The Social Dilemma Effect: In Conversation with Invisibly’s Don Vaughn

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Let’s call it the Social Dilemma Effect. A number of tools have been developed in response to the toll social media and constant connectivity has been taking on our mental health. The docu-drama, The Social Dilemma, did much to highlight the addictive nature of social media algorithms that both keep us connected to each other, but also feeling an insatiable longing for attention.

Invisibly is one of the new tools that promises to re-write the relationship between users and their data.  To start, social media users will generate passive income from the data they consent to share.

American neuroscientist Don Vaughn is Head of Product at Invisibly. He envisions a better future between people and technology, through enabling people to take back control of their personal data. He uses his understanding of the brain’s responses to predict how people will use and “be used by” technology.

“Invisibly lets people take control of their data back and make it work for them,” Vaughn explains. “Most of the time other companies collect that and make money from it. That’s how Facebook makes money. Invisibly allows people to send their data and license it to market research.”

The pay off? Right now Vaughn says users can generate between $60 and $80 per year as they decide how much data they want to sell. As a user’s profile and data become richer with detail and more sophisticated with information, they user could generate up to $1000 per year in passive income.

From Vaughn’s point of view, it’s a situation that allows advertisers to create a direct relationship with consumers that is fully consensual.

“The Social Dilemma freaked me out because it didn’t show me anything I didn’t already know. The three-pound machine that is your brain working against dozens and dozens of highly complex algorithms that know you so well and exactly how to make your brain respond to the right stimuli at the right time,” he says.  Everything is coded so that companies can make money off you and, unless people take control of your data, our three-pound brains won’t have a chance.”

The solution, Vaughn believes, is not to even try to scrub our data from everywhere we visit, but to use it to our advantage to create a feed that will feature content that is less personal and more global. Relevant ads, he believes, will be a welcome addition to that feed.

“Private companies using AI to make money is not going away. I think, personally, the only answer is for consumers to leverage AI to work for them, to fight back,” he explains. “You need AI, so there are other companies that will scan your Gmail and then send machine requests for your attention.  What Invisibly does is put you in control of your data, but you still need an algorithm to exercise that control.”

The result is that Invisibly allows its users to pick brands that they really like and to feature small publishers who create content they really connect with.

“It allows people to be unique and granular in what they want to see,” Vaughn says. “I think it is a next generation of marketing. We are putting out all kinds of content for people and what we are offering on the B2B side is an opportunity that, unlike advertising on FB, companies can now upload information to our platform and direct it at users who are actually opting in to see content like yours. They can stop wasting their advertising dollars on millions of uninterested eyeballs, or on starting to creep people out by being hyper-specific.”

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Kate Baggott

Kate Baggott is a former Managing Editor of B2BNN. Her technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun and the Bay Street Bull. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories. Find links to recent articles by following her on LinkedIn