by Shelt Garner
The short answer is, of course, no, of course not. This is a demonstrably silly idea and I am a fool — and maybe a bit of a kook — to even bring the subject up. And, generally, I just don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of actual conspiracies are well known and the public generally doesn’t care.
Ok. Having said that, let’s yet again ponder a scenario whereby Big Tech, and specifically Tik-Tok, is in some way able to not only monitor what’s rolling around in our minds but use that information to push content to us in an eerily specific way.
Up until a while ago, Facebook — now Meta — was, in fact, looking into how they could read people’s minds to the point that they even patented a way to do it. They have since scrapped this research and so, lulz, obviously they aren’t using any such technology to read people’s minds, right?
So that should be that. Big Tech isn’t reading our minds and if they were, we would obviously know about it because it would be such a huge milestone in technology. The ethical implications of reading people’s minds without their consent would be just too big for Big Tech to overcome and so why are we even talking about this?
One thing I will note is how beneficial it would be for, say, the NSA or CIA to be able to monitor the minds of diplomats and other major officials in foreign countries. And, in general, some of the most cutting edge technology used in a practical way is developed not by private industry, but by government agencies like DARPA — which came up with the Internet.
This brings us to Tik-Tok
Tik-Tok is a Chinese company and there is little or no separation between Chinese tech companies like Tik-Tok and the security agencies of the CCP. So, if you were of a conspiratorial bent, you could definitely find yourself pondering the possibility that Tik-Tok is using digital telepathy is not only read the minds of America’s youth, but use that information to push them ever-more addictive content to keep them using what is now one of the most popular social media platforms on earth.
This is the point where you laugh at me and say all of this is just crazy talk. And, honestly, whenever I find myself talking to a tech person I go out of my way to try to get them to dissuade me of my paranoia. I explain to them what’s happening and I ask them to explain to me why I’m wrong. The most common explanation they give me is it’s all a coincidence and Tik-Tok’s algorithms simply now me so well that it just seems like it can read my mind.
This is similar to how there is the horror story of a young woman being sent pregnancy related coupons in the mail because of what she was looking for on a big box retailer’s website. Ok, I get it that makes a lot of sense and explains most — but not all — of what I’m noticing.
As an aside, I’ve started to try to keep these suspicions to myself — especially at bars — because, well, people think I’m completely insane and don’t want to talk to me anymore when I causally broach the subject. Which, all things considered, is probably understandable.
The only reason I keep thinking about the bizarre conspiracy theory is the fact that some of the video’s that Tik-Tok pushes me aren’t nearly as general as what happened with the pregnant teen and the coupons. I still struggle to understand how Tik-Tok’s algorithms can be so good as to narrow down a very specific thing I thought about intensely in passing.
Usually these spooky events have something to do with my body, something I haven’t told anyone about. And sometimes, it’s something I just think about really hard for a moment or two out of the blue. It’s those specific type of incidents that give me pause for thought when I get pushed a video on Tik-Tok that is about that very specific thing.
But I have no proof and probably never will. And even if it was happening, it is the CCP we’re talking about, so it’s not like we’ll ever find out. Though if Big Tech in the United States was also reading our minds, then, I suppose the secret might pop out eventually.
Which leads you to wonder what the reaction would be. I’m of the opinion that after the shock wore off, there would either be a huge outcry where the population demanded some sort of regulation crackdown of Big Tech — or nothing would happen.
It would just be another thing that we all knew about, but didn’t care because, in general we got better products and services because of it. Though, of course, if it was proven that Tik-Tok — and by extension the CCP — was reading the minds of America’s youth….I suppose that might be considered something akin to an act of war?
Relations between the US and China would definitely suffer.
Anyway, this is all nuts. There’s no way Big Tech can read our minds. I’m just noticing really good algorithms.