Question 22

The passage given below is followed by four alternate summaries. Choose the option that best captures the essence of the passage.

Today, many of the debates about behavioural control in the age of big data echo Cold War-era anxieties about brainwashing, insidious manipulation and repression in the ‘technological society’. In his book Psychopolitics, Han warns of the sophisticated use of targeted online content, enabling ‘influence to take place on a pre-reflexive level’. On our current trajectory, “freedom will prove to have been merely an interlude.” The fear is that the digital age has not liberated us but exposed us, by offering up our private lives to machine-learning algorithms that can process masses of personal and behavioural data. In a world of influencers and digital entrepreneurs, it’s not easy to imagine the resurgence of a culture engendered through disconnect and disaffiliation, but concerns over the threat of online targeting, polarisation and big data have inspired recent polemics about the need to rediscover solitude and disconnect.


The passage discusses the ways in which big data and targeted online content can potentially influence and manipulate behaviour, leading to concerns over freedom and privacy in the digital age. This is reflected in the statements that "behavioural control" in the age of big data echoes Cold War-era anxieties about "brainwashing" and "repression," and that the use of targeted online content can enable "influence to take place on a pre-reflexive level." The passage also mentions the fear that the digital age has not liberated us, but rather exposed us by making personal and behavioural data available to machine-learning algorithms. Option B accurately reflects this central theme of the passage by stating that the debate on the nature of freedom and privacy has resurfaced due to the availability of personal information through big data. Option A is incorrect because it goes beyond the scope of the passage by stating that digital technology is "enslaving" us, which is not explicitly stated in the text. Similarly, Option C is inaccurate since the author only mentions the Cold War as a reference point for similar debates on behavioural control, but does not focus on the Cold War itself. Option D is wrong because the passage does not mention artificial intelligence specifically, but rather machine-learning algorithms.

Hence, Option B is the correct choice. 

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