Artificial Idiocy

Right now, my inbox is just full of people making demands of me.  For instance, I’ve got what appears to be one of those persistent requests from someone I supposedly know to ‘connect’ with them on Linkedin.  The problem is that I’m not a member of Linkedin and have no intention of joining.  Yet the emails keep on popping up, each time sounding slightly more irritated than before that I haven’t responded.  The trouble is that these things are all too often scams, the result of an acquaintance’s hacked email account, making me loathe to click on any part of it for fear of viruses and phishing attempts against my laptop.  Worse, I’m currently being harassed by some meerkats over some bloody cinema ticket deal which I’m apparently eligible for because I bought my car insurance via their site.  I can see that I’m going to be forced to take up the offer just to get them out of my inbox, despite it being pretty pointless as I rarely go to the cinema any more (I can’t afford their prices).  Moreover, I’m one of those strange people who likes going to watch films on their own and the offer has to do with getting two tickets for the price of one. But anything to stop them from pestering me!  But if it isn’t the meerkats, then it’s bloody Amazon wanting me to rate and review purchases. I mean, all that rating of the seller and the transaction, that’s fine, except that they also want you to leave a comment.  What do they want me to say?  Surely the number of stars you’ve given tells its own story?

It’s the same with bloody eBay.  Mind you, even worse, every time I look at something and don’t bid on it or buy it, they start sending me emails asking if I’m still interested in it, (I wasn’t actually interested in the first place, I was just browsing) and if I’m not suggests a load of other stuff, (which never seems to have any relevance to the item I was looking at in the first place).  But it is the constant attempts to get you to give ‘feedback’ on everything you do online, every site you visit, which really gets me down.  When did the web become so needy?  But it isn’t just the constant pestering, there’s also the constant attempts to organise you.  I was checking what my phone had automatically uploaded to Microsoft’s cloud storage a while ago, only to find the storage system attempting to organise my photos and videos in various ways: landscapes, buildings, etc.  Just fuck off, was my reaction.  They don’t need to be bloody organised in anything other than chronological order.  Maybe.  They are my pictures and I can find what I want without these attempts at ‘organising’.

I have to admit here that ‘being organised’ is one of my pet hates amongst workplace jargon. There’s this strange idea that to be organised (and, by extension, efficient) you have to have everything in neat piles and straight lines.  As I’ve explained to various managers, just because you have your desk neatly organised with all your pencils in straight lines, it doesn’t mean that you are organised.  All it means is that you are good at arranging inanimate objects into neat geometric patterns.  It never goes down well.  So, as you can imagine, I don’t react well to having web applications trying to algorithmically organise my stuff.  Anyway, all these intrusions into my personal business have left me yearning for the days when entertainment wasn’t interactive.  Damn it, I remember the days when the only thing a TV demanded of you was your attention while it showed you stuff you wanted to watch.  Nowadays they are all ‘smart’ and trying to second guess your viewing habits.  Fuck off, I say.  I’ll be the judge of what I want to watch, not some bloody algorithm!

Which reminds me: just how does You Tube come up with those ‘Recently Uploaded Recommended For You’ videos you see listed when you log in?  I’ve always assumed that the recommendations are somehow based upon the videos you’ve most recently and most frequently viewed, taking into account your whole viewing history, to come up with something vaguely relevant to your interests.  Which begs the question of why, earlier this year, I found amongst the recommendations from recently uploaded videos, ‘Hot and Rainy Afternoon Breastfeeding Outside’, ‘How to Express Breast Milk by Hand’ and something called ‘Daddyhunt: The Serial’.  Quite where all this emphasis upon babies, let alone breast feeding, originated from, was a mystery to me.  Indeed, a quick check on my viewing history confirmed that the most recent things I’d been looking at had been various clips from Jean Paul Belmondo films and several old horror movie trailers.  Certainly nothing to do with breast feeding or babies.  Not so much ‘artificial intelligence’ as ‘artificial idiocy’ seems to lie behind the algorithms.

As an experiment, I tried watching the opening and closing titles of Big Wednesday, to see if this might affect the recommended recent videos.  It did.  The breast milk expressing video, (which, although I didn’t watch it, struck me as simply being an excuse to watch a woman having her breasts groped), vanished in favour of a Dr Who video featuring Jon Pertwee.  Again, the logic escapes me.  Now, I know that this all seems very trivial, after all, haven’t we all been subject to the vagaries of online algorithms?  But these video recommendations seemed to be part of a wider and very worrying trend.  Not only was You Tube shoving breastfeeding and fatherhood in my face, at this time, but my email spam folder was constantly full of stuff offering to hook me up with MILFs and offering me discounts on disposable nappies.  Even eBay kept sending me emails recommending I look at various baby products.  I wouldn’t mind, but the last things I’d bought on eBay at that time had been new set of blades for my electric razor and a replacement mains charger for this laptop.  What did those have do with babies?

If nothing else, these experiences seem to put a spoke in the wheel of the media types who like to bleat on about how the web in general and social media in particular ‘tailor’ what we see online, via our preferences and the data it collects on us, resulting in us existing in individual bubbles, where we are never exposed to any ideas which might challenge our ingrained prejudices and beliefs.  Try following people you disagree with on social media, they say. Experience the opposing view, they say, you’ll find yourself gaining a more ‘balanced’ view of the world.  But, in truth, we don’t want to be constantly confronted with people and ideas which will leave us angry and disturbed.  The thing is, I’ve tried ‘seeing the other point of view’ – it wasn’t at all healthy.  Whilst I was researching various conspiracy theories some time ago, I spent a fair amount of time hanging around various websites run by prominent (and not so prominent) members of the ‘conspiracy community’.  I can tell you, it really did my head in.  Their world view is so confused and illogical, based upon a hugely selective reading of historical fact, it is painful for any rational person to try and comprehend.  I most certainly didn’t end up feeling that I had a more ‘balanced’ view of the world.  On the contrary, the experience just confirmed what I already knew: they are all crackpots.  It’s the same with politics: I don’t need to expose myself to the rantings and biased news sources of the right to know that they are dangerous crackpots and that their creed is offensive to any decent human being.

Well, there you have it, my first editorial of the year.  It was surprisingly calm and measured considering everything that is going on in the world right now.  But don’t worry rant fans – I suspect that it is simply the calm before the storm.  Until next time, keep it sleazy!