Walls—the seemingly harmless structures have always been the subject of controversies, debates, and therefore politics. Donald Trump only stoked the emotions around them and reintroduced it to the millennials and Gen Z. Ironically, the last time when walls polarized people, it was again the US President, Ronald Reagan, who called for tearing down the Berlin Wall. His famous "Tear down this wall!" speech resonated with people across the world.
To be fair, Uncle Sam's love-hate relationships with walls is not hypocrisy but politics. It stems from the philosophy of John Locke that advocates the ideas, "people are naturally free" and "states possess territorial rights." Uncle Sam takes refuge in these ideas, respectively, to justify his stance on the "Berlin Wall" and the "Trump wall." And, it is not just Uncle Sam, walls and the controversies they beget are common across the world and thought-out history. The purpose of walls is to restrict the movement of people (and therefore ideas) from one side to another. This is true for almost any wall, for example, the Great Wall of China, the Israel-Palestine Barrier, the Berlin Wall, the Mexico-US Barrier, and the walls surrounding the umpteen penitentiaries.
Well, it is not hard to see the purpose (as in, the reason why it exists) of walls. The tangibility of the physical walls makes it easy to perceive them. People think about them and debate them. For instance, the American poet, Robert Frost, in his poem "Meaning Wall" explored and captured the polarity of opinions on the need for a wall. The first line of the poem, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall", rejects the idea of a wall between people, and the last line, "Good fences make good neighbors", justifies the need for a wall. Poets inspire people across aisles, not to mention, the "open border advocates" take resort to another powerful line from a different poem for their defense —"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free", from "The New Colussus" by Emma Lazarus. You can read the full poem on your next trip to Liberty Island, NY, USA, or on the Internet.
I don't want to persuade you to take a side on/of this "tangible" wall! I want you to tear down another non-tangible wall. It is much more dangerous than the walls we discussed now. It is being built with your own hands on a daily basis. It is a wall that no one sees, but it impacts us so badly. It puts a much more robust and inescapable barrier on our thoughts. It is a wall that we have to take down without a debate; it is the wall of misinformation that we are constantly building around us with the so-called personalization: filter bubble—sponsored by the big techs and powered by AI methods.
Life has never been so easy, and with the advent of technology coupled with AI methods, it only gets easier. When we talk about AI methods, the only fear among people, it seems, is being replaced by machines and losing jobs. This is irrational, as such an idea has been around for decades and more importantly, it comes from the lack of proper understanding of AI itself. Academically or professionally, when we talk about AI systems, we mostly talk about what is called Narrow AI and not General AI. The former is about systems that are designed to do specific tasks (eg: a recommendation in Amazon or Google) and the latter is about the hypothetical systems that are capable of learning and making conscious decisions just like a human. The general population is obsessed with General AI when they, actually, should be concerned by Narrow AI systems.
Humanoids powered by General AI, in most cases, are useless just like humans for most tasks, as we can always design machines in a better way for improved efficiency.
The term "filter bubble" was coined by Eli Pariser to refer to the state of intellectual isolation resulting from algorithms that personalize the content we consume on the internet. Everything on the internet is now personalized to the individual, including search results on Google, product recommendations on Amazon, your feeds on Facebook and Quora, video recommendations on YouTube, etc. The big techs don't want to disappoint you and provide things that you like. It sounds good, however, it is a vicious circle. The AI methods (algorithms) constantly learn more about you and provide only the content you like and this leads to developing a false sense of reality. The icing on the cake is that it happens for every other user. We are now in a world so connected, yet each of us is having a different perception of reality. This is what enables conspiracy theories, misinformation, etc to thrive on the Internet.
Perhaps, the mainstream media in the US was a victim of this filter bubble when they predicted the victory of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
It is of no one's interest that we have to protect this evil wall(read: filter bubble). The only way out is tearing down this invisible wall! And it is easy! Stop consuming recommendations and personalized content. Search for things; don't google - meaning think and diversify your thoughts and remove the dogma before typing in the search box. Whenever possible, get rid of online trackers and take measures to protect your privacy. Remember, the big techs know a lot more about you than you probably think they do, and no information ever goes useless in the AI world.
I'm not suggesting the actual measures you have to take to take back your privacy, as I don't want to put you into another bubble (or "the intangible wall", as I call it). Do your research and take your call!
Tear down this invisible wall!
Fun fact: The idea of exposing yourself to a variety of things to escape the dogma/intellectual rubbish is perhaps more important than ever before in the information age, but it is not a completely new one. Bertrand Russel in his essay An outline to Intellectual Rubbish explores a similar idea even before the internet happened.