Sunday, March 19, 2017

For the Digital Proletariat

We created the net, yes, but the net is creating us right back. It is changing us. I just watch it all, while I frolic in it up to my elbows, marveling at the beauty of it, loving its precision and reach. 

Here is an example. I am writing a book, as many of you know. Portions of that book were previously posted on an earlier iteration of my website, Magic Kingdom Dispatch. I took them down, I saved copies, or so I thought, and I continued to march.

Well. I went to use those copies, and suddenly, I could not find some of them. The best that I can imagine, is that I copied most of that old site, but I missed a few pages. One of those pages had a photo of my old Ranger company. 

For a long while, I thought that I just lost that photo. I have been kicking myself. Then I realized, "the WayBack Machine copies everything." Maybe. Maybe it stored a copy. What the WayBack machine does is it archives the net. It creates a snapshot of the net on any given day. 

So I went to, and I searched. And I found that old photo. The WayBack Machine did indeed archive a copy of the net which included  that old version of my blog from the early 2000's. 

This is seriously cool. 

The WayBack Machine operates at the mercy of charitable donations. So we see how it works. 

Something like Google, on the other hand, its business model is not a secret, really, but most of us have no understanding what Google does to get paid. 

What Google does is, it monitors and records everything that you do on the net. Your every digital act is archived and processed by unimaginable algorithms which enable Google to create a product consisting of your digital profile, which it then pimps out to advertisers. 

It is easy to see it at work. Amazon feeds ads into pages that I scan in my daily life. I wanted to send my wife a photo of a dinosaur bone, my term for those big cow femur bones that are smoked and sold for the delight of doggies in the land of the big PX. 

My wife has never been to America, she does not know what it is like. There are no dinosaur bones for sale in Thailand, because the Thai people do not interact with their doggies in the same way that we do in America. 

So I went to Amazon and I searched and I found dinosaur bones for dogs for sale. I grabbed a photo, and I sent it to my wife. 

Well. Since then, Amazon ads are following me around the net. I see dinosaur bones for sale on Amazon everywhere. Amazon knows that I looked at dinosaur bones. It knows that I searched. It knows that I downloaded a photo. It also knows that I did not click on "Buy," and I did not purchase one. 

So Google figures, "this dude is thinking about buying dinosaur bones." I really am not, but it is a machine using algorithms and access to unimaginable quantities of data, it may have a form of consciousness, but what it is supposed to do is sell shit. It is supposed to close the loop behind me, the customer, and the seller. 

So now I see dinosaur bones everywhere that I go on the net. 

This is how Google gets paid. Just one revenue stream among many. Google is one of the wealthiest companies on the planet. In my nightmares, Google inherits the earth of the future. Google is pervasive, it is everywhere, and it is doing things that we know nothing about. 

When I saw that Europe imposed a "right to be forgotten" law, I celebrated. Google hates these laws, because they force Google to set up an expensive and non-revenue producing activity that responds to end users. 

More, these laws force Google to amend their rolling copy of the net, collected and archived by spiders and bots, and to remove tendrils connected to Europeans who wish to edit the digital record. 

I do not feel sorry for Google. I think that we all should have the option to edit the digital record that it maintains of us and our activities. 

The right to be forgotten is much more than that. 


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