Social networking (Facebook et al) is mankind's newest and most powerful technology. It represents human interaction moving at the speed, depth, and globalism of the internet.

It's compelling

Humans need other humans. Socializing quickly and effectively helps satisfy this need. Stalking your current/previous love interests aside.

It's easy

At one point in my lifetime, it was "novel" or "brainy" to send electronic messages and type words rather than take pen to paper or talk on the phone. Now…are you serious?

It's profitable

Now the ethical questions come to the forefront. Facebook has at its disposal the largest organized searchable personal database in human history. The question is…how to ethically profit off that without alienating its userbase?

Take these ads that I noticed on my screen:

Facebook Advertisements

That is a collection of the fiercest targeted advertising I have ever seen.

  1. With my penchant for non-competitive sports, a drilling by SEALs is an extreme for me but not an impossibility.
  2. With a master's in computer science with emphasis in artificial intelligence, I'm in less than 1% of the humans that could conceivably switch into such a career.
  3. Yay Magic cards!

The magnitude of such focused ads is unprecedented. Normally, ads can only deliver a message as universal and simple as "It tastes like butter!" or "Use this product and chicks will desire you!" because the ad has to blanket a large audience with short attention spans through a highly-trafficked channel.

Internet ad engineered to shock rather than compel click-throughs

However, only I see my Facebook page, and only I need to be sold by an ad. All three of these ads had me at least thinking about them long after I closed my browser. What such ads be like in 20 years? I imagine my brother on webvideo beckoning me with a tear in his eye to buy him a surprise subscription to Mac Server dev tools as a birthday present. Except my "brother" was an on-the-fly animated character using video and voice samples Facebook compiled from conversations and the script was computed based on logic deductions of the intersection of "things my brother mentioned he likes", "things he doesn't have," and "things I could afford."

Scary.

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