Author Topic: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events  (Read 954 times)

Rubyvroom

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As Mustachians, we understand, perhaps better than most, the impacts of targeted marketing. We are constantly battling our consumer-driven desires to purchase the latest shiny thingamajig, all due to our unwavering opinion that the concept of working ourselves to death to earn money to consume is not in our best interest as human beings. I value this community and I believe the concept discussed in this article is quite important for us all to understand, so although it is written from a fairly biased political point of view, I do hope we all take into consideration the far reaching consequences Big Data has had, and will continue to have in our lives.

Trump Knows You Better Than You Know Yourself

The article discusses the fact that marketing has become so precise, that firms have the ability to market to subsets of the population based on their personality traits. Based on a person’s personality, they know exactly who to target and precisely what message is best to persuade them, all based on the information we share online via social media, cross referenced with data they obtain regarding our personal purchases and preferences. They have perfected this technique to the extent that they are, within a great deal of likelihood, able to predict (and manipulate) our behavior.

The fact that this marketing technique played a prominent role in the most recent U.S. election and the Brexit vote is troubling to me. However, I had very disturbing after-thoughts regarding how else this information could be deployed. Do we believe firms have merely attempted to manipulate recent political opinions? Why would they stop there? Why not manipulate our opinions of each other? A unified population is far more difficult to control, so why not go to whatever extent necessary to ensure people are divided? It doesn’t necessarily matter what divides them, it merely matters that they fight amongst themselves about whatever they feel most strongly about. In my conspiracy-theory ridden brain, that is the next logical step, and based on the divisiveness of recent current events, I have no reason to believe this isn’t already happening to some degree. I understand this isn't a new concept at all, but this is the first time I’ve really thought through the implications of data collection on such a massive scale being used for something far more unethical than product placement.

For a more practical thought on how else this information may be used… Last year our auto insurance increased, and being the Mustachian I am, I called to complain and demand a reason as to why our rates increased when we had been long time customers with no accidents on our records. They explained to me that it was merely the fact that the area in which we lived in has become more risky for car accidents. I disliked that answer, because it seemed quite outside of my control, but I thought it seemed somewhat logical. Now I’m wondering if personality based information isn’t leaking its way into other consumer spheres. Did my insurance agency just profile us? Do we have personality traits that make us more at risk to get into a car accident? Even if not, isn’t it quite possible that they might use that strategy someday, given the amount of data available to corporations and the lack of regulation in this area? The implications of how this data might be abused could reach every significant and/or trivial aspect of our lives, all based on who elects to purchase the information.

Not wanting to be all doom and gloom, this information could definitely be used for good in the world. I had read an article back in November about a similar concept (Dementia Game “Shows Lifelong Navigational Decline”), but hadn’t quite connected the dots on how this is similar to Big Data concepts. In this article, they discussed an online game that was created to harness data from 2.4 million people to help test for early symptoms of Alzheimers and Dementia. This dataset would have taken 9,400 years to recreate in a lab setting. This seems like a very productive and life-enhancing data collection method. Stories like that give me hope that Big Data can and will be used to do good things in the world.

I understand this all sounds very conspiracy-theory-esque and perhaps it is. Perhaps some of you are thinking "no shit Sherlock, this is not a new concept!" I merely wanted to mention it to this community, because I think it’s a worthy exercise for us all to ask ourselves, “Do my views of [insert concept here] stem from personal experience or information I have sought independently, or am I relying on information that is being fed to me via television, radio, internet, and/or what people that are most like me are saying?” It seems like a concept that could be very important for us to understand and consider, especially as we strive to live more frugal, fulfilling lives.

NoStacheOhio

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2017, 09:39:30 AM »
Your thoughts and fears all seem pretty logical to me, but I think they should be tempered by confidence in human incompetence. I'm not sure that kind of broad, coordinated opinion manipulation (to a specific end, no less) is really viable.

Insurance companies ... blech. I assume you shopped rates elsewhere? Sometimes I feel like they make slightly arbitrary decisions because "fuck you, pay me."
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Rubyvroom

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2017, 09:36:38 AM »
Your thoughts and fears all seem pretty logical to me, but I think they should be tempered by confidence in human incompetence. I'm not sure that kind of broad, coordinated opinion manipulation (to a specific end, no less) is really viable.

Insurance companies ... blech. I assume you shopped rates elsewhere? Sometimes I feel like they make slightly arbitrary decisions because "fuck you, pay me."

Good point, but I have good days and bad days when it comes to my confidence in my fellow humans... lol.

Yes, I shopped insurance rates elsewhere and found they were still comparable. I still like to call to voice my displeasure to make sure they know I'm paying attention. Jerks!

I was having more ideas about this... that honestly sound more like the Divergent series than anything... Like, what if this information becomes so easy to obtain that rather than Google a person you're thinking about hiring, you could literally just purchase their personality profile to see if they'd be a good fit for the job. In fact, why wait for employees to come to you? Why not just purchase the profile of new grads at a few colleges so you can direct your hiring efforts at the most optimum people? Or, maybe I want to know the personalities of the active managers of my investments (false scenario for Mustachians, we invest in indexes...). Maybe I want to check the personalities of the people that live in a neighborhood before I move there, or a city I might relocate to... the sci-fi book/movie concepts are endless! :)

Seriously though, I really don't doubt there will come a time that some of these methods become less far fetched... I will hopefully be FIRE'd and have f'd off into the mountains by then.

FIRE me

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2017, 03:40:39 PM »
As Mustachians, we understand, perhaps better than most, the impacts of targeted marketing. We are constantly battling our consumer-driven desires to purchase the latest shiny thingamajig, all due to our unwavering opinion that the concept of working ourselves to death to earn money to consume is not in our best interest as human beings. I value this community and I believe the concept discussed in this article is quite important for us all to understand, so although it is written from a fairly biased political point of view, I do hope we all take into consideration the far reaching consequences Big Data has had, and will continue to have in our lives.

I think you are pretty well spot on.

But most don't seem to care. Most people I have tried to talk about it say they don't care because they have nothing to hide. Others think it doesn't exist and I must be some kind of conspiracy kook.

"Brokers use ‘billions’ of data points to profile Americans"
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/brokers-use-billions-of-data-points-to-profile-americans/2014/05/27/b4207b96-e5b2-11e3-a86b-362fd5443d19_story.html
FIRE'd on January 4, 2017

Metric Mouse

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2017, 10:14:40 PM »
Your thoughts and fears all seem pretty logical to me, but I think they should be tempered by confidence in human incompetence. I'm not sure that kind of broad, coordinated opinion manipulation (to a specific end, no less) is really viable.

Insurance companies ... blech. I assume you shopped rates elsewhere? Sometimes I feel like they make slightly arbitrary decisions because "fuck you, pay me."

Good point, but I have good days and bad days when it comes to my confidence in my fellow humans... lol.

Yes, I shopped insurance rates elsewhere and found they were still comparable. I still like to call to voice my displeasure to make sure they know I'm paying attention. Jerks!

I was having more ideas about this... that honestly sound more like the Divergent series than anything... Like, what if this information becomes so easy to obtain that rather than Google a person you're thinking about hiring, you could literally just purchase their personality profile to see if they'd be a good fit for the job. In fact, why wait for employees to come to you? Why not just purchase the profile of new grads at a few colleges so you can direct your hiring efforts at the most optimum people? Or, maybe I want to know the personalities of the active managers of my investments (false scenario for Mustachians, we invest in indexes...). Maybe I want to check the personalities of the people that live in a neighborhood before I move there, or a city I might relocate to... the sci-fi book/movie concepts are endless! :)

Seriously though, I really don't doubt there will come a time that some of these methods become less far fetched... I will hopefully be FIRE'd and have f'd off into the mountains by then.

What if you don't even have to purchase their profile? What if job applications or resumes become "Name:____  Consumer Identification Number:_____"? This is entered into the search, and hire/don't hire percent success rates pop out for HR to review.  People would give this info willingly... maybe that's even scarier...
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Rubyvroom

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2017, 09:23:26 AM »
People would give this info willingly... maybe that's even scarier...

Totally agree. Whenever I see my 16 y/o cousin doing some dumbass survey on Facebook, I cringe. Ok little lady, about how many apps have you granted access to just to find out if you'd be a better fit for Gryffindor or Hufflepuff... /facepalm.

I was just having a conversation with the SO this morning that I feel grateful that I remember a time pre-internet. I did not have Facebook until I was in my 20s. All of my childhood photos are stuffed in a drawer somewhere, losing their color quality, only the rare few having ever made it online when someone gets nostalgic and scans one. Not to sound old and start a sentence with "kids these days" but (I'm going to do it anyway lol)...

Kids these days have an online profile from the time they are babies! They are being marketed to from day fricken one. I can't even imagine not having had my childhood/teen years totally unplugged from a constant stream of media. This is the time where people start forming their own thoughts and opinions about life. How is that not being hindered with so much noise and interference? I'm not naive enough to believe I wasn't marketed to as a kid - I remember the controversy around Joe Camel. But marketing comes at you from so many more sources now. It kind of boggles the mind to think about how people can, for example, have a conversation about childhood obesity and not consider targeted marketing to be one of the primary causes.

I am interested (and a little mortified) to see how this may impact future generations when it comes to overall consumption habits. The programming starts at a very, very early age now. I recall reading a number of articles about how tech parents (Steve Jobs, etc.) are very strict with their children's screen time. The growing-up experience of people born 10 years later than me is so different than my own. When I think to myself, how are people making the decisions they make, is the world they experience so very different from my own? Well, yes it is, and apparently that's very much by design.

Lagom

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2017, 09:45:44 AM »
I dunno, I buy the plausibility of some of the bad stuff, but I choose to remain optimistic all told about Big Data. It can help us cure diseases, fight poverty, relieve overcrowded prisons, and contribute towards a wide variety of academic breakthroughs. As a starting point, I rather enjoyed this TED series on some of these topics:

https://www.ted.com/playlists/56/making_sense_of_too_much_data

I'm not sure we can put the genie back in the bottle, so at the least I hope the good will overwhelm the potential bad.
 

Poundwise

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2017, 11:57:56 AM »
Quote
I recall reading a number of articles about how tech parents (Steve Jobs, etc.) are very strict with their children's screen time.

Yes, I tell my kids this all the time when they complain about how we don't have a TV, ipad, etc.  They are not impressed.

However, as a former IT professional I really am wary about privacy, marketing, etc. and so are many other software engineers and tech professionals that I know.

Daley

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Re: On the Concept of Big Data, and Impacts on Recent Current Events
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2017, 10:06:40 PM »
The concern is far deeper than just marketing and trying to influence.

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