“Power to the people” is a phrase that has been used in various political and social contexts to express the idea of giving power and control to the general population rather than to a small elite group. In the context of technology, it could refer to the idea of making technology accessible and easy to use for everyone or giving easier/cheaper access. It can also mean (but seems to be trending away from) to give individuals more control over what they see & access as well as their personal data and online identity.
More and more people are forced to ‘bend the knee’ to the ‘all mighty algorithm’ and its ‘all seeing eye’, one cannot help but think “One algorithm to rule them all, one algorithm to find them, one algorithm to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.” Elves and melodrama aside, this sentiment doesn’t feel far from what many people see and experience in the online world today.
Which is why it is interesting to see one of the first (if not the first) foray into an American Super App [Vezbi] is completely bucking this trend. No algorithm. It is as if they actually expect and want people to think for themselves *gasp*.
Is it boldness or naivety that drives these techno-madmen?
The Vezbi Super App gives us another option. The Web has been around in a meaningful form for a little over 20 years now. It is a young adult. While ‘adulting’ is hard (so hard), it is time for a digital maturation. The control and flexibility one can have over their digital experience is not to be undersold.
Vezbi seems to have a beat on where this maturation is going. The layers and decisions they have made show a faith in us the users. We are in the initial stages, it is different and scary, just like when a parent releases their child to ride their bike on their own. But like a parent, they have faith that our experiences and prior teachings will guide us and we will be able to ride on our own two wheels.
The alternative of the continued domination of the algorithm is not something that anyone wants. Fortunately, we are seeing movement away from it with the passing of new legislation, both here and abroad. There is hope that Vezbi and companies with similar ethos will help usher-in a new perspective on how we the consumers interact with technology.
While algorithms can be good at showing you things that you might not have otherwise seen, I think we are seeing that the power of the algorithm is corrupting. Technology not based on an algorithm will likely require more input and effort from users, but it allows people to have the power.
The established hegemony of technology is enthralled with the power they wield using the algorithm, so I don’t see it going away without a fight. As the saying goes, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is why it is encouraging to see companies like Vezbi saying ‘not on my watch’ and giving back the power to the people.
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