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The Oracle of Skynet

August 13th, 2014

Who Needs a Gypsy?

I’ll tell you something interesting about the future. If you use the Internet, one day it’s going to start telling you things about yourself that you didn’t know. And it will tell other people things you don’t want them to know.

I realized this as I was looking at annoying browser ads that popped up in response to Google searches. In the old days, web ads were fairly random, but now your computer and the computers of various organizations store and analyze material you provide incidentally, and they send you ads that seem likely to be appropriate for your needs or desires.

The ads aren’t always related to things in which you’ve shown an explicit interest. Sometimes the machines think, “This person’s activity and data are a lot like those of people who bought this product or service, so let’s send them an ad.”

Even if human beings don’t plan it, eventually you will start receiving information that will tell you surprising things. It will diagnose disease. It diagnose mental illness and personality problems. It may even tell you you’re going to be fired soon, that your wife is cheating on you, or that your area is about to have an earthquake. The computers won’t “know” these things, but the correlations will cause them to reveal them. At first the information will come through advertising, but at some point, that will change. Someone will decide the sleuthing ability of computers is too important not to harness, and they’ll start arranging for us to receive messages not related to commerce.

Various facts correlate with various other facts. We don’t necessarily know the relationships. But they exist, and over time, computers will expose them.

What if people who have a certain hidden disease like a certain food, or they look for a certain type of OTC medication which treats a seemingly unrelated condition? What if they find certain socks helpful, because of skin problems or circulation problems, the causes of which they don’t know? Computers will figure it out.

One day, the Internet will start telling people they have cancer or diabetes or other problems, based on their online activity. It will be shocking.

The Internet may tell the feds things that get us in trouble. To an extent, this already happens. Michele Catalano got a visit because someone in her house searched for pressure cookers, after pressure cookers were used in the Boston Marathon bombing. Eventually, the feds will get better at analyzing data, and visits will be more frequent. In essence, we will be searched and detained based on what the movie Minority Report called “pre-crime.”

Sooner or later, the predictive power will become so great, courts will not be able to protect us. Computer predictions will be considered probable cause. You wait and see.

Eventually you’ll have to curtain your web use very severely, or give up all hope of staying out of the matrix.

It’s going to be an interesting time.

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3 Responses to “The Oracle of Skynet”

  1. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Minority Report.

  2. Rick C Says:

    We’re sort of already there. You did hear the story about the girl who’s father found out she was pregnant before he told her because Target analyzed her purchases and then sent the family coupons for baby-related products?

  3. Steve H. Says:

    I remember that now that you mention it.