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Just another software developer with opinions

The Matrix Is Already Here

Powering tech companies with our data for the past 15 years

Jan 28, 2019 ยท 3 min read

In the movie The Matrix, Neo wakes up from stasis and finds out that machines were cultivating humans for their bioenergy. The machines pacified humans by tethering them into a simulated reality called the "Matrix". In this virtual world, humans lived normal lives, oblivious to the existence of the real world.

But what if I told you we're already living in a similar reality? Don't believe me? Then you have two choices:

  • Close this browser tab now - the story ends, you continue browsing elsewhere and believe whatever you want to believe.

  • Keep this browser tab open - you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.

...

...

...

I guess you're staying then. Let's go.

Various online services have a lot of data about us. Financial institutions know how much we earn and what we spend it on. Shopping services know the items we like to have and what we already have have. ISPs know every website we've ever been to. And social media, well, it knows everything else.

With all that data about us stored online, we essentially have a virtual doppelganger of ourselves - one that lives, breathes and follows our every move every moment we post an update online, or when our devices feel like sending that data on our behalf.

Now keeping online services up involves cost. But tech companies don't always want to slap on high fees on their services. It will just drive us all away. After all, we all love free stuff. Fortunately for tech companies, they hold a very powerful form of energy - so powerful, they build massive structures to store it. Yes, they hold piles upon piles of data about us.

Data, especially a lot of it, reveals patterns. Patterns inform predictions. Predictions dictate action. A product put in front of a customer that needs it has a higher chance of being sold than one displayed to a random customer. It's all about profit, which is why user data is highly sought after.

But online services need to grow and evolve. They need to improve the quality of existing data, optimize algorithms, know more about everything, and of course, make more profit. To do this, they need even more data. This is where tech companies come up with clever ways to extract every last drop of user data from us.

And so, every year, we're bombarded with new devices, new integrations, new features, new ways of doing things - all with the promise of an ever more productive, exciting, and convenient life. We're easily blinded with all the new and shiny things, that we fail to to see the bigger picture.

Thus, we end up in this power struggle between us and our tech overlords. We don't like aggressive data collection. And yet we're easily appeased with every wave of new tech. Everything we stood for in the beginning, out the window just like that.

Conclusion

People maintaining online personas. Tech companies harvesting user data. Users being brainwashed into staying within an ecosystem's walls. Yep, the Matrix is (or was) definitely here. And the only way out...

...is to unplug.

I hope you found this article interesting. As always, if you have comments or suggestions, feel free to drop a line.

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