“BUT I DIDN’T ORDER THIS!”: PREDICTIVE BEHAVIOR AND ...February 2, 2014
A few weeks ago I blogged about the emergence of massive databanks and predictive programs that can model aggregate population behavior. Indeed, when the Edward Snowden/NSA spying scandal broke, I was one of those who remained skeptical both about Snowden, and about whether the NSA surveillance program was ultimately about "combatting terrorism." It seemed then, and still seems to me now, that the computational power that one is talking about with the NSA program, and the massive capabilities alleged for its Utah data facility, are about more than terrorism. To be sure, it is about national security, but in a world so much in international finance(and stop and think about it for a moment, even in our personal lives and finance) is conducted online via computer trading algorithms and so on, that the ability to track such transactions and archive them is itself a legitimate national security concern, both against cyber warfare attacks, and against any external pressures or forces that could intervene in such markets via other external means and technologies.
I have also offered the speculation that such computational power and tracking is also a form of financial leverage, since such an enormous amount of data could also be used to model and game various scenarios of predictive behavior in targeted population groups, both as a matter for policy formation and even as a way to gauge the future behavior of this or that market.
Additionally, as regular readers here will be aware, over the past week or so, I have also been blogging about the various technologies that are emerging and changing the world at a pace never even approximated by any previous age of transition in human history. We are indeed living in a transhumanist, "psycho-physical" age, and here it is worth recalling that one of the four technologies mentioned by transhumanists in their basket of GRIN technologies - genetics, robotics, information, and nano-technologies - is precisely information processing and modeling.
Major corporations are now entering the data collection and modeling arena as never before, and it will shortly transform the corporate world with even greater capabilities not only to keep track of inventories, but more importantly, to predict behavior both of groups and of individuals and to plan their inventory stock and ordering accordingly, and this, in turn, will help to reduce overheard. One such corporation, one with which I deal on a regular basis, is amazon, the mega-sized online bookseller:
For those who are old enough to remember, consider yet another area in which immense and detailed data collection on a local level, coupled with computer-aided modeling, has dramatically improved prediction: weather forecasting. Today's television weather reports are a far cry from those of even one or two decades ago, and for those of us living in tornado plagued states, this forecasting is now able to predict with an accuracy not even imagined when we were children, what path a tornado is likely to take.
And as the article already avers, this technology is already being used in the distopian Philip K. Dick "Department of Pre-Crime" ways. All the more reason as we enter this psycho-physical age to insist even more on the sanctity and sovereignty of the individual person. Just because statistics say an individual's behavior is 90% likely to be "this" and not "that" does not mean one can criminalize the "this" ahead of time.
But like it or not, all of us, be we Chancellors or Charwomen, are being watched, surveilled, and psychologically profiled.
So have fun with it... toss them a calculated monkey-wrench from time to time... but to do that, you not only have to know how to think analogically, but also what constitutes an inept analogy...
See you on the flip side.