The Manipulation of Technology: From Corporate BS to Extortion

Alessio Frateily

Hatched by Alessio Frateily

Feb 27, 2024

4 min read

0

The Manipulation of Technology: From Corporate BS to Extortion

Imagine this: you're working at a company that values diversity, or so they claim. They boast about their commitment to inclusivity and innovation. However, as you delve deeper into the company's culture, you realize that the type of diversity they truly value is the one they don't want - diversity of thought.

At Hooli, a fictional tech company, innovative employees are welcomed, but only if they think inside the algorithmic box. Metrics are everything at Hooli, regardless of what they actually measure. The ability to measure takes precedence over the wisdom of what to measure. In this context, being data-driven becomes a double-edged sword. Even when a metric is useless, inaccurate, or easily manipulated, employees are expected to prioritize it above all else.

This obsession with metrics is not unique to Hooli. In many companies, measuring success has become an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. The belief that "you cannot manage what you cannot measure" has been taken to the extreme, blinding organizations to the importance of qualitative factors and diverse perspectives. This shortsighted approach stifles creativity, limits innovation, and perpetuates a homogeneous corporate culture.

But the manipulation doesn't stop at the corporate level. It seeps into our everyday lives, even in seemingly mundane aspects such as owning a printer. The first rule of at-home printers is that you don't need one until you do, and when you finally get one, it can quickly become a source of frustration.

Printers, like many other physical tech devices, have become a means for companies to exert control and extract more money from consumers. Take HP's Instant Ink, for example. This monthly subscription program claims to monitor printer usage and ink levels, automatically sending new cartridges when they run low. However, the catch is that the subscription fee is based on the number of pages printed, not the actual ink used.

Under the guise of convenience, this business model blurs the lines of ownership. Consumers are led to believe that they have control over their printer and the ink it uses, but in reality, they are at the mercy of the company. They pay a monthly fee regardless of whether they print anything or not, essentially renting both the printer and the ink cartridges. This loss of control over something they've already paid for is a disheartening trend that extends beyond printers.

Tech companies have infiltrated our physical devices, and with that power comes the ability to manipulate and exploit consumers. Take Tesla, for instance. In 2017, when Hurricane Irma threatened Florida, Tesla pushed an update that temporarily increased the battery life of owners' vehicles within reach of the storm. While this may seem like a benevolent act, it raises ethical questions about the extent of control tech companies have over their customers.

Tesla frequently issues software updates that can dramatically alter a car's functionality. This level of manipulation, albeit with good intentions, raises concerns about the limits of ownership. As Cory Doctorow, a technology activist, aptly puts it, "It just feels so manipulative. I guess this is our future, where your printer ink spies on you. It's bleak."

In a world where technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives, it's important to be aware of these manipulations and take action to protect ourselves. Here are three actionable pieces of advice:

  • 1. Embrace diversity of thought: Companies should prioritize hiring employees with diverse perspectives, even if it challenges the status quo. Encouraging open dialogue and valuing alternative viewpoints fosters innovation and prevents the stifling of creativity.
  • 2. Be cautious of subscription models: While digital subscriptions can offer convenience, it's essential to read the fine print and understand the implications of signing up. Assess whether the benefits outweigh the loss of control and potential exploitation.
  • 3. Advocate for consumer rights: As consumers, we have the power to demand transparency, fair practices, and ownership over the products and services we purchase. Support organizations and initiatives that fight for consumer rights and hold tech companies accountable for their actions.

In conclusion, the manipulation of technology, whether in the form of corporate BS or extortionate business models, poses significant challenges to our society. It's crucial to recognize these manipulations, question them, and take proactive steps to protect ourselves and our rights as consumers. By embracing diversity of thought, being cautious of subscription models, and advocating for consumer rights, we can navigate this complex landscape and shape a future where technology truly serves our best interests.

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