This was a scary week – and it had nothing to do with the NSA.
Sorry, I have trouble getting worked up about the government spying on me – not because I take privacy lightly (I don’t) or I think it’s a good idea to trade freedom for safety (not that either). No, it’s just that I’ve assumed all along that everything is being recorded somewhere by someone, so I’m not surprised or alarmed to find out that’s the case. When I first started using the internet, someone told me, “Assume everything you type on your keyboard might end up on 60 Minutes (yes, I am that lame, and that old, to consider Mike Wallace the scariest interviewer around).
But because of the insanity, lots of people have been sending around stuff that is scary. I thought I’d share, so we can all be scared together. Countdown, please:
#4. Spambot Conversations
From Dr. Ricardo Battista (who is a real person – I think) of SocialDeadZone tumblr posted this:
A couple of weeks ago I wondered out loud (if Twitter can be considered “out loud”) why miscellaneous people were favoriting miscellaneous tweets of mine – I find it hard to believe some European SEO guru was that impressed with my tweet linking to comments on Benito Cereno – but it’s really scary when bots start talking to each other, however politely. I promise I am a real person. I’ll be less polite if that will prove it.
#3. You Don’t Know What You’re Missing from Joe Holmes of Vidthoughts
It’s not news that search results turn up different things for different people, and that searching for, say, a cheap table might result in ads for tables cropping up everywhere you go for the next six months. The Filter Bubble is not new; Eli Pariser invented the term in a TED Talk (followed a year later by a book) more than two years ago. But Joe put it a different way – or maybe he just reminded me, at a time when it seemed to matter more, of something I’d forgotten about – and yeah, he managed to scare me with stuff like this:
“…how much your computer costs influences what results you see…”
“…the result of promoting these algorithms to the office of internet curator is an effective censorship that heavily favors the status quo…”
Joe’s perspective is that of a Youtube newbie trying to find an audience. That’s not something I care about much; I’m perfectly happy being obscure, and if I ever thought anyone was reading this stuff I’d be paralyzed with fear and never write another post. But I am a consumer of electronic information, and censorship bothers me.
And it is censorship – showing us only what we probably already like – and sounds like calcification to me. I think I have eclectic tastes – but is that just what Google thinks? Am I just playing around in the same sandbox over and over again, unaware there’s more out there?
From CTHEORY: Cyberwar, God And Television: Interview with Paul Virilio
Paul Virilio: There is a great science-fiction short story, it’s too bad I can’t remember the name of its author, in which a camera has been invented which can be carried by flakes of snow. Cameras are inseminated into artificial snow which is dropped by planes, and when the snow falls, there are eyes everywhere. There is no blind spot left.
Louise Wilson, CTHEORY: But what shall we dream of when everything becomes visible?
Virilio: We’ll dream of being blind.
I have no idea who Paul Virilio is, but it’s obvious why this made the rounds this week. If that isn’t scary enough- this was written in 1994.
#1. And the scariest thing I saw this week:
Chris Hayes has started wearing a tie on air. Forget the government in my internet: get the network out of Chris Hayes’ closet.
I suspect, see, that MSNBC has decided he needs to look more authoritative. The effect, however, is the opposite: he looks like he’s on his way to his Bar Mitzvah. Yes, it’d have to be a Catholic bar mitzvah, but you get the idea: he’s trying to convince the world “Today I Am A Man” and we’re all giggling at how cute it is, in that completely off way when a kid tries to put on grownup clothes. Now, I don’t pay much attention to clothes unless they leap out and demand attention. This change is glaring to those of us who’ve been following him on TV for the past several years. You can’t buy cool – but you sure can sell it for ratings. And yes – I am far more upset about this than I logically should be.
I’m glad I’m not twenty-two. I don’t like the way this ride is going, so I’m glad I’ll be getting off sooner rather than later. Maybe that’s the truly scary thing: my own apathy. Kids in the 60s were saying, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” By golly, they were right.