A thought occurred to me the other day: And what if some obscure Machiavellian entity with a hidden agenda deliberately spread some very debatable ideas and theories around just to see what the universal reaction would be.
You may think I’m exaggerating and maybe I am however, the examples are legion and as far as I’m concerned, fall into three categories:
1) The ones that happen every day but are so specialised only the initiated spot them
2) The ones that target a larger but specific segment of the public, say skype subscribers or Pop Culture enthusiasts, with notably the recent “Back to the Future 2″ (21.10.215) day, and finally…
3) The button pushers, the howlers, the ones that never fail to get the entire social media up in arms, such as a recent study published on behalf of the WHO, or again anything relating to climate change.
Again, there’s a whole host of examples and even if some are just jumbo sized blunders it does raise the question as to whether these [calculated acts] aren’t just part of some algorithmical endeavour to measure humanity’s mood, and morale. Would it, the unnameable entity, be trying to see how far it or they could push limits before the Webizens donned their “V” masks? Sounds very big brother-ish does it? Well let me tell you a story.
The day Humanity let out a collective sigh
A few years ago, I was sitting having lunch with some colleagues in the canteen at my work place of the time. It was late autumn, yes, I’m sure of that, and while digesting lunch we started discussing the favourite topic of the time, the forthcoming and much/overly publicized Mayan doomsday rendezvous: 20.12.2012, which of course we all laughed at, didn’t we?
Never the less, it was a godsend of a subject and a super playing field leveller to boot. Firstly, anything to avoid answering some sticky questions from senior managers about recent team results and objectives during lunch and debating theories or attempting to debunk the latest sensationalist Cable TV disaster docu-fiction or Ancient Alien TV show on the subject seemed a great alternative. Secondly, it was a habit and, I think, a great team building exercise that allowed everyone, the space of an after-lunch coffee, to talk peer-to-peer among some rather smart professionals about something other than business.
Anyway, there we were, enjoying our expressos, discussing doomsday scenarios and wondering if it was worth opening an office there and then up the nearby Alps when somehow the conversation transitioned from December 2012 to September 2001. This probably happened when someone mentioned that if the volume and character of tweets circulating on the subject was anything to go by a lot of people were apparently taking the matter quite seriously, at least as far the calendar calculations were concerned. This was the perfect cue for me to mention in passing that some government agency, state service, or hegemonic IT concern was very probably, thanks to Tags, “#Hashtags” and various other trackers and beacons, monitoring the tone of such comments and messages, much as they did September 12 2001. This stopped the conversation dead and I almost panicked on seeing the frowning faces around the table. Either I had spoken in some exotic language, or the affirmation was too incredible to believe. As everybody present was an experienced language service professional I opted for the latter and started explaining how back in September 2001 some data analyst in Washington, Mountain View or Redmond, had noticed a serious upsurge in number of messages transiting their servers originating from people chatting in IMs, forums and online communities about the attack on the twin towers.
According to this same data analyst, the tone of the content was so overwhelmingly “Sad” it was as if the world had just let out an enormous and universal sigh of grief and despondency. Still seeing the looks of confusion around the table, I quickly added that even at that time, long before LinkedIn (2002), Facebook (2004) or Twitter (2006), Internet services, interested in capturing the Zeitgeist, … and Digital Fortresses, with other agendas, were already intensively collecting and processing data from the Web, in search of intelligence for whatever advantage it would bring. Data processing has come a long way since its [known] beginnings over seventy years ago and whatever your thoughts on Edward Snowden Big Data has gone mainstream and will, thanks to Cloud and those that facilitate its use, play a ubiquitous role in our lives, at least until the next librarian or whistleblower provoked shift in technology.