Friday, February 06, 2009

Q: For what did Stalin lust?

A: Twitter

One of the things that made Winston Smith special was that he could hide from the camera. Everybody else in 1984 was watched all the time, but not Winston Smith. His apartment had a unique floor plan. There was one little corner in his flat where the camera could not see him. He had privacy.

1984 was a fantasy, albeit a grim fantasy. The old Soviet Union was the real deal. Stalin went to a great deal of trouble to make sure that the government knew as much about the governed as was possible. Children ratted on their parents, students on teachers, employers on employees, neighbors on each other. Complete knowledge about, and control of the comings, goings and thinking of the population was Stalin's idea of paradise.

But that was then and this is now.

Whereas in the past people jumped barbed wire fences for the right to mind one’s own business, now we can’t wait to give it way.

We used to make it hard for the State to keep tabs on us. Now it’s just a question of buying one of the many GPS enabled devices that are available for purchase. We don’t have to worry about some neighborhood commissar reporting our whereabouts. Our cell phones will do it just fine.

The sad fact is that we really don’t mind. We’re more than happy to report what we’ve eaten for breakfast, who we’re dating, the books we’re reading, even when we’re taking a bath. It seems as if we can’t wait to tell the whole world the most trivial facts about ourselves. Yet when someone on the elevator asks us how we’re doing, we say, "fine" regardless of the true state of our condition.

It seems as if we’ve created social networks with a slew of supporting technologies without having any idea about who our next door neighbors are.

But the saddest thing of all is that our billions of bite size messages don’t mean squat. Yeah, the State wants to keep an eye on us to make sure we’re not going to blow stuff up or infect Los Angeles with The Plague. So, in a sense, those messages count. But all the other messages—where we’re going, who we’re seeing, what we’re thinking—those messages don’t count. It’s noise to the powers that be. The only messages that count are the messages that The Man overlays on our messages, and those messages are called advertisements. Because you see, in the currency of human attention, advertising is what makes the world go 'round. Just ask Google.

So think about that the next time you just gotta Twitter.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Peggy said...

It doesn't matter what the government gathers. They don't know what to do with it. Consider this, the average tenure for an IRS employee is 6 months. The people who work their don't have a clue about the tax code (not that anyone else does). They do just enough to collect their paycheck and find a better job. The people in charge of spying on everyone are likely to be just as lame. Who are they going to hire to make sense of all that data? There just are not enough good mathematicians who are sufficiently paranoid to be attracted to the profession of scattershot spying. The technology has evolved beyond the ability of the humans to actually use it for whatever nefarious ends.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Martin English said...

From manother perspective, the more I put out about myself on my linkedin profile, the greater the chance I have of reconnecting with old friends, AND making friends and getting new contacts. The more data, the more accurate the data I put, the more targeted the connections should be. Similar arguments would apply to any Social networking tool.

In short, I WANT my data and movements out there, for my tweeps &tc

On the other hand, whenever I register for a copy of a white paper or such, I make sure I enter the demographic data of a 99 yr old grandmother who is CEO or CIO of a major international accounting company....

10:38 PM  
Blogger Martin English said...

This is the correct link for my linkedin profile, sorry :)

10:42 PM  
Blogger Bob Reselman said...

Don't see a LinkedIn Url here

4:35 PM  
Blogger Bob Reselman said...

Oh, *that* LinkedIn profile, the hyperlink....

4:42 PM  

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