Guess what I learned today: The internet is controlling our minds because there are computers controlling the internet.
I was clicking around the internet for current events (and quality pornography involving lizard prosthetics) when I stumbled across a TED lecture by Eli Pariser. Guess what I learned today: The internet is controlling our minds because there are computers controlling the internet.
Pariser’s lecture warns us to “Beware online filter bubbles.” As Eli sees it, “filter bubbles” are the confining internet ghettos that the Googles and the Facebooks and the Yahoos trap us in through the use of their magic mathematics-based algorithms that tailor your internet search and consuming opportunities to your individual tastes.
For example: If I search for the words “hot young things,” I’d likely get wildly different results than The Fool and Ben Leo because algorithms on the internet use our personal data and “aspirational filters” to give us what they believe we want. Fool’s first result is going to be an interactive listing of the local vegan food dispensaries and psychic healing phone numbers. Ben’s result will just be one Google map of local handjob joints. Me? I’m going to get nothing but 420 Girl pics.
But isn’t this how we wanted the internet to work? All that’s left are flying cars and the metric system, and the future as Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter told us will be here!
A little background: Eli Pariser was the Executive Director of MoveOn.org, whose sole contribution to humankind was 100 billion desperate, whiny emails about George W. Bush’s illegal presidency. Pariser is an earnest young fella, one of those 31-year-old, tiny-liberal-arts-college-you’ve-never-heard-of types who truly believes that he’ve got everything figured out. And TED is a non-profit that does this whole “ideas worth spreading” thing.
In sum: TED and Pariser are totally annoying fuckin’ know-it-alls who give and post lectures on the internet because they know how everything should and will ever work. Who takes this baby talk seriously?
You can probably imagine these lectures too: Alpha geeks with five-day beards in pressed but untucked button-up shirts with the sleeves rolled-up, new off-brand jeans and totally uncool but comfortable shoes. They parade around a well-lit stage in a operator headset and a huge PowerPoint slide deck telling everybody how they know how to get water to Sri Lanka for a mere $12 billion. They all drive a Prius and have Google alerts for themselves.
Back to the story at hand: Eli Pariser’s thesis focuses on the notion (supported with very little data, from what I’ve seen) that the internet’s algorithms aren’t “embedded with moral responsibility.” Pariser believes that the human editors who guided us around Geocities in 1997 have been replaced by algorithmic filters and that “you don’t get to decide what gets in and you don’t decide what gets filtered.” And Pariser worries that computer users aren’t getting a “balanced information diet” if the algorithms aren’t embedded with a moral responsibility. He actually says something like users aren’t getting the information they should be getting. Sounds to me like he wants to decide what people should be getting on the internet (seven years of unsolicited emails about George Bush being a criminal, apparently).
How long has this kid been using the internet? Everyone knows how to juice the stats. My 86-year-old neighbor knows how to delete fucking cookies. My 9-year-old knows not to keep emails around and to use a damn ad filter. Basically Pariser thinks we’re all retards. Not only does he suffer from fundamental attribution error but he’s no better than the dirty Republicans he emails me about with his “filter bubbles will ultimately prove to be bad for us and bad for democracy.”
I love the internet. Where else do I get to interact with the anonymous intellectual comment section elite and get fed a daily dose of Guess Her Muff?
As the genius Greg Proops said about something completely unrelated, “Maybe you should try drugs to be cool for once in your shitty fucking life.” I want to send Eli Pariser some early 1990′s Public Enemy cassettes and a mirror so he can see his own ridiculousness. And TED needs to have Charles Barkely or Skip Gates give a fucking lecture sometime.