According to science fiction, future machines will be able to do just about anything except love and, ironically, the robot dance. No advanced machine in pop culture seems capable of grasping the majestic complexity of the human mind ... which is probably very embarrassing for them because real, modern-day computers can do exactly that. Not only do we already have computer programs that can peer into your very soul, a lot of them are being used on you right now.
5An Algorithm Can Find Your Physical Location From Your Friends' Tweets
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Isn't it nice taking a break and just falling off the grid? It sure was. Notice the past tense. Now you don't have to so much as touch the Internet, and your location can still be tracked, thanks to a program that can determine where you are at any given moment based on your friends' tweets.
In hindsight, Rhonda should have blocked @RhondasStalker.
A group at the University of Rochester built an algorithm that uses tweets to automatically identify the social relationships of active Twitter users based on their tweets' content and geo-tagged location. After identifying who your friends are, the algorithm then uses the data from their online activity to pinpoint your exact location, even if you yourself are not tweeting anything about the status of your current burritos, or glib observations about TV shows.
The idea behind Flap ("Friendship + Location Analysis and Prediction") is quite simple. Let's say that the algorithm detected that Mark, Joe, and Bob are best friends. If Mark tweets "partying with my two best buds," and Joe tweets "just found a rat in my pancake LOL!" the system can venture a guess that Bob, who hasn't tweeted anything, is probably getting regrettable drunk food with Mark and Joe at Denny's at 2 in the morning.
Later, it traces Bob next to a pile of dumpster-side cholestervom.
The actual algorithm is naturally much more complex and has been designed for noble goals, like predicting the spread of pandemics and such. And certainly no technology developed for noble ends has ever been misused -- just ask Nobel himself.
4Your Facebook Likes Reveal Nearly Everything About You
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On the one hand, we all want to be socially active and connected to the world, but on the other hand, social interaction is hard, and you usually have to wear some form of oppressive pants. That's why Facebook "likes" are so great. With just one click, you can proudly express support for any person or idea you wish, all from the privacy of your own home. Well ... maybe "privacy" isn't the right word here because a joint Cambridge-Microsoft team has actually built a program that can use your Facebook "likes" to accurately extrapolate all sorts of personal information about you, including your IQ, sexual orientation, race, and personality traits.
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Even when you don't just type all that in your public "About me" box.
There's the obvious stuff: If a guy "likes" Wicked, the "No H8 Campaign," and "Mac Cosmetics," Facebook will think he's gay, and they're usually right. But many of the correlations were far less intuitive. For example, while fans of Stephen Colbert will probably smugly nod to themselves upon learning that "liking" the show is correlated with a high IQ, so is "liking" thunderstorms and curly fries. Only idiots like Jojos and fog, apparently.
Likewise, your guess is as good as ours as to why "liking" something like "being confused after waking up from naps" is correlated with male heterosexuality, while "liking" "I love being a mom" means a low IQ. Don't even get us started on "being confused after waking up a mom."
"I'm about to lower someone's IQ points."
The program can tell you a person's political affiliation, orientation, or race with an 85 to 95 percent success rate, all from a tiny sliver of information on Facebook. Fortunately, Facebook's strong history of respecting privacy and ethical research standards proves that they would never exploit this.