You may have noticed a wave of spittle flecked screaming directed at Facebook last week, or to be more accurate another wave of spittle flecked screaming. For a company with such a widely used and enjoyed product, it's remarkable how much hate gets directed at Facebook. As an example, here's a list of all the Facebook groups that I'm currently a member of:
"We hate Facebook's new Redesign."
"We hate Facebook's new redesign and still hate their old redesign."
"Petition for Facebook to go back to Redesign #4."
"Group that swears to ritualistically murder Facebook executives until "is" gets removed from status updates."
"People who are ok about this redesign."
"People who fucking hate hearing about Farmville"
"I enjoy Dairy Queen."
The latest round of hate started last week when Facebook explained that, in cooperation with a number of other companies, they would begin embedding Facebook buttons in as many pages as possible across the Internet. If you look carefully (like say anywhere on this page) you'll probably see some examples. Using these new tools you'll be able to signal your approval of pages, products, pictures of obese cats or any other damn thing on the Internet you care to endorse. In theory this will usher in a new era of social networking, where we can share our activities and interests from across the Internet with our friends, who are presumed to give a flying damn.
Predictably this has pissed people off immensely, and caused the usual rending of hair and garments, as people lament our ever decreasing privacy. What's the big deal a person might ask rhetorically? Well, all this information about your likes and dislikes and products you enjoy would be controlled by a company who doesn't have any particular interest in your privacy, at least not more than they have an interest in making a crap-dump worth of money. Is it safe to trust Facebook and all these other companies with this information?
To find out more about how these privacy concerns could play out in the future, I turned to the phone book, where I got in touch with Toby the Seer. As an AARF-certified futurist, Toby was uniquely qualified to peer through the mists of time to see what this new Facebooked future would look like, and in exchange for three cans of MGD still hanging on the yoke, he did just that:
One of the first effects we'll see are advertisements that are targeted specifically at us. Obviously we're already tolerant of some targeted advertising. Nobody objects to seeing ads for golf balls in Golf Digest, or scratch card samples of Axe Bodyspray in Moron's Quarterly. But with the detailed knowledge of your likes and dislikes, these new generation of ads will be uncomfortably specific. Changed your relationship status to single recently? Then you'll start getting ads from Hagen-Dazs. Or maybe you're a big NFL fan, and now you'll see ads of Peyton Manning selling you every damn thing they can set down in front of him. Read a Cracked article but didn't click Like? Get ready for some fucking death threats.
Dynamically Generated Pepsi Related News
As would be expected, media organizations will be among the first to sign on to this program, hungry for the traffic that Facebook's tools could send their way. And with this integration, expect these companies to know a lot more about you, and even customize content specifically to meet your presumed needs. Within a couple years, if you're visiting a major news site, and it finds out you're a fan of Moveon.org, then you're going to get more left-slanted articles showing up on the front page when you visit that site. (You know, all the latest information on granola.) Regular viewer of American Idol? Then every piece of content will be rendered in shorter words. Twilight fan? Sparkle fonts.
Here's where it gets scary. Whether it's a rogue employee acting alone, or Disney just not giving a shit any more, what's to stop any of these people from blackmailing you with your personal info? Corporations tinkered with bankruptcy laws a few years back, and by 2018 they'll have done the same thing with blackmail laws.
Let's say a series of pictures show up of you knocking a child off the quarter-operated plane ride in front of a Taco Bell and then drunkenly riding it while laughing at their tears and waving a cowboy hat around. We've all done that a couple times in our life, and it would be unjust to have that brought up during job interviews or sentencing hearings or first dates. And maybe no one ever needs to find out about it if we keep buying three chalupas a week if you know what Taco Bell is saying.
Videos of you on the toilet sold as ringtones.
By 2022, we'll all have computers in nearly every room of our house and will all own cell phones with two or three cameras in them. You will never not be on camera. Also by 2018, America will go just poo-crazy, and amongst other unspeakable things, pictures of unsuspecting people on the toilet taken by invasive Facebook apps will be actively sold as ringtones by companies like Slate - which by that point will have changed business models a bit.
In the future, with volumes of information about individuals readily available and ever advancing robot technology, replacing someone with a doppelganger will be a real possibility. These clones/cyborgs/mechanical men will know everything that a person ever purchased or enjoyed, and be able to emulate their behavior accordingly, only now in a manner that's more acceptable to their corporate masters. Here's a conversation which is guaranteed to happen in 2030:
Husband: -lovemaking- Oh wow. That was amazing. I love you honey.
Wife: I love you too dear. Did you know that right now at Lowe's, a DEWALT 10" 20-Amp Miter saw is on sale for only $549.00?
Husband: I didn't, no.
Wife: Mmm. Maybe this is the year to rebuild the deck.
Husband: Yes. Yes. Maybe. –swallows, breaks out in cold sweat.- Yes. -Puts head on pillow, starts crying, never stops.-
Immersive Reality Generated by Malevolent AI programs
This one should be conceptually familiar to everyone who saw the popular 1990s hacker movie, The Net.
Eventually we'll reach a point where we spend so much time online that it will simply be easier for the corporations of the day to do away with the doppelgangers and fake reality itself. One morning we'll log online and, without realizing it, never log out again. With all of our likes and dislikes neatly cataloged, it will then be trivial for the computer hive minds of the latter half of this century to craft a world perfectly suited to amuse us, while still encouraging us to consume. Imagine an endless Wal-Mart on a beach full of IKEA furniture and explicit pornography, and you just have to think Vitamin Water and BAM, you've ordered a case of it, and oh god, don't think about Hamburglar blowjob, don't think about Hamburglar blowjob, don't think about....
The Dark Ages 2: Dark Harder
As Sandra Bullock's character observed in The Net, "Human beings define their reality through suffering and misery." The perfect world created by the machines will eventually crumble, sending the economy and all of mankind crashing to the ground. Eventually the thinkers of this new age will piece together what happened, and vow to never make the same mistakes again. All social networking will be outlawed, and the founder of Facebook denounced as the evilest of men: