Prey to mind hacking? - The Hindu BusinessLine

Think: How often do you feel comfortable to drive, even to known destinations, without Google maps? How often have you considered looking at a link that is not appearing in the first search page of Google? How often have you fallen prey to make buying decisions without a need based on an app’s recommendation?

If you answered in the affirmative to these questions, it indicates that your mind is already hacked. This happens when you perform actions at subconscious level without thinking.

Twenty years back, we visited theatres only after some deliberation on a specific movie. Rarely, we would go to a mall and make an instant decision. Similarly, when we drove our vehicles to a destination, our choice of route would be clear. We visited eateries for ambience or consistency in taste and not because they were listed by apps.

One might still argue that the choices were limited then. Today, the choices available in each section is too large to filter. This has made humans rely on smart software applications to carry out the task of filtering. It is not an issue until a software application acts as a productivity tool to augment human intelligence and choices.

However, the current situation is quite worrying because we are surrendering ourselves to let algorithms make choices on our behalf.

Who should create the reality? Algorithms or ourselves? It is not bias against technology; it is about using technology to retain the innate originality. Here are few simple actions to adopt:

Break your routine: Your paradigm, the way you see things, has major implication in the manner you make decisions. When you spend time on the Web, pay attention to your search habits and see if you are following a routine. If yes, there are chances that you may be ‘algorithmised’.

Ensure that you deliberately look for multiple search options before zeroing in. For instance, to understand the meaning of ‘GIG’, rather than entering ‘Meaning of GIG’ as the search words, suffix or prefix the word GIG with contextually relevant search word.

Expand your references: To avoid algorithmic biases, do not search in one or two sites while searching for any information. Widen the faculty across other references such as academic research, analyst reports, anecdotal evidences, expert opinion from various videos, etc.

For instance, if you want to understand the concept of crowd sourcing, you can try options such as online technology forums, MOOC’s, Expert TED Videos, YouTube videos, etc.

Explore one new idea each time: You leave data footprints in the form of click or search keyword every time you browse. This powers algorithms to act on identified underlying patterns and keep recommending set of things that aligns with your habits. For instance, those who watch political updates in YouTube may continue to get political news as recommendations.

Get socially involved in-person: In this digital age, we ask a search engine or an app about a query instead of asking someone known. At times, it is strange to see people conversing through applications even in close physical proximity. If you are planning to travel on a holiday, instead of solely relying on hospitality apps, concurrently contact people who belong to those destinations or have travelled there.

To retain the ability of making choices without surrendering to machines, it is imperative to start practising the above behaviours.

The writers are with Human Resources Function, Wipro

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