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Editorial – January 2020: The map is the territory.

January 5, 2020 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

The mantra of General Semantics is ‘the map is not the territory just a representation or reality’. Telling the two apart and not confusing the two is what makes for rational thinking. You might use a map as a guide to get around but you certainly wouldn’t want to be totally dependent or rely on it as a means to lead your life except…

Always the ‘except’, isn’t there? The problem is that there wasn’t even a hint of the Internet or algorithms monitoring your tastes and feeding you adverts and propaganda when this mantra was first laid out in 1931. Even for the younger generations, who were brought up knowing nothing different, there is a general acceptance of what you see on the screen is what everyone else sees. Well, maybe not with product placement because much of the time it shows the same stuff that you’ve been looking at a few moments or days ago as certain companies get more prominent.

You just assume everyone is seeing the same thing unless you are looking at other people’s monitors. With my grabbing book covers for the reviews of things I wouldn’t read myself, I must confuse the hell out of any algorithm monitoring what I look at and frequently throw in things to further confuse it about my taste because it’s rarely correct.

However, the key problem is these same algorithms are mapping to what they think suits you and I suspect many can’t tell the two apart because it does match your taste or certainly as it was at the time. Ergo, the map is now becoming your territory and is biting into the decisions you are making. It might not be artificial intelligence but it certainly is having an effect on the choices you make, more so if you think it’s making better choices or pointing you at things you hadn’t considered before. Mind you, it can’t tell the difference and keeps pointing at things you’ve bought as well showing the limits of its own memory of your choices. I doubt if even we bloody-minded geeks are completely safe.

Planet Stories Pulp.

In many respects, these secretive algorithms are guiding you with no secure way to turn them off or even see what data it is using, let alone the accuracy. How many of you have lied in questionnaires asked on the Net? Maybe not totally intentionally, but you do need to cover up some tracks that might be used in security information to your banks like mother’s maiden name or even where you were educated. The fact that these banks don’t vary what they ask for in itself is a poor security risk. It would make a lot more sense to do as suggested by the likes of anti-virus software companies and change your passwords regularly but we still don’t.

It would make more sense for the banks to have some agreed words to confirm to than just to rely on the same questions each time. No one is really asking for truthfulness, just something to confirm our identities as only what choices we are given and remembering your answers. Don’t forget the algorithms that watch what you do and have files on you, must be capable of a lot more and we have no idea what they carry or who is reading them. That should send a shiver down some of your spines, especially if you belong to the likes of Linked-In who insist you get better responses by including your education. Remember your bank accounts.

It’s also worrying that politicians put adverts into this mix based on personal taste in the social media sites. The human brain is prone to think everyone is seeing the same things so thinks everyone is getting the same message rather than think they are being manipulated.

Humans are very much creatures of habit and routine. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, family life, hobbies, etc. To be continually changing everything requires a lot of energy and continually reorganising. Eventually, we all crave a large part of our lives to be routine with the odd bite of excitement like holidays to stir things up. To do otherwise, changes normality. Oddly, I do little if any of the above but I do have my own sense of normality and when normal reality changes for national holidays, I’m the one likely to be thrown by the change in habits in others. A reverse of what most of you go through, so I’m not exactly in the same mould.

To the Net algorithms, it doesn’t make much difference. As I said previously, they prefer people to follow similar patterns so they can work more in groups than on individuals because it pleases purchasing algorithms by you following the same pattern and cuts down the amount of computer power it takes to run it. People like me who are outside of this perception are a minority that can be mostly ignored. I hope it is, anyway.

So much for free will, especially when it runs into the political machines that can sway you to vote a particular way by cutting the amount of free choice you have by only showing their ads. I tend to miss the bulk of this by not belonging to social media sites but I can understand its effect. If anything its worse because you don’t notice your free will is being eroded.

Although it is thought that subliminal advertising doesn’t work, repetitive advertising does, more so when you need a particular product, or even saying or showing the same slogan repeatedly. Think how much you remember an advert jingo then you know it’s gotten under your skin. It’s hardly a coincidence that a lot of adverts are on continual rewind on TV or at the places you visit on the Net. They follow you around, even if you are ignoring them. No wonder advertisers are so interested in having adverts linked to where you walk around so they can always get at you. Your territory is their territory. You are being caught in their map or rather you are in their map. Mind games. Think how easy you can be fooled by sleigh of hand. Only it’s no longer on stage.

Whether you can blinker all of them out of your subconscious is debatable. One advantage of being hyperactive is the ability to focus on the subject to hand and blinker out the rest. Not everyone is going to have that kind of protection. My map is staying away from their territory simply because I have no use for a mobile phone or not being manipulated by Net adverts, more so as they rarely get it right.

It is when they become one and the same is the problem and there is little regulation on the Internet. Even if some of the bigger website owners finally agree to regulate, it’s not seen as being a World Wide Web which means there will be some country or other or more out there who will be willing to do what others stop doing. World-wide regulations will be harder to maintain short of blocking countries and you can’t blame all of its citizens for the activities of its governments or its corporations, assuming they don’t work in conjunction with each other.

Bringing even nations like China or Russia into line, will go pretty much agreeing publicly but doing the reverse in private. The rules of espionage after all is say one thing and do another or isd that politicians? Anything for an upper hand in any form of war and there is certainly a digital war going on behind the scenes.

People assume that their free will is still their own, yet it these same people who are the most vulnerable. As geeks, we question everything and, I hope, are aware of this problem but no one is truly safe from such manipulation. We just think we are. It’s more of a worry when our map becomes their territory and they know which strings to pull to get a reaction. Whether it’s inflicting harm to animals, oddly that gets a higher mark than harm to other humans, or greed (think lottery), there is a known reaction to stir a reaction from you. Not good odds. In all of this, it’s all likely to be exploited when algorithms get at any preference you might have.

It’s a world we live in and rather scarily how we are not totally in control of it. This doesn’t mean you can’t fight back. Throw some wobblies at the algorithms by doing something that you know isn’t your taste and see what it throws back. It shows you can take control. If it gives more of that difference then you know you’re misdirecting it away from your real map so it won’t totally predict you.

As these algorithms are mostly automated and deals in group stereotypes, you enter their map and change how they interpret it. If they get it wrong, then it means we are smarter than them. Word of that quickly spreads. We might force others to think for themselves but which is better?

As I was doing the final edit of the above, something occurred to me. Are the people who created these algorithms affected by their own software? When you consider the likes of Bill Gates and others at the top restrict computer use in their homes, that tells you all you need to know.

Thank you, take care, good night and make your own choices, even if this time, it might be one of mine.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: Life is finite, even for tortoises.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: To be better than any algorithm.

The Reveal: The end of the decade isn’t until the end of 2020. After all, since when did we think zero was a number?

Observation: It’s very weird reading the Neal Adams’ Batman stories showing his cowl and cape either connected together or not. Of course, they could be velcroed together but it must be fun trying to put them back together properly.

 Observation: With the sentient and toy carrots that are appearing on British adverts and shops, how long will it be before kids decide not to include them in their diet because they think they are killing them?

 Observation: With the 1986 film ‘Aliens’, if Ripley in the hive had content herself to just kill the remaining three xenomorph soldiers than blasting the queen xenomorph’s egg sac, it wouldn’t have had the incentive to break free to follow her. It’s not as though the nuclear explosion wouldn’t have killed it.

 Observation: The one argument against everyone going vegetarian or vegan is what do you do to control the propagation of farm animals? Do you segregate the sexes or some other form of birth control? That’s not going to work in all situations, so what happens to over-stock and how do farmers look after them without some sort of subsidy, more so as they need space to grow more crops. The latter isn’t always possible, especially in the UK, where there is a lot of rocky terrain not suitable for arable crops. In the end, they will have to control their number and no way to turn them into food. This will force the farmers to have their livestock slaughtered and with no one ready to eat it, wasted. Your choices will ultimately kill animals. Not an easy choice, is it?

 Observation: Where is this idea that flash fiction is up to 1000 words. The idea of flash fiction is telling a story in 20 words or less.

 Computer Observation: It’s very weird how you get used to computer noises that when my back-up computer had a cascade failure and I had to get a replacement that it was so quiet. Granted that there is a funnel around the CPU fan to contain its noise but it does remind me of the necessity of electric cars having to make a noise so you know they are there. I‘m not saying a loud noise, like the laptop fan does at the moment until it settles, just something to remind you it’s there from time to time. Maybe we should have more sound schemes in Windows?

 Computer Observation: I have a feeling where creating a log-in where your date of birth has to be given and the earliest is 1870 that they are either expecting immortals or long-lived people to live.

 Computer Observation: For those of you who want to make a W10 recovery disk(s) but could never figure why it always came up with a fault with a 16gB flash drive, I downloaded mine to a caddied old laptop hard drive and found it takes 24.2gB and a 2 hour download. Be patient on the last half hour as these are the system files. Even so, you would think Microsoft would give the right size needed.

 Computer Observation: Call me old-fashioned but testing your passwords on software that tests how strong they are is also giving it your password details. I would also draw the line on how much personal background details you have on-line, more as banks and such rely on the same questions like your mother’s maiden name and where you were schooled.

 Computer Observation: For those of you who have scanners, I’m not sure who widespread this is across manufacturers or computers, but last month my scanner when plugged in to a live computer didn’t work. I tried it on my back-up computer and the same thing happened. Ergo, the scanner had died. It can happen and I’ve had and used it regularly for a few years now. [This is for individual scanners, I’ve no idea if the same thing applies to all combined scanner/printers but they mostly rely on radio signal unless you have a cable back-up.]

            Oddly, the replacement almost had the same problem but after I installed the software and rebooted, it was fine. However, a week or so later, it happened again. The obvious thought was I had a dud scanner or something wrong with the laptop USB port. Leaving it plugged in when I rebooted, the laptop recognised the scanner again. I left the cable in and switched to the old scanner and it worked. Two live scanners or, rather, a back-up one.

            OK, so leave the scanner cable in the USB port and you can put the scanner elsewhere until you need the table space. You don’t have to reboot to get it to work when you connect the scanner. Of course, it could also be an indication of possible computer failure but this is a solution if you think you have a scanner failure when it might not be one.

 Observation: After Oumuamua and now a new comet entering our star system, if I belonged to an alien species checking us out for a first contact, I would be using such innocuous stellar objects to see how the local inhabitants reacted to them. Would we attack or investigate as threats would tell something about our species. Of course, by doing nothing also shows we don’t have the space travelling credentials neither. Would that change their outlook on us as potential allies or slaves or colonising planets when the local wildlife, that includes us, can be ignored? Mind you, what would they think of our world leaders today? Potent thoughts when it comes to explaining we aren’t all alike to a confused alien visitor.

 Observation: I don’t think headlines says such and such was sold for a record makes it entirely clear. Was it vinyl or CD?

 Feeling Stressed: Try everything before giving up and then try again.

 

Category: Culture

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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