Mediocracy’s Creepy Personal Creep

This sunday’s New York Times was a two-fer for Robot Futures-relevant articles. Natasha Singer in Sunday Business writes the lead article on customized advertising by featuring Rubicon, a startup and a titan in the world of direct digital analytics-driven marketing.  The article shows how traditional, long-term strategies are being displaced by millisecond optimizations and auctions, all based on massive quantitative statistics that are digested at lightning speed by computers to learn just how specific consumers and their specific lifestyles can drive directed advertising. Impressions are no longer democratic. A single thirty-five year-old who has a Twitter account might be worth more than twenty times that of a married mother with an AOL account. This is not just about relative vaue for businesses, but about massive new levels of discrimination and categorization based on every fragment of identity we each have in digital space.  Consumer segmentation gone wild with the power of computing, cookies and personal digital user IDs.  Natasha reveals some of the privacy concerns at the heart of why this trend is worth open discourse; she labels our natural endpoint the “totally traceable society.” Maybe we really will live in a world with glass walls- they are silicon after all, just not quite the same form of glass that Zamiatin imagine in 1921.

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