Growing up I used to hear the expression, “a penny for your thoughts.” Of course, that meant that your thoughts were your own and unknowable, but if only the other person knew! And “a penny” — even in those days, many decades ago before dollar devaluation, was still not very much.
So the penny was a token amount, but an exchange of something for your thoughts. Sort of like when Richard Riordan, a wealthy philanthropist, became Mayor of Los Angeles, and instead of the regular salary, said he would take one dollar a year from taxpayers for his salary.. It was something. He was making a statement. He could have waived the entire salary. But it was one dollar, so he was a city employee ,the mayor. But surely Dick Riordan was worth more than one dollar a year, in fact, likely worth more than whatever the normal salary for mayor was.
And “your thoughts” are worth more than a penny. The penny was just, is just, a symbol.
And yet with the advent of artificial intelligence, coupled with Google keeping track of what you do, and Facebook extrapolating from your search activity, and the sites you visit, and the synergy between Google and Facebook and other companies, all these folks are getting into your head.
Into your thoughts.
But they are not paying you one dollar, or even a penny.
In their defense, or maybe I should say, how they would implicitly defend themselves, they would argue they are giving you something for free.
Google gives you this vast search capability. And Facebook gives you — well you know the whole shtick — you can communicate with your friends, mutually share information and articles, and so forth. And both G and FB and other companies tell you how fortunate you are that they use high technology to custom-target you with information (that means ads!) that are “relevant” and “tailored” to you, and “are a good use of your time, because they are what you are interested in.”
But what you are giving to them is worth something to them; otherwise, they would not be giving you whatever it is they give you, without paying from you. And you are not getting any monetary compensation for who you are, what information you provide, and how much activity you generate. For example, the more interesting and even controversial you are, or put another way, the more “friends and followers” you have who interact with you, the more you are worth as a commodity, because all this activity draws advertisers.
And like many things that are “free,” there is a cost.
You give up information about yourself, your privacy, and YOUR THOUGHTS … and possibly your intellectual property rights!
So, maybe getting something for free may not be such a good deal!