This one is more aimed at naysayers who still want to pretend that technology is neutral. Perhaps anti-civ community members could use this example if/when they find their selves in a discussion with someone that just doesn’t get it.
So, there’s a TV series called ‘Black Mirror’, which is a pretty good critique of technology. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to watch the first episode of Season 3, which revolves around a woman’s struggle for popularity. The world she inhabits is nothing more than an exaggerated form of today’s obsession with ‘likes’ and ‘upvotes’, wherein people have a social rating out of 5, which determines much of their future interactions with people. People who have a rating of more than 4 don’t want to be seen with people who have less than 4, and so on. Turns out this nightmare may not even be much of an exaggeration…
Because…the other thing I’ve been doing lately is looking for apartments and roomshares (within a 45 mile radius of Fairfield, CA, if you know of anywhere good!), and many of the prospective roommates and landlords are using a service called Roomster to vet people. I can understand people wanting to use something to give them a bit of peace of mind about the person they’ll be sharing with or renting to, but there appears to be something nefarious about Roomster.
In order to sign up for Roomster, you HAVE to have a Facebook account. Having not had one for many years, I was not happy about making one, but the need to have somewhere to live is more pressing than the need to stick to my principles rigidly, so I made an account with some vague details and added my family and few friends.
After signing up, I was immediately told that my account had been deleted because it did not conform to their standards. After pressing them further by email and asking that they reinstate it so I could contact certain people about their apartments/rooms, I was told that my ‘social graph’ was not good enough. So basically, I did not have a high enough rating to use the service.
[EDIT: After probing further, I’ve discovered that the ‘social graph’ means how many friends you have (on Facebook, not in real life) and how often you send short, insubstantial messages to them. The logic of this setup (including the association with renters) means that a person who uses a computer to constantly post information online is seen as more social than a person who eschews the computer in favour of real interactions. More virtual madness…]
Perhaps this is overly anecdotal to be of any value to others, but I just thought that it was an interesting example of how technology creep works. Might the day come when a Facebook account itself is compulsory, if not by law but because all other service providers want to use it to interrogate the concept of ‘who you are’? Might they treat you according to your ‘social graph’?
These are dark days…