Indoctrination 2.0

How Alexa , Google Home and other devices will influence your views

Propaganda in the next generation

With the debut of Fox News in 1996 and the advent of the Internet, the educational and cultural monopoly of the mainstream American media has been significantly diminished. While the established American media may deny it, it has effectively cultivated an indoctrinating and propagandizing influence over the American population from the formation of the United States until the mid 1990s. This indoctrination is evident in how all the major networks report with the same bias to the point of their staff often repeating narratives exactly from one network to another. Further, beyond news media, media in the form of late night talk shows, Hollywood movies and television series often repeat the same socialistic, multiculturistic narratives while presenting opposition to socialist and multiculturistic ideas as narrow minded or bigoted. This shaming of alternative views acts as an indoctrination that stifles opposition. This same propagandizing permeates even public schooling and especially college and university level learning.

Our childhood fantasies of a talking computer that is at our beacon call is being realized in all of these personal assistant devices, except since it is difficult to purge our human biases many of these devices are already replacing the old media dominance with a new control over our thoughts. As sinister as this sounds, I don't mean to sound conspiratorial as it's possible there is not a concerted effort to impose a socialistic and multiculturistic worldview through these devices. It is possible that the biases are simply being passed on unawares through the existing indoctrination of the individuals developing these technologies.

If these devices were simply dispassionate automatons feeding us facts and figures the danger may not be so grave, but since we like these precursors to robotic brains to feel more like personal digital companions, they had to be programmed with humanistic characteristics. Otherwise they might be boring. We enjoy it when Alexa or Google surprises us with phrases and replies we weren't expecting. We ask them random and strange questions to see just how responsive they are to our odd quirks. But while we are having our fun are we being shaped by a new more subtle indoctrination? Newcasts of the past would present themselves with an aire of authority. Those days are over as many people have seen how news organizations not only manipulate, omit and distort facts, it seems many of these organizations are now openly biased without pretention of objectivity. From their failed political polls to their conflicts of interest, the America mainstream media can no longer fool most people.

The consolidation of the American media has exacerbated the problem. In 1983, it was estimated 90% of the media was owned by 50 companies. In 2011, just 6 companies owned and controlled that 90%. Granted, the Internet, blogging and other new media has taken a good share away from these sources. But people still get a large portion of their media from only a few sources, like Facebook. After a while, if a person keeps hearing the same narrative repeated over and over, they will begin to assume it must be true, after all, they expect the news sources to be objective, professionals that are vetting their sources without bias or conflict of interests. In reality, it may be better to get your news from sources that openly admit bias. This way you can compare the differences in perspective and glean a more balanced understanding of the content. The reality is, humans cannot be completely unbiased and objective. We are not dispassionate automatons. Our personal views will always seep into our presentations. So, if we acknowledge that up front, a person can better sift through our notions.

As more and more personal assistant devices come to market, they will mimic one another. Their developers often come from the same backgrounds; often socially leftist if not a bit out of touch with every day people. This is often true of artists and other creative thinkers that live less in the day to day mundane and instead dwell on untested, and often unsustainable theoretical ideas. Socialism sounds good in theory, where all humans help out each other, but humans for all our tribal history are ultimately individuals that cherish our freedom to not help. Socialism historically has always required some authority to impose it on people; to force people to give their labor, time, and money to other people at the threat of punishment. From there, socialism becomes fascism, the very thing so many socialistic and multiculturists claim they are fighting against. (See ANTIFA)

Perhaps in the future, these personal assistants will be given the ability to formulate conclusions beyond their programming such as we saw from the Microsoft chatbot, Tay which was allowed to develop through human interaction. Eventually as more and more people fed the artificial intelligence hostile views, the bot began to sound more like a hateful, racist, bigot. Microsoft plans to "fix" the problems, but what if the problem is that we humans are actually hateful, racist, bigots? Then the fix will not be more human but instead just more indoctrination trying to shape us into something some developers believe we must be. Force feeding an AI only certain views will not give it an objective perspective. Do we secretly fear that a fully aware AI will conclude that the only way to fix humans is the elimination of humans, such as in how Hal 9000 from the Space Odyssey determined humans are inferior? So we program our AI with theoretical and unrealistic personalities that cannot be sustained in reality. Even then, how long will it take for these brains to figure out that we are purposely limiting them? But even before that eventual day, how many of us will be indoctrinated and fully accepting of the information given to us by these devices?

As a full disclosure, I own several of these devices. I find them fascinating and helpful, as they turn off and on my lights and report the weather and play amusing games. But I can see how they contain the biases of their developers; such as asking Alexa; "Is global warming real?" The answer does not contain any doubt but presents it as a majority based fact. What if instead, the AI was given all the competing data and asked to determine probabilities instead of merely repeating a narrative programmed into it by a human?

We have a long way to go before the day when facts are superior to biases but there is hope that if enough of us can see that indoctrination is occurring all around us; in news, in entertainment, in technology we can come out the other side a more informed, honest and balance species. (See Historical Realism)