Big Data and the Personalized World: What’s the impact on the mind?

It’s coming, the metaphorical bullet train that will bring significant changes to the way we operate in our day to day lives. Unlike the little engine that could who brought candy and toys to the children on the other side of the mountain, the gift of data will be invisible, odorless, chaotic, and manipulative.

The age of personalization is being branded as a utopia where everything is about YOU.

When you walk into a store, items you might like will be highlighted. You’ll wear glasses that will augment what is in front of you with information like price for clothes or information about a place you are visiting. Students will have personalized learning pathways in school that move at their pace and provide them learning experiences all the time, everywhere. Medicine will be revolutionized as your diagnostic and treatment plans are all focused on helping you get well faster….and without having to even go to the doctor most of the time. So what’s the downside? There are several.

First, once you are only getting pieces of information, even if they are picked especially for you, you have to wonder, What are you missing? What isn’t being shared with you? Realize that if someone or something can give you only ‘some’ information, they have the power to dramatically control your thinking and actions.

Second, the world is already becoming ME-centric…but what happens when the world really is only about you? What happens when we don’t interact directly as humans but instead entirely through technological devices? What happens to humanity? Helping behaviors? Raising of families?

Third, the influx of extreme amounts of data into the brain is expected to have serious consequences to one’s psychological well-being. Imagine when you are at the gym and on the treadmill. In front of you are 10+ TVs all playing simultaneously the news, the reality shows, etc. When you see all that at once, and you can’t turn it off, it hyper-stimulates the mind and can have deleterious effects like increased heart rate, changes in brain chemicals, and mental overload. These effects translate to expected higher rates of depression, anxiety, paranoia, and increased difficulty focusing, listening, and assimilating new information. Decision making effectiveness, at the national and international level, is expected to decline.

So what do we do about it?

We need to consider ethical requirements for technology connectivity and the ability of people and organizations to push information to us. We need to be wise consumers of the new gadgets and gizmos – recognizing that with their benefits also come drawbacks. We also need to get serious about mental down-time. We preach work-life balance…but generally speaking most people just preach it, they don’t do it.

Resting the mind is the single most important thing you can do for your body, your work, your children, and your life. Breathe, smile, listen, focus, be calm. This future chaos will figure itself out but how long that will take depends on us.

One Reply to “Big Data and the Personalized World: What’s the impact on the mind?”

  1. Despite the treat of nuclear war, which in itself is unthinkable. George Orwell might of had the date wrong but the premise correct. Forgetting how to be human is just as unthinkable if not more.

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