What is digital discrimination and how is it manifested? Have you ever truly questioned your relationship towards people who do not want or cannot use technology - computers, smartphones, Internet? Do they make you pissed or complacent? Do you judge them or pity them? Or perhaps envy them sometimes?
Those who never sinned to cast the first stone
Whether we want to admit it or not, we have become so addicted to modern technology, gadgets and Internet, that it started painting our stance on other people and our judgment.
In that sense, we can talk about digital discrimination, or judgmental and discriminatory attitude to such individuals and communities who refrain from using modern technologies.
Such discrimination is just like any other type of discrimination: gender, racial, religious, sexual...The only difference being that the digital discrimination is socially acceptable and it is not prohibited by any law, regulation, legislation.
Take a look at job announcements. It seems that nowadays even if you want to work in a bakery, you need to be computer literate, as they also have digital ATMs and specialized software.
Your chances to become employed in a company if you are still stuck in the analogue era is less than that of an Aborigine who applies for a digital assistant position.
Even if he is illiterate, his advantage resides in being a member of a vulnerable group, so the employer has to think twice before rejecting his application, as he risks being accused of discrimination and unequal opportunities.
Take them anything, just leave them WiFi!
Look at the attitude of our youth to elderly people, to villagers, how they behave on entering someone's apartment/house without a wi-fi router.
They rush straight away to the nearest hotspot in a local cafe to check their Insta stories of FB.
It is highly unlikely they will ever cross that threshold again. They stopped visiting their grandparents and cousins, who still live in an analogue life format.
Take them anything, just leave them WiFi!
With loads of information modern generations process, the attention has become the most deficient resource and everybody fights to capture it. Kids don't use anything analogue. Their habits and behaviour have undergone tremendous changes.
They don't listen to FM radio, they don't watch TV, almost nothing in real time, everything is on demand. Everything is available, just a click away, the choice is virtually unlimited.
The paradox of choice has been addressed in the article about the 4th industrial revolution.
These kids believe they are much better informed than their parents, grandparents, and they actually dwell in a narrow and vicious circle of like-minded peers.
They seem to be pre-fabricated, they dress the same, listen to the same music, watch the same series and movies, follow the same celebrities on social networks, they are more or less uniform. Their life comes down to following current affairs, trendsetters, influencers who create their collective taste.
The only benchmark is the number of subscribers, views, likes and hits. Notwithstanding the fact that it is frequently in reverse proportion to the quality of content. But who gives a damn...
Their attention is limited to such extent that anything longer than a twit is considered a Russian novel. They do not read newspapers, let alone books, they collect information via Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
Then they look down on elderly people who read printed press, books, watch TV live, mostly domestic channels in linear format, with no time-shift or start-over options.
If it is not discrimination, I don't know what it is. It is very questionable what they consume online and what is the quality of such information. It will be dealt with later.
Globalization and Internet
Officially almost 1/3 of mankind has the Internet access. Some 2.5 billion people. It still leaves 5 billions in "the information dark", without the internet connectivity.
Intense efforts are being made to provide the Internet access even in the remotest of villages. Such projects are well underway at Google, SpaceX, Amazon, Facebook. They compete to be the first to launch special satellites that will enable WiFi signal in every wilderness on Earth.
Their plan is to leave nobody behind. Just like the Catholic Church used to spread Christianity throughout Africa, now we have some new missionaries to spread the Internet across the undeveloped areas.
This poor and poverty-stricken people are deprived of everything - they lack water, food, contraception, medicines. But tech giants couldn't care less about that.
It is important to turn them into consumers of online content so that the digital market can keep on expanding worldwide.
Frankly, they couldn't care less about their education and access to information, they only need them as users, since the market is huge, getting larger every day, along with the global population growth. And their business must grow commensurately. Either you grow or you die.
Digital discrimination and its different facets
To get back to discrimination, but from another perspective. We have previously addressed the conflict between the online and offline realms.
Let us now delve into the digital world and check out if there is any discrimination in the virtual sphere.
What is the first thing you check when you are searching for some online content or when you are trying to make an online purchase? Ratings and reviews, of course.
If you are looking for an apartment through AirBnB, or if you want to hear some new music, or follow a FB page, first you inquire about the number of views, likes, followers, ratings, positive comments and recommendations.
Disruptive innovations have brought revolution and improved our lives to great extent. In a strange way, they have introduced democracy and protection of consumers as well.
For instance, if someone wants to trick you, he will certainly not try to do it via internet portals with seller ratings system. One negative review will translate to a doom for his online career. In that regard, buyers have never enjoyed such protection, the market regulates itself and everything seems to be perfect.
But what happens when the evaluation and rating system is transferred to everyday life, devoid of its commercial aspect. There is something called validation, and it implies the social approval in our digital environment.
Social approval is the human innate need and we are all more or less dependent on it.
The way people react to our online posts, comments on portals, published articles, blogs, colours the perception of our own values. Once the likes are missing, what remains is misery, followed by pessimism and eventually depression.
If we carry on like this, we will soon become our walking profiles on social networks. And people will rate us and like us based on our conduct and manners.
You are as good as your rating is
This phenomenon is perfectly described in a Black Mirror episode - Nosedive.
Social status and acceptance in this dystopian series depend on your personal rating and it varies a lot depending on how other people appraise you.
Rating is the one and only currency that determines your financial and social status and everybody fights to score as high as they can, gradually sinking into hypocrisy, false manners and pretense as the result.
To avoid giving you a spoiler, I suggest you watch it on Netflix, as well as other episodes of Black Mirror, they are fantastic.
Unfortunately, something similar is already taking place in real life. In China.
The users of Alipay app, used for m-payment of services, are rated by the credit agency, but there are also penalties with those with lower number of points.
High rating enables accelerated safety check at the airport, business class in the airplane, access to various luxuries, renting costly limousines without deposits, and other benefits and bonuses.
There is also an option to check rating of your friends, just like the aforementioned series, Black Mirror. The quality of user's friends is also evaluated, thereby producing a caste-like system where citizens are divided into high-rated and low-rated ones.
Special threat resides in the fact that the state may misuse the data on its citizens if the authoritarian power feels uncomfortable about their citizens who might rebel at one point, which scarily resembles Orwell's gloomy future.
Just imagine our kids once they have to apply for a job. Even now the employer checks the applicants' Facebook profiles, LinkedIn, all digital traces we leave behind. They will know us better than we know ourselves.
The only job requirement will probably be some universal rating, for instance minimum 4 stars. The metrics is pretty harsh, frequently neglecting the complexity of human personality, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions.
Everything comes down to results, goals, KPIs - we will be reduced to pure numbers. On condition we are required as the workforce after all. Jeff Bezos and the whole bunch may eventually realize that their workload is much better performed by AI and algorithms.
However, a big question remains - what will happen to a vast army of unemployed and non-productive humans, who will be as useful as a horse-drawn cart is to us.
Political correctness and discrimination
Today, we have to take care of every word we say, I am reluctant to write anything on this topic lest I be misunderstood. Some of you might block me after what I am about to say.
As if political correctness would solve all our woes. Does a black guy in America prefer being called African American or to be fairly paid for his job and to be a truly respected member of community, even if he were to be named in slang.
He should be able to raise family, school his children, travel and meet different cultures, to have his neighbourhood cleaned by the police from drugs, weapons and crime. Only then can we talk about true, rather than political correctness. Political correctness is just a screen for our hypocrisy and a fuel for persevering in our prejudice.
Just take a look at the Silicone Valley startups. Try to name the owners of successful startups who are not white. The percentage of women is also pretty low. The similar ratio prevails with the staff as well.
A startup bubble gets increasingly larger and threatens to burst, just like the previous dot.com one.
A new crash is looming which will affect global economy and produce a new crisis. You can read more on this topic in this post about startups.
Things do change slowly, after all
It's not all bleak as it may appear.
People feel overload and they are gradually trying to change their habits. There are some indications that even the most zealous users of new technologies feel the burnout. It is time for a thorough detox.
People are fed up with tech, especially middle-aged population. Unhealthy relationship with tech makes them sick and separates them from simple things that make life. It may be the reason why there is an ever-increasing trend of movements promoting digital declutter.
As human awareness evolves, the referenced discrimination will fade away. I think it applies to new generations as well. I sincerely wish to believe that.