Could the mathematical theory used to control drone swarms be adapted to control you on social media?
Exhaustive studies have been undertaken since Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal Book ‘The Tipping Point’ appeared in 2002. In his book Gladwell a former staff writer with The New Yorker magazine gave examples of how ideas spread through networks powered by connectors and how these ideas turned into social epidemics. The Tipping point was full of real examples showing that systems have Tipping Points. The difficulty is predicting them or actually recognising them when they show up. Once the Tip has happened the knowledge surrounding it becomes far less valuable. The thinking behind Gladwell’s book somewhat mirrors the Seventies ‘Catastrophe Theory’ which modelled Tipping Points mathematically. Businesses, understanding the power of social networks have embraced Gladwell’s theory and adapted it to sell more products. Similar research has been undertaken by Consumer Psychologist Dr Paul Marsden who co-founded the online mapping software ‘Brain Juicer’. Dr Marsden has studied and produced many scholarly articles on Memes an idea propagated by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Paul Marsden also co-wrote Connected Marketing with Justin Kirby a book that examined viral, buzz and word of mouth.
Drone Control and Social Media Manipulation
The Department of Defense funded a project to investigate how messages from these Connectors and Mavens, influential members of large networks, spread and propagate. The Air Force Research Laboratory also funded a similar project that tried to figure out a way to manipulate these networks after identification. This is where drones and aerial robotics enter the equation. Research discovered that the very same mathematically principle used to manipulate autonomous aerial robots could be applied to social networks to influence human behaviour. The Graph theory a mathematical language that has been adapted to control large numbers of drones is also the basis of Facebook’s Graph Database and is used by Google and Bing to understand the context around searches. Even the British intelligence agency GCHQ has developed social media leveraging tools based on these concepts. Even the British intelligence agency GCHQ has developed social media leveraging tools based on these concepts. Researcher Warren Dixon of the University of Florida’s Nonlinear Controls and Robotics research group says “People don’t like to think they’re manipulated, but every day we’re being manipulated—by advertisements, by government leaders, religious leaders, and even into going to work.” Dixon believes the mathematical models could be applied to everything from marketing to workforce management. “We’re working because we’re getting paid for the most part, but how much do I have to pay someone to work? If I give them a sporadic bonus, can I pay them less overall? How do I get people to buy Levis or Wranglers?”