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Perils of the FaceBook Generation: Would you Predict the Future?

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The Power of Prediction

Would you predict the future if you could? Most would say yes to this question, however, popular movies like “Paycheck” outline the possible perils of knowing the future on a global scale quite clearly. But, what if by analyzing the past behavioral patterns of the 7,075,852,677 people on the planet earth you knew with 95% confidence what people wanted, when they would want it, where they would want it, and how they would want it? Imagine the power, influence, and wealth you would have knowing what amounts of commodity “x” people would want or need at any given time.

This idea may seem to most, at first glance, a pure exercise in speculation. Some may even view it as a “tin foil hat” conspiracy theory, however, unfortunately for us all it is the truth based on empirical evidence, current events, and the reality of electronic eavesdropping.

Be warned if you are ignorant and wish to remain in “bliss” that you will learn how we are all “rats in a maze” negotiating a predefined life course set forth by the demographics associated with our socioeconomic status at birth, social Darwinism, and electronic data collection. Our blind faith in what was “once upon a time” the American dream propels us forward with blinders on oblivious to the ever-changing landscape around us as we traverse the blind allies and dead ends in search of  the elusive “cheese” that defines our existence.

Whether we chose to accept it or not, at this very moment, our individuality is for sale to the highest bidder.  The “big stick toting” American government, “Big Business”, the anonymous aristocracy, and the ruling class all stand to benefit from driving social behavior to a set endpoint. Because maintaining the status quo within an ever-increasing population demands more stringent “control limits” as the proportional increase in social complexity and noise that accompanies this growth poses a significant risk to the stability of the current “system”. And, Lord knows the “fat cats”, politicians, and others in power wish to maintain this “system” so their progeny may enjoy the same privilege and wealth they did while oppressing and deluding the masses in order to maintain the working class.  The worst part is with every text message, social post, and email we send we not only authorize it we actively condone it!

How Do They Predict The Future?

So how does one go about predicting future behavior? The simple answer is mathematical modeling based on a large set of personal, local, and global data. Where does this data come from? The data used to “target” your behavior comes directly from you; every search you do online, every item you purchase with a “membership card”, every tweet, like, and +1 you post. In some instances, it even comes from the context of your personal email.

  1. “…we may use your Google search queries on the Web, the sites you visit, Google Profile, +1’s and other Google Account information to show you more relevant ads in G mail.” (Retrieved from Google.com)
  2. “…Android apps …give the app maker your full name, email address and the neighborhood where you live…without clear warning...” (Retrieved from Scroogled.com)

In essence, your individuality is being collected, analyzed, and in some instances sold! The worst part about this is that we willingly participate in the wholesale monitoring, collecting, and sale of our unique human identity without regard for our personal privacy, or the threat to our personal identity that it poses.

However, the processing and analysis of large data sets called “data mining” existed long before the widespread adoption of the internet. Moreover, in some instances, the use of personal behavior was quite innocuous and mildly beneficial like a supermarket reducing their costs and freeing up cash flow by utilizing a “just in time” inventory system based on data collected from membership cards issued to its patrons. This practice is not inherently evil as many times it allows manufacturers and retailers to offer discounted prices, which provides direct material benefit to the end consumers providing the information.

Another interesting use of historical data set forth by an employee of Microsoft.com actually goes into detail about how to prevent future catastrophic events by analyzing historical data and news events along with an advanced mathematical formula.  This use of global data for the good of all humanity should be applauded.  However, the fact that we get ever closer to predicting the future using "Asmovian" like Psycho-Historical methodologies does bring about some ethical dilemmas about knowing to much about possible or probable future events.  Nevertheless, the fact remains that such predictive formulas, albeit in their infancy, do exist. Moreover, with time the accuracy and precision of these mathematical models will increase making them a usable means of foreseeing future events with some degree of confidence (just ask the NSA).

   3. “We describe and evaluate methods for learning to forecast forthcoming events of interest from a corpus containing 22 years of news stories. We consider the examples of identifying significant increases in the likelihood of disease outbreaks, deaths, and riots in advance of the occurrence of these events in the world.” (Retrieved from Microsoft.com)

In fact, analysts in the global market place already use predictive mathematical modeling to predict human behavior, and the future.  Some of these models, that predict behavior, utilize Fibonacci sequences. Fibonacci sequences, and derivatives of them, help determine psychological points that will cause "resistance" or create "support".  For example, a very good and useful product used to cost ten dollars, but now costs five dollars. This product psychologically now becomes viewed as a “value” and demand for the product at the “value” price level will prevent it from going lower.  Conversely, a product that rises from ten dollars to twenty dollars becomes “expensive” and if this increase occurred rapidly, it may cause a decline in demand at the new higher price called “resistance”.  In both of these instances, a process called “retracement” may occur. This process restores a sense of equilibrium between the skewed “value” by bring the price back into a perceptual “fair value” range.  Knowing the mathematical values, typically calculated in percent, of when these events usually occur allows an investor to predict when to enter or exit a position with a certain degree of accuracy. Therefore, it should be easy to see how on daily basis financial experts do “predict” future events utilizing historical data and mathematical models of human behavior.

 4. "Nature relies on this innate proportion to maintain balance, but the financial markets also seem to conform to this 'golden ratio.' Here we take a look at some technical analysis tools that have been developed to take advantage of it." (Retrieved from Investopedia.com)

So What

So what has changed with the widespread adoption of the internet? I argue it to be a matter of scale rather than actual practice. Best described in Plato’s “The Republic” we stand at the precipice of a great societal change. The scale and scope of which is best outlined by the passage below which highlights the wholesale “theft” of identities from an entire society as a much more acceptable (if not applauded) practice than the reprehensible act of personal identity theft from an individual.

 5. “Tyranny is not a matter of minor theft and violence, but of wholesale plunder, sacred and profane, private or public. If you are caught committing such crimes in detail you are punished and disgraced; sacrilege, kidnapping, burglary, fraud, theft are the names we give to such petty forms of wrongdoing. But when a man succeeds in robbing the whole body of citizens and reducing them to slavery, they forget these ugly names and call him happy and fortunate, as do all others who hear of his unmitigated wrongdoing.” (H.D.P. Lee)

So, why then do we allow the intrusive practices that monitor our individual behavior patterns and personal identities? Is it because we turn a blind eye to the significant risks to our personal freedom that these types of monitoring practices caused in the recent historical past? Do we choose to give up our hard fought for personal freedoms intentionally? Do we sell out our civil liberties and unique identities in exchange for “free” services? Perhaps the great philosopher Plato can once again shed some light on the subject:

 6. “The excessive freedoms granted to the citizens of a democracy ultimately leads to a tyranny, the furthest regressed type of government. These freedoms divide the people into three socioeconomic classes: the dominating class, the capitalists and the commoners. A tension between the dominating class and the capitalists causes the commoners to seek out protection of their democratic liberties. They invest all their power in their democratic demagogue, who, in turn, becomes corrupted by the power and becomes a tyrant with a small entourage of his supporters for protection and absolute control of his people.” (Retrieved from Wikipedia)

Whatever the personal reason is for you, the outcome of allowing these practices to continue in the long-term is a clear one. As Plato stated in "The Republic" the ultimate fate of all political systems, including democratic systems is tyranny. As you can see from the progression of political decay outlined by Plato: "timocracy, oligarchy, democracy and tyranny." (retrieved from Wikipedia)

Therefore, it would appear we are just one-step away from our final destination tyranny. Just look at the widespread increase in classism highlighted by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement (http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-solution-developing-a-true-direct-democracy/). You do not have to have psychic powers to see the writing on the wall so open your eyes and realize that the global theft of identity actually breaks down to a personal theft of identity that affects you personally. Choose to protect your future and the future of your children before it is too late. Use your voice and speak up for your personal freedoms, civil liberties, and right to choose before the choice is made for you! Are you 1 of 7,075,852,677 or are you an individual? If you are the latter I dare you to be a “Jane, Joe, or Jack” not just another commodity with an ISBN number. As fitting into a stereotype only perpetuates the status quo.  Before you come to a hasty conclusion Ask yourself these question “Am I happy with the way things are?”, “Do I want more for my children than I currently have?”, and finally “Do I have the same opportunities afforded to the aristocracy?”   

Citation:

  1. “Ads in Gmail – Gmail Help” last modified Mar 29, 2013, http://support.google.com/mail/answer/6603?hl=en&ctx=gmail
  2. Kira Radinsky , Eric Horvitz “Mining the Web to Predict Future Events”, Paper presented at WSDM’13, February 4–8, 2012, Rome, Italy. Copyright 2013 ACM 978-1-4503-1869-3/13/02, http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/horvitz/future_news_wsdm.pdf
  3. “GOOGLE SHARES YOUR PERSONAL INFO WITH APP MAKERS” Accessed Wed, 10 Apr 2013 23:56:50 GMT , http://www.scroogled.com/
  4. "Fibonacci And The Golden Ratio " last modified February 18, 2009, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/technical/04/033104.asp
  5. “Republic”, 344a-c, H.D.P. Lee translation, Penguin Books, 1955, p.73.
  6. ”The Republic (Plato)”, last modified on 9 April 2013 at 14:12, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Republic_%28Plato%29
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