the inner lives of human rights activists around the world.

This is just the beginning. Recognizing that there are things we should never do with technology will mean that in 2023 the world will recognize the urgent need to protect our inner freedom in the age of technology. We will see a change in the direction of technological innovation to create tools that do not destroy the walls around the inner world, but are designed to protect our inner freedom.

Leave a Reply