By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
Founding Editor, bSci21.org
You have heard of smart phones, and the countless apps that account for said smartness. But zoom out a bit and just look at the technological evolution of society since the 1990s — the mainstreaming of the Internet, cell phones, WiFi, the social media revolution, cloud computing, smart phones, apps, wearable devices, and, in the not too distant future, smart cities.
Mike Weston, of The Wall Street Journal, recently discussed smart cities as a near-future phenomenon that will carry the technological, hyperconnected, trajectory of society to its logical conclusion. The key to smart cities is data — data on your behavior. Millions of data points are already taken every day on our behavior as more and more of our lives are seamlessly integrated with the Internet.
However, in the not too distant future, Mike predicts that all of our behavior — all of it — will be tracked and stored in a central hub to be analyzed by the highest corporate bidder. He noted, of a hypothetical smart city citizen, “the data will reveal where she works, how she commutes, her shopping habits, places she visits and her proximity to other people.”
Such centralized data could then be used by companies to create a marketing frenzy the likes of which have never been seen. Mike discusses how, for example, beverage companies could send you an ad (e.g., on your wearable device) to buy liquor at the precise time you are most likely to want a drink. How would they know that? The company would know you better than you know yourself. It would conglomerate data on your weekly routine, the places you tend to go, what you drink and who with, etc…
Mike gives another example of companies knowing when you and your spouse are likely to get a divorce, perhaps even before you do. Data such as driving habits, time spent alone, among many types of data, could prompt a company to present you with an ad on divorce attorneys.
Of course, the idea of a smart city immediately conjures up notions of Big Brother and privacy issues, which we are already seeing today with Facebook and the National Security Agency.
To read more about smart cities, and their ethical implications, check out Mike’s original article here.
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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com. Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues. He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas. Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.