Category: Social


I visited my parents, brother, and sister-in-law as a surprise in Huntsville, AL. Also by surprise, we filmed a simple video demonstrating kickboxing:

With online social media exploding, personal video production has quickly become mainstream and commonplace. Within my lifetime, it might become how most interpersonal communication is absorbed. As a testament to that hypothesis, my iPhone made and uploaded this video within 3min and 8 clicks:

Life Choice – A decision you've made in the past to a repeating question you'll encounter throughout your life. For example, a vegetarian (by virtue of calling oneself a vegetarian) has made a life choice to avoid eating meat. The vegetarian will never ponder, "Should I have chicken or beef?" Restaurant menus shrink by +50%. Mealtime is now simpler for life. Though it's arguable for better or for worse, there's a definite simplicity benefit.

Humans can only comfortably handle so many options. Most humans pause at a fork in the road. Most humans freeze at a 10-way stop. When the options grow too numerous, we experience what game designers call "option paralysis." We think so long and hard about so many possible options that it's taxing, discomforting, and causes anxiety when we ponder in retrospect.

There's a huge racket for selling life choices. Huge.

Political Parties

Political parties are big businesses that, in part, sell life choices. By choosing "Democrat" or "Republican", your political party is quick to narrow your "valid" choices at each election. Granted, the candidates are performing a service as representatives of the people. After all, I elect and pay the President to make informed, smart, timely decisions so I and the rest of the USA are not burdened with making uninformed, stupid, untimely decisions. But choosing say Libertarian and voting precisely what the party shouts at you, life is simpler.

Religion

Religion is another mass seller of life choices. Religion features answers to life's big questions ("Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going?") that are appealing and comforting. Adopting a religion includes its ideals, rituals, customs, and bunch of choices that are already made for you. Religion often features routine, and routine makes life simpler.

My Life Choices

My life choices are:

  1. Live in a free country.
  2. Never do drugs.
  3. Never drink alcohol.
  4. Never smoke.
  5. Never commit adultery.
  6. Be financially independent.
  7. Stay fit and healthy.
  8. Uphold my integrity.

Looking at it now, I remember being burned on occasion for "missing out on all the fun" just to maintain an imaginary list that is hard to explain in a moment. I've thought them all through and it's burned into my skull a long time ago that the alternatives have too much downside.

And just because I didn't list "Don't murder, rape, and pillage" doesn't mean I'd happily do those things. My parents raised a good boy. Give them credit.

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.