Modern technologies in use

Big Data, NAI, and Manipulation

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Modern technologies in use

Signals Everywhere

No matter where I go, I leave a digital trail. In my office, I am pretty much connected to the internet 12 hours a day. My ISP knows what web sites I go to (except when I fire up my VPN). And of course each website I visit tracks what I look for there. Google logs all my searches and knows I use ad blockers, pop up blockers, and kill the auto-launch of video and audio files. They know I leave sites that disallow ad blockers and go elsewhere for the information.

In my car, the Google Fi network tracks where I’m going both by my cell phone signal and by WAZE mapping services. The private company that

tracks my Toll Road transponder knows when I use their roads and when I’m at LAX International Airport. My banks know everything about my financial activities both personal and business.

Big Data

Google has my email, my calendar (with all my appointments – including doctors, etc.), my list of contacts (over 2,500 at this point), and, as I mentioned, knows what topics I’m interested in. Other social media platforms are tracking me as well. There’re the posts I make on Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Oh, and those are “automated” using an application called HootSuite. So HootSuite knows what I like to post as well.

I now wear a Garmin device on my wrist. It’s a watch, GPS, activity, and heart rate monitor that gives me full statistics at the end of the day—including an accurate map of any run I might have taken along with altitude on the path, pace, heart rate, steps, etc. That information as well as sleep habits (since I wear it 24/7 for now) all get transmitted from the device to the app on my phone and then from my phone to a website called MyFitnessPal. And who the heck knows what the NSA, CIA, FBI, and Russian Black Hats have on me?


No doubt that someone who really wanted to and had the computing power to piece together all the signals I send could put together a dossier on me. I’m sure that it would be a more complete picture of me than even I have of myself. Yep, I leave massive amounts of data everywhere I go!

The question is, how will this data be used. I have no doubt that it will be used, but I wonder about how. At this point, it is obvious that I’m being fed ads based on the gathered information. Although I usually do not “see” the ads, I know they are there. To date though, they aren’t very sophisticated.

For example, right now I continue to notice Vistage Worldwide ads in my LinkedIn feed. And to be frank, I am looking for those particular ads to see how Vistage is doing in the branding arena. But really, why are they “wasting” impressions on me. Surely they know I am affiliated with Vistage, so why feed me that ad information?


If the Narrow Artificial Intelligence (NAI) programs are focused on trying to feed me stuff that will make me buy something, they are failing. By its very nature, NAI is siloed. So limited slices of data are used for a narrow or specific purpose. Each instantiation of the Watson deep learning program is focused on a specific field—medical diagnosis, medical research, food, Jeopardy, Go, etc.

We have been living with NAI systems for quite some time now. Some are more sophisticated than others. But, as big as it is, NAI creates a narrow picture.


Soon, GAI (General Artificial Intelligence) will detect that I am a perverse human being who will go out of my way to boycott any vendor that tries to manipulate my mind with push ads or information. And that is precisely what they are doing at this point—pushing ads and information.

Once a GAI system starts integrating all the information about me into a cohesive picture, there will be a decision to be made. Will that complete picture be used to create real value in my life or will it be used to try and manipulate me. There is a lot of work being done in the latter category. Manipulation using data in order to convince me of a need or want that I might not have otherwise.

But what if that information was used not to manipulate people but instead to help create a quality of life. If GAI enhances my life by sharing knowledge about how to be healthier, then I and others will be inclined to use it. Soon GAI will have genetic information that can be used to design a custom healthy lifestyle for individuals. Or it could be used to frighten someone into expensive therapeutic drug programs for a pharmaceutical company’s benefit.

Nefarious Goals?

What got me thinking about this was a podcast on how data is being gathered on individuals. The marketers on this podcast were waxing elegant on how they were using the new data and algorithms coupled with advances in neuroscience to manipulate consumers. The goal was to enrich the company, not the individual. I have long come to believe that ads are simply evil in today’s environment. If I need it or want it and can afford it, I will find it and obtain it.

Using neuroscience and big data to manipulate the masses is evil to the max. Using those same tools to enhance the lives of the masses would be valuable to the max. That can be done simply by using all the power of GAI/NAI to create better products and services. We don’t need better ads.

Continuous Improvement

I think it is obvious that GAI/NAI can be used to create better products and services. Done correctly, the enhanced products/services will become a hit with consumers without ads. Instead, as we search for that product, we will see accolades from real users. Peer reviews will convince us to purchase or not.

As we move forward, data and GAI/NAI can be used to create manipulative ads or to create better products and services that consumers want. We will be able to tell what consumers really want for a change because what they do speaks much louder than what they say. Where they put their time and their purchasing power is what counts. We can manipulate the consumer and thus distort the market or we can manipulate the product/service to match what the consumer wants. Which road will companies take? Which road will YOU take?