posted at 8:45 am
on Mar. 9, 2012
At Least It Wasn’t a Watermelon
My Sister Moved Out
The Atlantic had a great article recently called I’m Being Followed: How Google—and 104 Other Companies—Are Tracking Me on the Web. It talked about the amazing, epic, gargantuan collection of data about you that goes on online every time you click.
The article itself is thought provoking, but it opened up an even deeper question for me.
A story I read about 20 years ago talked about an scientist who became an invisible man, and had the government after him with all the resources it could muster. There was a task for of dozens of people who hunter for him constantly. They tapped dozens of phone lines of old friends and relatives. They got all his records from every moment of his life and put it all… in a medium sized room.
Today. we are creating digital version of ourselves online, through social media, online databases, Web site profiles, log files… the archive of information about what I have done in the past ten years is far, far more vast.
And here’s the interesting thing. I have a particular image of myself. I think of myself as smart, kind, outgoing, etc. etc. But what if my digital self proves I’m not? What if my digital self is stingy? What if my digital self is mendacious? What if this digital shadow is fleshed out, is so clear a representation of myself, that someday I have to confront it, me, the knowledge that I am not what I think I am?
This is already being done to some extent: Google knows what to advertise to me, and how, in ways that I myself might say are ineffective or misguided, and yet, my digital self reveals that they will work, that they do work, that they did work.
What happens when our digital selves—the part of us that searches for “ways to hide stains” and “how to get out of a parking ticket” and the part that doesn’t remember birthdays any more—when those digital selves become more fully visible to others? I don’t know if my shadow self would look nearly as nice in the sunlight…
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