After the launch of Facebook Places, and seeing it show up as part of my most used social app, Facebook, I was reminded of something that is becoming increasingly important for us to realize and remember. We are witnessing the early stages of the ultimate convergence of sociology, human behavior, and billions of data packets sailing over millions of miles of network cables. Like it or not, Facebook is bigger in concept and theory than Mark “The Zuckster” Zuckerberg could ever understand, bigger than the ‘original internet’ ever had a shot at being, now that data is finally able to be humanized.
One almost humorous observation I’ve made is that the same people who complain or are fearful of this are the same ones that are also contributing to it, whether they realize it, like it, hate it, or not. Every time you update your status about what you had for dinner, your struggles as a parent, how much you like your job, when you last went to Disneyland and how fun it was, etc. – algorithms collect, organize and attempt to construct a ‘virtual you’ over time period that can be stored in a multitude of ways, deconstructed by ad agencies and reconstructed as needed to serve you content that they hope will be as close to your heart strings as possible. Because you have provided the data about yourself from your own brain and fingertips, this content statistically has a higher and higher percent chance of resonating with you as time goes on after they measure your continued responses. As we continue to voluntarily provide more insight into our likes, dislikes and fears. We are constructing a virtual version or copy of humanity in the form of patterns that fill up a multitude of databases. Unless you are in high-tech, this happens without the majority of us even realizing it because we are distracted by our own emotions and the day to day stresses of life and onslaught of news feeds that now pour in from every direction. We also aren’t taught to think about the web that way.
I’m sure I sound like a whack job (and to some extent I am) but a simpler way to describe it is this (I’m sure most of you have seen this before): When you see a new animated movie come out like Avatar, their goal is to as accurately as possible, recreate realistic human physical motion and movement so that the characters look as authentic as possible and are believable. In a production studio, they do so by making the actors wear a body suit covered in sensors that connect up to a computer program. They then have the actor do certain movements for the movie to support various scenes, etc. While they are moving around, the sensors are recording these movements and it creates a 3D image of those movements on the screen, completing a virtual version of that person and their physical/movement characteristics. The social monopolization of the web is doing the exact same thing except it’s with human behavior on a global scale. By creating an account on a social network or site so that we can willingly populate it with content from our daily lives and true selves, we have officially authorized the creation of digital clones of us as a species by companies so that it can be utilized for business and science.
Fortunately, computers aren’t capable of creating emotion via chemicals and hormones by the nanosecond like we are so ‘rise of the machines’ ain’t happening anytime soon….but hey, it’s fascinating shit.