Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Artifical Mindlessness

I maintain multiple online identities.  I'm sure that is a fairly common practice.  Several of these are quite public - the content produced is available on the public Internet without any login required.  Further, I don't try to conceal who I am via an alias.  Each of these identities shares my last name.  Two of them also use my first name.  The other uses professor or prof in lieu of a first name.

Google, which in other ways seems to be diabolically clever, has not put two and two together.  If you search on my name in Google you won't find my professor identity at all, ironic given that it is in a Google account.  You also won't find my stuff in Twitter.  If you search on my name and Twitter then you'll find that as the first hit, so Google definitely has the information, but without the Twitter keyword in the search Google doesn't deem the content important enough to appear in the search.

This morning I received one in an endless stream of solicitations to complete a survey - only 5 or 10 minutes max they claim - in exchange for a chance to win an Amazon gift card.  This one is about how I am using learning technologies.  My class Website for this past fall is out in the open for anyone to peruse.  Given that actions speak louder than words, what is communicated by such a survey request when the information wanted is already publicly available?

I have also written on the topic, quite a lot if you count stuff on my blog.  Those writings could be perused.  If a robot knew of my multiple online identities could it visit my various public writings in an attempt to answer the sort of questions that the survey wants to get at?  If that is possible, why isn't it happening?  Why do the gift card as possible prize approach, which is cheesy and really doesn't compensate for the time to complete the survey?

Then there are things that I've written about before.  First, there are political solicitations done by email, looking for a cash contribution, sent in the name of some famous politician with whom I'm apparently on a first name basis even though I've never actually met the person.  The inherent insincerity of the approach should defeat it.  Yet the stream of messages doesn't stop, even with the election now in the rear-view mirror.

And there is the rather absurd way that Facebook becomes aware of my Web searches at and then repeats them as ads in the sidebar.  Since I didn't buy the item the first time around, it must be that something else distracted me from that task, so I need a reminder to make the purchase.  What other logic is there to explain this ridiculous practice?

As people contemplate self-driving automobiles they should also consider all the ill informed ways that technology is now used to make our lives feel more cluttered and burdened.   Much of that consequence is unintended.  Yet it abounds. Will we ever get past this phase of technology use?  Or are we doomed to drown in it, with the only way out to get off the computer or portable device? 

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