Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.

Living life in the Internet lane.

Don’t forget to leave your free will behind..

Hello everyone

A couple decades back, there was a TV advert series in the UK with a chap left in a white room with a mobile telephone and ordering everything on it, presumably on some level of unlimited funds to survive. Generally, he ordered in food, played games and company for a party, spread over the ads. We don’t see getting the wrong item to be returned or the length of time it takes to arrive or how it and they were passed into said room. One has to presume his toilet was hidden somewhere.

The imagery said ‘instant’ and we know that’s a fiction. A more believable thing would be showing the chap dying of thirst and hunger after 3 days waiting for his purchases to arrive as there was no next day delivery when these adverts were on TV. Adverting rarely matches reality. It’s always useful to remember when something in adverts appeals to you, it’s designed to do so without showing the pitfalls. It isn’t supposed to show true reality and let’s your imagination run wild or, in my case, look at what would really happen. They’re designed to capture a particular part of the population with an image. The bigger the population, the bigger the percentage. We all know how adverts work or at least I hope we do.

I suspect if the advert was re-done today, there would be little difference other than using one of those smartphone thingies which I’ve only heard of but never played with and more visuals using the Net and that some things will arrive faster if you pay for it. Of course, the chances are that you’ll also see a lot more clothes size changes and things being returned if you’re realistic.

Likewise, waiting for the price to drop so you get the best deal. If anything, our reality has changed somewhat because we now share similar experiences on the Internet to know what happens, regardless of who we are, what station in life and where we are in the world. Unless it was done as a bit of fun, which we like in our adverts in the UK, people are now far more aware of the difference between advertising and reality and can be more critical. It doesn’t always work out that way or people wouldn’t trust servers as to just fast their connection lines are.

Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.
Editorial – March 2019: for once, even I can have a rant.

Most of the adverts we see on-line, we recognise as such. I suspect, if you’re like me, you tend to see them as background noise and not pay much attention to them. Mind you, I don’t figure much in any of their templates. Those of you with particular medical problems like mine with type one diabetes will find the same applying to you. Become a minority interest is the best way to become immune to adverts as few cater to us in a big way. We aren’t their definition of ‘average’.

That doesn’t mean new models aren’t being developed for the Internet generation or that they don’t really know what a ‘normal’ or ‘average’ person is. What is worrying is that computer algorithms used to help your search engines to focus on what is thought to be your ‘tastes’ targets you for advertising as such as well. It doesn’t care if you’re a minority interest and just tests everything on you, especially if you show repeat behaviour.

It doesn’t make allowances for people like me where I put in so much random information when I’m doing SFC groundwork like locating various books and other kinds of covers and illustrations so rarely finds a match that would appeal to me. It runs out of ideas when I don’t give much of it a second look at its recommendations.

In many respects, I’m still not being analysed properly so outside of the algorithm protocols. For the rest of you, presuming you don’t throw it wobblies on a continual basis, your tastes are being re-enforced to the point that you don’t see any recommended choices beyond that. Your choices are actually getting limited not widened and controlled by what advertisers would sell to you unless you ignore it and seek out things you actually need. Then again, the algorithm will tend to repeat things. Just how many garden gates or light bulbs do you want in one year let alone a lifetime?

The way the search engine actually throws up things that you have to wonder how it makes particular connections and then realise the threads its making are built on less connected threads, especially when it sometimes includes presidents in any search if you look further down the images gallery. Don’t you ever wonder why this doesn’t affect its buying options? Then again, it doesn’t expect you to look further down the pages and just look at the top options and even accidentally press the advert options by mistake. You don’t really see the least choices that are furthest from where you first look. It’s learning people don’t do full proper inspections.

Whether we want to see such algorithms to challenge you by saying you liked this then you would also like this is also questionable because we have no idea how they can make some connections, especially when you see what the search engines throw up. Are we that complacent that we always want more of the same or something to challenge us from time to time. Either that or humans truly do have conservative tastes that they don’t want to change.

It did make me think further and wondered if people could truly live a life totally dependent on the Internet, even when we know delivery doesn’t match ordering speed. Not that I want to do it myself. After all, I don’t even do social media, mostly because looking at the number of hits SFC gets, I’m sure you see enough of me here anyway. Social media also sounds contradictory because it has the least physical contact. I thought I was insular but I’m made that way. Within a couple generations, assuming computer users still breed, it’ll be a normality that you rarely meet many people in person. It would make Isaac Asimov’s novel ‘The Naked Sun’ (1957) where people avoided social contact scaringly prophetic.

Shopping we all know about but over the past decade, we’re also seeing the odd cracks now where there are some things people prefer to buy in first person than on-line, missing the tactile experience. Think about some of your own choices that way. You can add into that mix the usually seen Internet limits where even ordering next day delivery doesn’t, let alone the right product or out of stock. You would really have to work a lot harder for serendipity to work for you unless you have an inkling for random searches checking some random memory.

You can also become a victim of search engine algorithms which are supposed to observe your interests and offer more of the same, even beyond shopping. However, even if you’re pretty liberal and always out to expand your knowledge and randomly look for anything, these same algorithms will stick to the same routines. In the long term, they work inversely and limit rather than expand your choices, especially if they keep repeating the same things. How often have you used the long river site and it suggests the same products that you’ve already previously bought? Algorithms aren’t perfect so why should we fully trust them?

Of course, to live a life off the Internet, it isn’t all about shopping. What about earning a living? Assuming most of you have heard or use the business connection website ‘Linked In’ as a form of old boy network that throws up jobs that are available. There’s a fair bet that there are a multitude of them so just treat this as an example. Assuming you got through all the job interviews purely by being popular and talented and got the job, would you really be urged to want to change jobs every 5 minutes when they offer something more appealing? Your CV will show just how fickle you are. How to make your head spin without being possessed and spewing green vomit.

Assuming there are enough jobs available, can you see someone starting the morning in one job and moving onto three or four more over the course of the day. With everyone else, but their bosses, doing that I doubt if there would be much continuity, well unless you’re in telephone sales or fraud. Then again, it’s all possible if you work from home and how’s your various bosses to know you’re doing multiple jobs.

The same also applies to changing utility companies where the promotions don’t point out you can’t change right away because of the contract terms. Advertising is never what it seems and most people don’t check the small print. It also assumes that you’ve got plenty of funds and never go into debt. I have a feeling in the long term we are going to see ever more complex algorithms build up computer images of what it thinks you are like. As my old General Semantics background always reminds, ‘the map is not the territory only a representation’ ergo maps of human choices need to be led by humans not by software. What are we if we submit our free will to a non-existence force? Hmmm…we appear to have a history of doing that, even one’s of our own creation.

A consequence of this is you’re going to get a limited version of the world and not even a complete picture and this is beyond what the various hosts will limit searches without telling you about it. If anything, without diverse sources of information, the world would be more of a distorted jigsaw with you only having a small part of it. Ultimately, we would become controlled by our technology and that’s before anyone adds some organic guidance in how you can be convinced, say, in voting for something. Remember last month’s editorial on the point I made about a simple repetition can convince you black is white. How to remove dissent in a generation and no one wiser how they got there.

Worse, you don’t even know the names of the companies and people who do it. Do you really want to be turned into such a soft touch by people you never see and just assume you know and trust their judgement? Get enough trust issues and we can live with some element of distrust and paranoia but better than being persuaded at a drop of a hat or the size of someone’s posterior.

When this is applied to which news feeds to trust, trends that if you followed would quickly become out-of-date, let alone for those inclined that way, celebrity gossip, is it any wonder people now want those running various servers on the Net to have proper verification of what is true than fabricated?

Should we discuss children and their own Internet usage? An upcoming generation that apparently appears to prefer line-feeds to television and ignoring newspapers completely. Mind you, its early days. Young humans are also inclined to be fickle and might even catch on to our nostalgic kick one day although no doubt with improved technology that would flash-feed for their reduced attention span. One can only hope there are some new kids who prefer to watch at a slower speed and question the way we do or should do things.

The heart of Science Fiction is to show such dangers and yet there is nary a word from that direction. Are we all getting truly complacent with our computer technology or fearful that it might be noticing us? This has nothing to do with being a technophobe but all about what we are so easily giving up free will to. Granted it might not be like Skynet but there are still dangers from the seemingly innocuous. More so when there’s no way of knowing how far we’ve come to being that way. It is robbing decision making at a fast rate. Am I the only one worrying about this?

It does make me wonder why no one’s spun a story on any of the extremes above. I can see some of you saying why haven’t I? Hmmm…I’m thinking about it but lacking some elements of personal experience I could get something wrong, although give me time to think of the right handle. Mind you, in SF, when has that stopped anyone? The other problem is would people find such futures appealing when life has moved on that there are no people left to remember the non-Internet days, let alone reading pages of even a short story.

That’s less than a century into the future, assuming climate change doesn’t get us first.

Is this type of digital world something you think would work and you would want to be part of?

Thank you, take care, good night and watch out for infiltrating robots. They aren’t always looking for Sarah Connor but the algorithms that have become a way of life.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

A Zen thought: To think is to decide. To not think is to let someone do it for you.

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: What else but free will.

The Reveal: Is it just me or does everyone have a problem using their laptop to bring down a dropship from the orbiting spaceship?

Observation: In ‘Aliens’, when Newt is dragged underwater by the xenomorph where she awakes about an hour later in the resin nest. One could surmise shock contributed to staying unconscious for so long but unless the xenomorphs practice basic first aid resuscitation (although I doubt if mouth-to-mouth is possible), how did she avoid swallowing water?

For that you need to look at the epiglottis. It’s a skin flap in the throat that ensures your food heads towards your stomach and not your lungs. When you’re suddenly thrown into water, this flap will lock off both your oesophagus (foodpipe) and trachea (windpipe) to stop you taking on water.

 Observation: Considering that Skynet has nuclear powered Terminators, have you ever wondered why it didn’t just nuke the rest of mankind of existence? After all, it didn’t have to worry about CPU/memory damage when it detonated nuclear bombs originally, nor does it have to worry about radiation toxicity. That one I’m less sure about as it depends on how Skynet’s mobile computer equipment might suffer problems in intense radiation areas although what it would be looking for raises a different question. As an earlier article of mine pointed out, Skynet needs humans alive so they can use its temporal technology to ensure its own creation.

 Observation: The current talk of needing a joker on-board the Mars mission has more to do breaking tension than non-stop gags. Even so, the last kind of person you would want on board is a bully.

 Observation: Going back to 1958 or rather forward to the 23rd century in ‘Forbidden Planet’ that no one has ever speculated on what happened to Robbie The Robot when the C-57D returned to Earth. Presumably, the scientists would have liked to dissect the Krell robot but I suspect Robby would have offered his blueprints instead. He might even have made some of the harder parts.

 Observation: We often speculate whether there is other life in the galaxy and wonder whether this ‘other life’ in more advanced stages than us aren’t out there looking for it. Forgetting the restraints of distance, after a few examples, wouldn’t these aliens become satisfied and didn’t bother to go any look further. That’s not just an alien failing, look at how quickly humans lost interest in travelling to the Moon in a couple years. Maybe complacency is universal?

 Observation: Granted that the Newcomers or Tenctonese from ‘Alien Nation’ have probably got keener senses than humans, although George Francisco wore sunglasses, I did wonder if any of them wore contact lenses? Then I had a thought. Humans clean their non-disposable contacts in saline solution, which is essentially salt water, which is harmful to the Tenctonese. When the original film came out in 1988 and the TV series from 1989-1990, disposable contact lenses didn’t exist until 1995, so the Tenctonese never had any choice.

 Observation: Would it be fair to say that criminal vampires would be wanted dead and alive?

 Feeling Stressed: If your computer suddenly switches to Table Mode and your wallpaper is dulled and you can’t get rid of the apps filling the screen and you have no window size control, then you need to do the following:-

Select Settings – System.

Select Table Mode option 1 and turn it off or rather press the button again.

Reboot and everything should get back to normal.

Beats spending two hours finding out what happened and how to change it back.


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