52 SONGS

...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Saturday, August 24, 2013

from "You Are Not a Gadget"

Adopting a metaphysically modest approach would make it harder to use database techniques to create instant lists of people who are, say, emo, single, and affluent. But I don't think that would be such a great loss... 
It depends on how you define yourself. An individual who is receiving a flow of reports about the romantic status of a group of friends must learn to think in the terms of the flow it is to be perceived as being worth reading at all. So here is another example of how people are able to lessen themselves so as to make a computer seem accurate. Am I accusing all those hundreds of millions of users of social networking sites of reducing themselves in order to be able to use the services? Well, yes, I am.
...  
A real friendship ought to introduce each person to unexpected weirdness in the other. Each acquaintance is an alien, a well of unexplored difference in the experience of life that cannot be imagined or accessed in any way but through genuine social interaction. The idea of friendship in database-filtered social networks is certainly reduced from that.  
It is important to notice the similarity between the lords and peasants of the cloud. A hedge fund manager might make money by using the computational power of the cloud to calculate fantastical financial instruments that make bets on derivatives in such a way as to invent out of thing air the phony virtual collateral for stupendous risks. This is a subtle form of counterfeiting, and is precisely the same maneuver a socially competitive teenager makes in accumulating fantastical numbers of "friends" on a service like Facebook.
- Jarod Lanier, p. 53

["Precisely" might not be the most precise word, here, but the rest seems worth thinking on.]

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