The Algorithms are Working Perfectly
At some point, we ask how we got to the present moment. We are snapped out of its trance and become more aware.
I looked up at the clock at realized I had been watching an Australian cow veterinarian perform castrations and field necropsies for two hours when my husband and I were supposed to have been resuming Alien Versus Predator.
Anything we consume online is curated to maximize our exposure to products or services we are more likely to buy. Advertising is a powerful and effective tool. While it seems a tiny, imperceptible bell, recommendations also drive purchasing. Based on your preferences, watch history, and read articles, most sites or carriers scan their catalog trying to pinpoint your interest. They are learning about their consumer and building a profile.
Google’s ad personalization settings maps the user based on, among other pieces of information from advertisers and your account, its “estimation of interests”. Back in 2015, it got me down to age, marital status, and parity. My husband? Google thought he was a 65 year old Republican into politics and technology. At the time he was less than half that age and a social Democrat at that. What made Google come to these conclusions?
In essence, we cannot really choose to opt out.
Consider the body of your concerns: environmental, social, political, or racial. What do you wonder about and search for? What moves you? All that information is compiled and compared against others of similar persuasion. Even before Google, I told a friend about my husband’s musical tastes. He responded, “What is he, 65?”
Who we appear to be, in the digital space, is largely determined by our stated interests and the content we engage. Most 22 year olds do not have the entire The Who catalog, but if everything else is correct in a search engine’s predictive analysis, it doesn’t matter. It will keep mining for the potential interests of a user based on past selections to keep them engaged. Just as predictive texts rely on its very short memory of a few previous words, more complex machine learning takes selecting recommendations to further refine its algorithm, so more of what a user is…