What will the algorithms think?

A big portion of my job when I worked as a start-up reporter was researching companies in-depth. This extensive research meant that Google one day thought I was a sales professional, one day someone really really interested in ERP systems, a renewable energy expert the next, and made me recall the character Violet from M.T. Anderson’s cyberpunk dystopian novel called Feed.

Feed is set in a future America where corporations rule the roost, kids only go to School™ to learn how to get better bargains online, everyone is outfitted with a micro-chip, and the internet, featuring real-time ads based on their thoughts, is beamed directly into their heads. Violet’s subversion in this world comes in the form of talking in the air unlike others her age who use chat, and going to a mall and asking for all sorts of things she has no intention of buying so that an accurate profile of hers can’t be formed.

The other day, as I unconsciously opened the incognito tab when I wanted to search for something, it struck me that, in an age where we’re increasingly aware of the data that we’re putting out there and how big tech firms are using (or misusing) this, we’re all becoming a little bit like Violet.

Without really being aware of it, I found that the question of “What will the algorithms make of this?” is always present in my mind.

It should be interesting to see how the dynamics of the largely ad-based tech world would change if we all start self-censoring ourselves and interact with the net differently. I guess the rise of voice-assistants and the chase by tech firms for a new dimension to control are partly an answer to this change.

By the way, with the help of this tool, I figured out what Facebook thinks I am interested in. Facebook thinks I am a crazy cat lady.