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Web psychology, part II

Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms tack everything we do online

Our online information is tracked, calibrated and interpreted by innumerable invisible algorithms to help marketers target us with ads designed to get us to buy what they’re selling. That, combined with our ongoing vulnerability to hackers, has bred cynicism and a growing awareness that online privacy is tentative at best.

Emotionally intelligent AI will make us more vulnerable to manipulation

In the near future, many of our devices will be equipped with emotionally intelligent AI sensors that follow our constantly morphing facial expressions, voice, and other biometric indicators. On one level, it’s just a continuation of advertisers trying to get us to buy things. However, this is much more than an evolutionary progression because it allows invisible actors to track the full range of our subtle emotional responses, including those we are trying to conceal. As technology increases its capacity to discern these cues, its manipulations will gain stealth and greater impact.  We all need to be aware of our growing susceptibility to being ‘played.’

obot

These new generation AI advancements will be introduced into our devices under the radar as firmware upgrades. For example, Apple recently purchased Emotient, a leading AI company at the frontier of facial recognition technology. So, when SIRI is upgraded to read your moods, don’t be surprised if “she” recommends a specific song or movie to uplift your spirits.

Virtual assistants to the rescue

When we go online to research a product, we typically make a purchase. Mediating that process are tech goliaths like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook. Fortunately, they are all developing Virtual Agents (VAs), aka, Virtual Personal Shopping Assistants (VPSAs), designed to serve our real needs and avoid AI marketing manipulations.

A VA/VPSA monitors online purchase options 24/7, whether you’re online or not. Once a potential purchase is identified, your virtual assistant facilitates your asking specific questions to help you make the best possible purchase decision. In this way, a VA replicates the experience we get in a brick and mortar store that has outstanding customer service.

This means that marketers will now need to target their messages directly to VAs, rather than to humans alone. This is much to our (human) advantage because VAs have few cognitive limitations and no emotional vulnerabilities.

virtualassistant

In Part III of this article, I’ll discuss the prospect of using algorithms to help you take control of defining your genuine needs and interests when online. I’ll also review the benefits and limitations of companion robots and The Internet of Things devices.

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