Impact of wired world – 15

I’m surprised to see such an insightful article from TechCrunch, usually just an unabashed supporter of any social media stock scam. Basically this is one of many comments about the new search tool in Facebook, over-hyped as usual. Devin Coldewey (the author) correctly points that Facebook is only interested in putting people in categories and nested categories at that and not actually exploring the social dimensions of a real person (which, of course, are useless to advertisers and peddlers, who are the real constituency of Facebook or any social media site). Devin says:

… it drove home the fact that Facebook’s conception of each of its users is an endless series of nested categories. Zuckerberg’s joke slide showing a galaxy of pull-down filter boxes was more revealing than they let on.

An individual, to Facebook, is the sum of their interactions with the site — can never be more. You are a collection of data, beginning as an empty vessel when you sign up, and gradually growing in complexity and depth.

There are two good points here:

  1. Facebook sees itself as the real world and you only exist as they can slice and dice you on Facebook itself. Of course this ignores that many people are not who they appear to be, either misleading or just a shallow look at the person. But who cares, Mark knows all.
  2. To Facebook (and for the tool they give you) you are just a few, actually rather simplistic, filters and nothing more. You are raw material to be fed to marketers. And you were silly enough to believe Facebook existed so you could keep up with friends and family. Wake up and smell the kombucha – you’re raw meat to increase the wealth of Facebook stockholders and that’s the way they’re going to treat you.

But Devin actually goes a bit deeper than this:

We humans (let it be said without boasting) are the most finely-tuned detectors of social tendencies, and the most sophisticated engines for predicting behavior, that have ever developed or been developed.

Yes, as usual Facebook hakes a little PHP code and thinks they’ve done some significant, earth-shaking. Come on you arrogant jerks. Instead of this trivial filtering you’ve done (that after all was invented back in the dark ages of computing) you’ve completely failed to even come close to emulating anything even vaguely equivalent to what a person can do. How long does it take us to size someone up? A couple of minutes and we’ll know more than Facebook can with its trivial keyword searching and complete inability to do anything at the semantic level with the information it has, much less at any deeper level.

No, this search has one purpose – to sell you to marketers, and then offer you some nearly useless tool packaged as some great invention to the gullible. Of course if you’re using Facebook anyway you probably don’t get many points for deeper understanding of anything about the human condition, or any other subject.

…it irreversibly reveals how superficial is its understanding of people. People as categories. Nested categories. Demographics.

As others have no doubt already pointed out, Graph Search resembles the drill-down demographic targeting of modern advertising. … Put “Friends who are” in front of it doesn’t automatically make it a social tool for ordinary people (though it can be put to use). Facebook’s fundamental system of defining people is not the way people define each other. It’s the way people are reduced to sets of high-priority characteristics — it’s profiling, for tracking, targeting, and marketing. Facebook thinks this way because this was the way it was built to think

You catch that last sentence. Facebook doesn’t exist for you and won’t waste a minute inventing actual interesting tools that represent some real understanding. No Facebook is a marketing tool, pure and simple and it will put you in neat little boxes to sell you over and over.

Now the real danger, as is the point of discussing any of this social media, is that Facebook will win and overwhelm our native abilities and substitute their world view in our heads for a much more reasonable one. People growing up with no perspective other than Facebook are grist for their propaganda mill just any religion has always known (get ’em young before they can think on their own.)

A social network that operates on non-human principles can’t ever be anything but a ledger, crammed with cold observations.

Right, again kiddies, do you get this? Probably not since you’ve been a marketing target since you ever turned on the TV and then got your first Net connection. I just hope you outgrow the manipulation we adults have wrecked on you.

In other words, any value provided by Facebook over and above the service itself will be rooted in the mechanical reduction of human data, and useful primarily to those who think in categories rather than individuals. … But it’s also ready to be replaced with something just as ambitious but far more personal. … A social application that knows a person the way that person knows another is not a trivial advance. It does not exist now and likely will not for quite some time. Facebook is not it, nor is Google’s shadowy profiling of every passerby, nor any other community or group on the web or emerging today.

Maybe someday we’ll get back to creating new companies and products with actual novel technology instead of a bunch of amateurish hackathons. Perhaps that will actually be scarier than Facebook since some social service that actually understands people might be very scary, but the financial incentive of the quick buck and baby “whizkid” programmers isn’t going to last very long. Facebook will be so yesterday in just a few years and only the huge commitment of putting their data there (try to get it back! sorry it belongs to them, not you) is the only reason anyone will still be using Facebook in another decade.

Social media is not a passing fad, but this first generation of trivial services will not stand and will look as childishly stupid as an Apple ][ does today.

Computers don’t think the way we think, they don’t see how we see or remember how we remember. But these are largely technical hurdles, tall enough that they look like insurmountable barriers — so we spread out along them until some long-legged visionary shows us the way over. It’s happened a hundred times before, and it’s happening in another hundred ways right now. Wait for it — ask for it — or build it.

Move on, Zuckerberg and just enjoy your billions, your minutes of fame are over.


About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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One Response to Impact of wired world – 15

  1. Pingback: QuickReaction, Sunday-1 | dailydouq

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