Friday, May 01, 2015


Looks like a cool product. Imagine saying "remind me to send package when I get here" and the machine decoding speech, noting location, creating a reminder and then reminding -- harnessing technology for practical human..."benefit" is too big a word -- let's say "convenience".

Remember how cool browsing the web was when it first became commonplace? I even remember my first email account. Attaching and sending files - so convenient!

But then we slowly realized that the web's memory is perfect. That you can never, ever really dispose of an email address or for that matter, an email. It dawned on us that every move we've ever made online is recorded. Then came the social networking movement, and the Web's memory got more personal and intimate by orders of magnitude.

We learned (as we had suspected all along) that our "information" is being packaged and traded for profit for many reasons. The most visible of these is to persuade us with our own words and actions: "you looked at this once before, you know you like it, click here to buy it now!" But often it used to shame us: "You said this. You're a homophobe; you're fired." With "new media" our every online move is submitted to the worldwide court of public opinion to render judgment. Information that had been harnessed first for persuasion was soon thereafter used for coercion.

So far, all this is being fueled by information that is largely external -- words and pictures. What sorts of possibilities are there for persuasion and coercion enabled by the collection of your every heartbeat; your body temperature at the moment of that heartbeat; your weight, your sleeping habits (and schedule and location)? Add to these every "biometric" that you can imagine.

What will dawn on us after we've been having our collective "iWatch experiences" for a few years? We have seen our personal information harnessed by others who purchase it in order to persuade us to take a certain action. We've seen it used to coerce others into taking a certain action.  What happens when it starts being used to force people to do things?

The possibilities for good are amazing. The possibilities for abuse should put the fear of God in you.


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