Tag Archives: Twitter

The Party’s Over: It’s A New Generation Now


And so the fallout from Edward Snowden continues. As the saga draws on (is he about to become a Russian citizen or not?) we overlook the bigger story: the Internet, as we know it, is dead.

As reported in The Guardian, the Internet is facing several inexorable trends: balkanization along nationalistic lines, the outreach of governments and outright commercial control.

When first instituted, the Internet was regarded as an open, totally free place of informational exchange: an ‘Interzone’ of sorts (to coin William Gibson) but now as time marches on, this is no longer accurate. Now, China and other nations routinely censor and control input and output of Internet access: Twitter is throttled, Google is curbed along with a host of other outlets. In some nations, the notion of a free and open Internet is practically banned outright, while in the so-called bastions of freedom (United States, Great Britain and Western Europe as a whole) internet surveillance is now the norm.

In the meantime, we’re starting to see pricing schemes reflective of the (overlooked) class system: if you want more Internet access (or more speed / faster access) you can expect to pay more for it. Libraries both domestically and internationally are facing cutbacks and thus limiting even more access for those who do not possess a computer, while premiums are being put in place on those who wish to participate on the so-called medium of ‘free exchange’.

In John Naughton’s excellent article, “Edward Snowden’s Not the Story. The Fate of the Internet Is” (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet) these issues were illustrated with a striking clarity.

And if you think you’re safe reading this article, better start changing the way you think. Of course, there’s the old chestnut: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.


People make mistakes, especially in government, law enforcement and the military. It’s not too uncommon for wrongful arrests to take place; false accusations to spread or outright misunderstandings to take place leaving in the wake of ruined lives, reputations and personal financial disasters.

And now, as recently reported by Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA (National Security Agency) employees can readily access emails, phone records and other information. (Really? No kidding!) So if you’re a file clerk who happens to be working for the NSA, you can review your family, friends or neighbors phone records, internet trolling history or other information (such as keeping tabs on that girl who dumped you last month).

If you just happen to be involved in a domestic dispute or a lawsuit with a government or corporate entity, expect to see your records accessed and reviewed as a matter of course.

It’s obvious ‘file access’ of these and other types routinely take place in various levels of government within the United States beyond just the federal levels. Sometimes, data accessed is utilized for political purposes: somebody running for office seeking out information about their worthy adversary. Other times, it’s for personal reason: divorce, outright personal hostility and an agenda of revenge. Don’t think it can’t happen: it does – and it happens more often than folks care to admit, taking place beyond just the federal level as well. Local governments and their officials have increasingly been caught reviewing private citizen records, through such supposedly secure information bases as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), credit history lookups, billing histories along with a host of other sources.

But what is remarkable is the lack of public response. You’d think with Glenn Greenwald’s recent expose, they’d be a bigger outcry. In fact, just the opposite: we’re witnessing a generational change. What was once a sacred domain – privacy – is now becoming a thing of the past. Younger generations are surrendering their privacy in a multitude of ways – putting up pictures of their ‘lost’ weekend  on Facebook; running commentary and personal attacks on social boards; personal commentary depicting their sexual activity or other ‘personal ‘ issues on their Twitter accounts – the list goes on.

Although privacy is still a sore point with a number of folks, the younger generation coming up are akin to those old timers who lived during the atomic age: expecting a blow up to happen, the atomic age generation held a diffident viewpoint of life with an expectation of being blown up at some point. Now, in the age of Big Brother, the younger generation is becoming inured to the notion of being watched 24 x 7, going about their business and even posting some of their more intimate scenes in public settings because, well, that’s what a lot of people do.

This one of the fallout of living in the Age of Surveillance: one becomes used to being watched and, in fact, embraces it to the point where they simply let it all hang out. Expecting our records to be reviewed and exposed is something many now expect. Sure, folks aren’t thrilled by it, but what are you gonna do about it? – so goes the argument.

All of this is bad enough, but add into the mix the notion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and bizarre (disturbing) alliances – such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Amazon coming together (see my prior post on this development), along with Google’s all-out effort’s to develop AI (likewise posting earlier), things are taking on a darker trend: it will soon be more than just being able to read your information, but actually read who you are – and what you’re really about, even if you don’t know yourself.

Prediction: expect to see Internet profiling to become the new norm. Just as we’ve witnessed the distasteful practice of racial profiling undertaking by State law enforcement officials on the national highways, we can expect to see something similar taking place in the coming years via our records, our book and music purchases along with any other activity we undertake.

So next time, if you can, remember to bend over and give the camera a moon; we all could use a laugh.

Let’s all give the AI’s something to mull over.

More Shameless Promotion: “Tweet: The Book”

cover_tweetOkay, I admit it: I’m guilty but dammit, somebody’s got to do it as my marketing budget is, frankly, flat.

So what does shamelessly self-promoting my latest book have anything to do with the ongoing critique and review of technology and social trends that you’ve come to know and enjoy here at Shockwaverider?

It’s all about the tweets.

Twitter is a fast growing social phenomenon. Stop and think about it: if you could say something in 140 characters as opposed to a e-mail (who writes letters anymore?), which would you do? Right – you’d probably (along with the rest of us ) tweet away!

Which brings up an important point: to what extent is the value of our messages getting subdued? When you stop and think about it, you lose a lot in 140 characters.

As recently as several weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported on a new recruiting trend: tweet resumes. That’s right: here’s your chance to distil everything you learned though hard experience, years of toil and umpteen amounts of student loans – into 140 characters.

Kind of makes you really want to get out of bed, doesn’t it?

Building on that notion, What “Tweet: The Book” does is to conduct a re-write of history: making it all into tweets.

Actually, it was kind of fun: like eating potato chips, only not as greasy or as many crumbs and not as fattening.

So feel free to go to Smashwords (see link below) and download a copy. Laugh at what Napoleon might’ve said at Moscow; marvel at what Thomas Edison (could have) had to say about Tesla or finally learned what the Mona Lisa REALLY was smiling about (well, maybe not but we’ll never really know, although I like my reason the best).

There’s even a few ‘Tweet Haiku’s” thrown in for good measure – and for good laughs.

And yes, stay tuned for “Tweet: The Movie” where all dialogue is no more than 140 characters long.



PS: for $2.00 US dollars you can’t go wrong,…!

We Think Therefore We Are: The Study of Collective Intelligence

Endless studies have been made regarding analyzing the nature of human intelligence as individuals, but now with the growth of the Internet and social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), new models and approaches are being called upon as the new field of ‘Collective Intelligence‘ comes to the fore.

Collective intelligence is simply what its name implies: studying the nature of intelligence as a series of groups or collectives. And the man who’s leading the development of this new field is Thomas Malone of MIT (http://io9.com/5962914/the-emerging-science-of-collective-intelligence–and-the-rise-of-the-global-brain). As Dr. Malone put it:

I’d define collective intelligence as groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. By that definition, of course, collective intelligence has been around for a very long time. Families, companies, countries, and armies: those are all examples of groups of people working together in ways that at least sometimes seem intelligent.

Well, at this point, one has to point out that groups of people don’t always act intelligently – at least not in ways that we may regard as being smart – as Dr. Malone also pointed out:

It’s also possible for groups of people to work together in ways that seem pretty stupid, and I think collective stupidity is just as possible as collective intelligence. Part of what I want to understand and part of what the people I’m working with want to understand is what are the conditions that lead to collective intelligence rather than collective stupidity. But in whatever form, either intelligence or stupidity, this collective behavior has existed for a long time.

So what does any of this have to do with the price of beans in China, you may ask? After all, it all seems kind of obvious when you think about it (as the old saying goes, ‘a person is smart; a group of people aren’t’).

Think again:

What’s new, though, is a new kind of collective intelligence enabled by the Internet. Think of Google, for instance, where millions of people all over the world create web pages, and link those web pages to each other. Then all that knowledge is harvested by the Google technology so that when you type a question in the Google search bar the answers you get often seem amazingly intelligent, at least by some definition of the word “intelligence.”

Or think of Wikipedia, where thousands of people all over the world have collectively created a very large and amazingly high quality intellectual product with almost no centralized control. And by the way, without even being paid. I think these examples of things like Google and Wikipedia are not the end of the story. I think they’re just barely the beginning of the story. We’re likely to see lots more examples of Internet-enabled collective intelligence—and other kinds of collective intelligence as well—over the coming decades.

If we want to predict what’s going to happen, especially if we want to be able to take advantage of what’s going to happen, we need to understand those possibilities at a much deeper level than we do so far. That’s really our goal in the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, which I direct. In fact, one way we frame our core research question there is: How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any person, group or computer has ever done before? If you take that question seriously, the answers you get are often very different from the kinds of organizations and groups we know today.

Collective intelligence analysis is a field which reviews how people think on a collective basis (which brings to mind Isaac Asimov’s famous “Foundation” series in which a futuristic galactic Empire’s eventual collapse and fall is predicted by a so-called “psycho-historian” who creates his magnum opus involving a detailed plan of the galaxy’s future foretelling the fall of The Empire – and then developing a detailed plan for establishment of a replacement Empire by predicting how people will behave in terms of groupings – ala presumably collective intelligence analysis – and all of this 1,000 years after the fall!).

All sounds far-fetched? Perhaps. But as many stock market programs and financial market computer services functions following the 1987 stock market crash, systems have been put in place to prevent ‘panics’ or other group / market scenes in anticipation of how the herd acts (as the old saying goes, ‘it’s fear and greed which largely motivates Wall Street’) – and understanding how the herd thinks (depending, of course, which herd you’re looking at) is now, more than ever before, important.

We’re talking about big money here – and much, much more than just about money.

We live in a crowded world with diminishing resources: the ice caps are melting, population groupings becoming restless (witness the recent study regarding the so-called Arab Spring riots collating directly to rising food prices – http://www.mindfulmoney.co.uk/13103/sector-watch-/the-economic-consequences-of-rising-commodity-prices.html). With all of this, it’s now – more than ever before – a matter of our survival to know and understand how people think, especially in terms of groupings as there are as few things as dangerous as when groups of people come together (anything can happen: an impromptu football game, a sudden Shriner’s parade – or worse!).

It’s also worth noting that understanding how groups of people work is also fundamental to the success of any political / electoral undertaking.

So what; old news. We’ve all come to expect and realize how people behave badly (or otherwise) in large groupings.

Not really.

All of this also underscores a subtle – but very significant development – which Dr. Malone points out: where do we draw the line between collective intelligence and cognitive intelligence inherent within our computer networks? It’s becoming more and more like the ‘push / pull’ scenario: who or what is doing which? Or can we ever really tell?

This distinction is one that’s becoming more and more blurred – and only promises to continue doing so as we become more and more intermeshed with our social media / computer networks. Who we are is increasingly being defined as part of a greater electronic vision of ourselves: at what point does the mirror reflect upon itself and its electronic image – and not just directly on us?

No matter how you look at it, there is tremendous potential within this field of study. Perhaps with a little luck, we can not only understand how and why groups of people behave as they do, perhaps we could eventually figure out how to keep them from doing stupid things.