Your children vs the algorithm

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening

The machines have taken your children’s minds.

Your children may spend several minutes, or several hours each day in your company – but it is almost certain that teams of psychologists and marketers are spending many hours alone with your child’s undeveloped mind – spiking your child’s dopamine, examining what images your child clicks on, measuring the response time between each image that flashes onto your child’s computer screen, and your child striking a button or moving a mouse…

Billions and billions of dollars are poured into the most cutting edge psychological research into how to meld and shape your child into an obedient little consumer. But wait! Your child can’t consume if she or he is happy! No, your child needs to be unhappy. Your child has to want something. Your child needs to feel incomplete: Not pretty enough, not popular enough, or too fat…

Fortunately, the world’s smartest machine-learning algorithms are right there in your child’s mind – testing, probing, checking, measuring – how does your child respond to this image? How about this one? Well, let’s try this one. A different colour? Shape? Different patterns?

Let’s try flashing the image at a different speed. Insert a soothing voice, a fast voice, an excited voice, an upbeat voice, a crazy voice – which one affects your five-year-old child’s mind the most? How many milliseconds did your child wait before clicking, pausing, swiping, or whatever? The algorithm is examining your child’s every move – the algorithm demands to know!

Let’s add up all the time you spend interacting with your child, vs all the time the team of psychologists behind the algorithms spend. Did you drive your child to school? Were you having a conversation with your child during the drive? Maybe you were – but was your child’s face glued to a screen the whole way?

Did your child really spend thirty minutes staring at the screen, only pausing momentarily to answer you? Then perhaps you didn’t spend more than a few seconds with your child during the ride – but the algorithms did.

How about your conversations in the home? Was your child glued to the screen while carrying a basket of laundry to the machine? Staring at the screen while loading the machine? Staring at the screen while sitting on the bog?

Let’s go back to the days before algorithms… Even before the invention of television, supermarkets were experimenting with colour schemes, patterns, shapes, and music, in an attempt to influence people’s minds. Shopping centres, too, are designed with the assistance of psychologists – there is a very deliberate attempt to get you out of the real world, out of familiar surroundings, into a dream world, a fantasy place where nothing seems quite real… Decades ago, marketers discovered that playing slower music lowers people’s stress levels, lowers inhibitions, lowers blood pressure, makes people walk slower – and makes them buy more.

But all this research is absolutely prehistoric compared to the algorithms of a decade ago – and those algorithms are primitive compared to today’s algorithms…Imagine how brilliant they’ll be in a few years’ time! Inspiring stuff!

Let’s recap, shall we? In order to turn your child into a consumer, they need to lower your child’s self esteem. How do they do that? Well, they find out what your child likes, what your child responds to, what your child ignores…

Every child has hidden needs, and marketers are ready to fill them. Does your child feel not pretty enough? Does your child feel that her sister gets all the attention, and she wishes she got more attention herself? The algorithm is setting up games and stories – here’s a child who feels eclipsed by her sister. Did you child respond to that? No? OK, how about this character, a little girl who wishes she were as pretty as her friend. Does your child respond to that? Alrighty, let’s introduce a child who is very shy – but can transform into a super-confident alter-ego – does your child respond to that? The algorithm probes, tests, tweaks, adjusts, modifies – your child must feel insecure about something, and by Jove, that mighty algorithm is going to find out!

The more the algorithm can lower your child’s self esteem, the more your child will pester you to buy – so they’ll use the world’s sharpest psychology to manipulate that little mind deeper and deeper into depression, so your child becomes more and more depressed – and more and more vulnerable. Ideally, the algorithm wants to push your child right at the point of suicide – that’s the point at which your child will push you to buy the most. You, as a parent, will see how distressed your child is, and will relent into buying…

If the algorithm pushes too hard – and pushes your child to suicide – it’s going to have to consider its next move. A dead child means no more sales. But perhaps your child’s got a sister. The algorithm already knows – through question and answer surveys, and quizzes – so now the algorithm can target your child’s sister. It knows she’s grieving – So it just has to reset slightly, and not push quite as hard – two dead children in the same family would be a considerable loss of income…

Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a war for our children’s minds. And we are losing.

Please – for the sake of your children’s minds – switch off, take your children outdoors, into the wind and the sunlight, and take back your children’s lives.