You For Sale: Here Comes the New Mediocracy

In today’s Sunday New York Times, Natasha Singer profiles the company Acxiom, describing how data mining is becoming more individualized data refining in a bid to directly modify the shopping habits of consumers at levels of efficacy far exceeding the state of the art. Welcome to my first Robot Futures vignette, new mediocracy, in which the arrows of time point toward ever-great conversion of individual behavior to individualized marketing and on to individual purchasing.  In this article, one quote from Pam Dixon of the World Privacy Forum suggests a very odd form of unfairness indeed: people deemed “low-value” may have fewer discounts, vacation packages and marketing offers in their various in-boxes. They’re cheated out of spending more money whilst “high-value” individuals- who reliably turn a discount into a wallet-sapping excursion get all the attention. Of course the privacy issues are signficant in this realm, as is the question of authenticity and personal authority- which the article does not spend sufficient text explaining. What happens to our sense of choice if apparent choice is actually explicitly manipulative marketing of ever-greater efficiency and opacity?

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