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The Internet tailored to your needs?

01/07/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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Is it just me worrying about this or has it just not occurred to enough other people yet? Sometimes, something insidious creeps into our lives that we take for granted, even if it has innocent intent, before realising its got very negative aspects.

Hello everyone

Is it just me worrying about this or has it just not occurred to enough other people yet? Sometimes, something insidious creeps into our lives that we take for granted, even if it has innocent intent, before realising its got very negative aspects. Youíve probably seen it through the likes of the long river website where if you look at a product, their automatic emails will show you similar products, even if youíve actually bought and not likely to need another one, as if youíre collecting a set, for a decade or so. Presumably the software hasnít been programmed to realise you wouldnít need more than one of the same, let alone if youíve bought it. However, it does get you used to the idea of software targeting your needs or does it? How does it really know your needs when youíre just curious?



In some respects, if it keeps products or subjects away from you through your lack of interest then arenít you going to eventually think such things donít exist if thatís your only buying source? Youíd be limiting your choices. In a generation or two, youíll have people who have to rely on other people to suggest what they might like, except that they probably wonít have any ideas themselves and have to rely on mobile phone apps to tell them what they should buy which means youíre open prey to whatever any company wants to chuck at you as you walk past. The good thing is you probably wonít have to rely on opposing advertisers anymore but would they share their discount with you?

If youíre shaking your head thinking that would never happen then look at what is happening with the Internet search engines and apps arenít too far behind where there is an option where you tailor choices to your personal choice, so the software can remove spurious choices from being selected. In some ways, you might think that as an improvement. I mean, how often have you selected a choice, flipped it to look at images only and found the inexactitude of the search engine including nearest approximations simply because it isnít sentient enough to know when to stop. Would it make you want to have things tailored specific to your needs? Is your finger wavering over that button command? Are you that willing to let a machine or program do your thinking for you?

How far can such limitations go before it removes entire subject because it doesnít see it as something you would be interested in? Without a wide knowledge but a belief that your software is doing the right thing, who then is in control? You or the search engine? With ignorance becoming an issue, a choice option based off your bias or lack of interest could impair any knowledge you would seek out. It would make you more of an isolationist and rather scaringly, if linked to any chat group you belong to could make you believe you live in a miniature microcosm where little else belongs because your Ďfriendsí have the same lack of knowledge. I knew a chap last year who didnít believe censorship was rife in the USA, despite all the evidence I showed to the contrary, his alternative website server wouldnít reveal it to him, even when I gave the links, they werenít recognised. Although the limiter might have been websites it couldnít access, it seemed odd that it could blanket out an entire subject but that is what would happen with limiting to personal choices. I mean, arenít giving personal choices as limiters going to go down this route and more importantly, shouldnít you be worried? After all, it removes free choice and is therefore a form of censorship. They say ignorance is bliss but it ends up with the same mentality as those who blindly follow their sat-nav devices then we have a world-wide problem that hasnít even been covered in Science Fiction yet. I could write a story about it but your personal choice search engine might not show it to you.

If all Iím describing is a worse case scenario, then now is the time not to choose that route and keep the current nice case scenario. It can get so out of hand and how can we change things afterwards? Would the search limiter allow you to back out short of an identity change? It might think you donít really mean it as free will is not one of your options.

Of course, there are people who are going to choose this option but they can learn from experience? Either point them to this editorial or tell them yourself of the dangers of limited choice. We might be at the brink of the pod creatures only theyíll actually be some of us and they wonít believe us because they canít access this on the Net. Frightening thought, isnít it? Big Brother wonít need to watch us, just let us limit the information we let ourselves see and be spoon-fed whatever companies want to sell us. Free will and choice out the window. After all, they would have a captive audience who have shown themselves willing to limit our choices. Considering, for the most part, many of us ignore the adverts that litter the Internet, when they are tailored to you, that choice is no longer open. Youíll have given sufficient information so they know what bait will attract your attention.

Does that send a chill down your spine or someone walking over your potential future grave, made to your own specification? We all live in microcosm worlds but at least we let others into it by our own choice. Letting software doing it for you is not an easy option, just very dangerous to your personal freedoms. Excuse me, I have to take a hammer to the pod growing in my basement while you ponder on the implications yourself. Think what it means to press that button.

Thank you, take care, good night and remember what personal choice is all about. Itís yours to make.

Geoff Willmetts
editor: SFCrowsnest.co.uk

Observation: Having watched ĎOne Million Years B.C.í and ĎWhen Dinosaurs Ruled The Earthí, shouldnít they be classed as foreign language films as thatís what these humans use to talk with?

A Zen thought:Death is the biggest frustration with life, mostly because you canít escape it happening, only delay when it happens.

NB: Anyone interested in reviewing books for me, especially fantasy and military SF, as we have a surfeit of books, and lives in the UK should contact me through gfwillmetts@hotmail.com. Iím always recruiting and details are through a link on the top of the SFC main page and in the SFC Forum for this and articles and stories as well.

If youíve on a budget, a book for a review is a good bargain and I can teach the nervous how to do it by seeing what you do when you present a sample. Itís a good deal. We get books in a variety of formats these days so all things are possible to those with the knack for putting words into sentences.

PPS Donít forget to join on in the new SFCrowsnest Forum. Join up and express your thoughts in leaving typed words that make sentences. Iíve noticed many of you are joining up but the Forum isnít supposed to be a passive site. Remember the editorial above. Iím not advocating a vow of silence. Well, unless youíre a monk but I doubt if that precludes typing. Are you going to be a lurker or a typer??!! Remember the editorial above, passivity is for sheep not a sentient species. The number of hits shown on the Forum arenít daily, but for every ten minutes! Write something and others will respond if you have something to say. Equally, you could just be a guest and look around, especially as we release a lot of news that way, but the more the merrier when you have something to say.
We havenít been spammed since inception with this new version now so you should feel safe to come and communicate on anything Science Fiction. Iím dying to see you people fill in the survey polls. They wonít bite yíknow and are active when you sign in and you must be dying to find out why I consider Element Lad the most powerful Legionnaire. Iím still pondering on any differences with the current changes in the DC Universe will have on that idea.

Speaking of the Forum, if you want up-to-date info of book signings, news and such, have a peak. You donít have to sign up to have a look as to when these things are happening and Iíve yet to hear of a flash crowd turning up for such things but thereís always the first time. Weíre not libel for that if you do such a thing, just to keep my boss happy.

Donít forget, Iím always on the lookout for new reviewers as well as articles, interviews and stories and after some recent changes, letís see if the full details about that appears below. If they donít then look in the new Forum or on the link line at the top of the main page. For potential book reviewers in the UK, itís a good way to keep up your reading habit and show you can write. There are detail links scattered over the website and on the forum. If you donít think youíre up to scratch, youíll discover why Iím the dutch uncle.

Another real Zen thought but this time for potential writers: If you can express an opinion independently of others and arenít likely to bend to the masses then you might show potential as a writer.

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The all-new SFcrowsnest is now running at www.SFcrowsnest.org.uk. This is now the archive for pre-2012 content. Nothing new is being posted here.

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