Monday 30 January 2017

the trumpets shall sound

Let's start off with some Handel, 9 minutes of the trumpets shall sound from the Messiah: play that in the background while you read this. Handel is the past, a deep past where there was no effective health care, huge disparity in wealth, fearsome childhood mortality . . . and sublime music. In The West we have addressed some of these horrors but largely at the price of despoiling the planet to create an illusion of wealth-in-stuff. Unbelievable stuff which I've been addressing on The Blob:
A couple of years before I was born Issac Azimov created the character of Hari Seldon, a psychohistorian with a walk-on part in his Foundation trilogy. Hari Seldon was able to analyse the collective personalities and actions of a mass of people and use these data to predict the future. The future is motoring along to become the present in the predicted manner until an outsider called The Mule, a mutant mentalic, appears who is so different that the algorithm no longer works and chaos threatens. It all works out for the Galaxy in the end but then it is fiction.

I mentioned the red toaster above and originally last July when it came crashing through my e-window trying to sell itself because I'd made an idle enquiry about it on Google.  It was a rather crude play, which served to convince me that Big Data wasn't so scary after all. If a ludicrous kitchen accessory was the worst that electronic capitalism was going to lob in my direction, then I could swat it away and move on with my integrity intact. I was naive because The Man knows more about me than I am comfortable knowing about myself. I heard about this because my pal Rissoles pointed me at an article by a couple of Swiss journalists, Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus, about Big Data getting mobilised with a degree of sophistication. The psycho-number-crunchers are not responding to my poorly articulated desires with a flying toaster but with targeted, personalised messages [social media is so addictive and so real and so self-affirming] about what to do at the next election. Not so much "these aren't the droids you're looking for" as these are the candidates you're voting for.

I'm different from you, but I recognise myself in some people more than others and I often say things like: Jim is just like Ted (and I distrust them both). The Big Data psychometricians [key PNAS paper] can now simplify me to a highly predictable dot in 5 dimensional hyperspace using the OCEAN model. OCEAN is an acronym:
  • Openness (how open are you to new experiences?)
  • Conscientiousness (how much of a perfectionist are you?)
  • Extroversion (how sociable are you?)
  • Agreeableness (how considerate and cooperative are you?)
  • Neuroticism (how sensitive/vulnerable are you?)
You dear reader will be another dot, reasonably close to me because you are reading my guff instead of playing Grand Theft Auto, running in the dark, or polishing your Nazi memorabilia. To the extent that we have a life on-line, The Man knows what our coordinates are and knows how to shift our equilibrium to behave in ways that suit his agenda. Apparently, these goons were employed to good effect by a) Nigel Farrage b) Ted Cruz and c) Donald Trump. Some people have already made a lot of money out of this. "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind" Hosea 8:7. That seems suitably apocalyptic.

Aw shucks, the future is so bleak let's go back and listen to Pachelbel while we may.

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