Invasion of the black boxes

They suck.

Hans-Georges Arp painted this image long before Big Data came to invade every human space, private and public.

Now amorphous entities like digital amoebae suck our minds and souls dry of predictive nutrients. Obscenely intimate, these ethereal blobs snuggle up to absorb and commodify the digital detritus of our progress through the age of surveillance capitalism.

If you look hard, you can discern the inputs and outputs, but the algorithmic machinations at the centre of this process are … Read more

Best of all worlds

 

Best of all worlds. MOM, Genesis 2.0, and Resurrections are topping bestseller lists worldwide for the third month in a row. Mobs are rioting in the streets of major cities everywhere, demanding the author cough up Kill Cade, the fourth novel in the MAGIC CIRCLE series. Hollywood agents are climbing in the windows, groupies clamor at the door. Sara won’t talk to me. It’s amazing.

Yeah. And all this is happening in a near-adjacent parallel universe where the internet … Read more

Big Data sees all, knows all

Branded. Here’s something I reported on Facebook a couple of days ago. Based on my internet habits and tastes, FB’s algorithms had decided I was an aging proto-hipster who snored. So  I should be a sucker for ‘soft-leather sandals,’ right? Not to mention a mini-CPAP device that would end my snoring forever. 

And what happens, I asked, should I decide to run for PM in Canada? The media, soon in possession of Big Data knowledge products regarding yours truly, would … Read more

Every citizen a Mr. or Ms. Potato Head  

 

The following interview question was prompted by the fact I don’t take selfies. Not very often, anyway, and I rarely post photos of my private life on Facebook. In the event, the blogger either didn’t have room for my response (below), or he thought it was too dumb. So, applying the principle of waste not, want not, here goes…

Q: Let’s start with the important stuff in today’s world: Selfies. Make a closing argument for their upside as if … Read more

Writerly occupational hazard: Mental DDOSs

DDOS: Distributed denial of service. Shutting down an internet server by launching an attack from a number of sources to overwhelm the targeted system with data.

Exposure to the internet amounts to an effective DDOS on your brain.

There’s too much information out there, and the filters — both in terms of search engine devices and user self-discipline — just aren’t up to the task. It appears we humans are hardwired to be seduced by all the supposed opportunities for … Read more

Smartphone appendages: A typology

Not smartphone apps as in ‘applications’ — we’re talking apps as in ‘appendages.’ I.e. you and me.  (Have a look at this earlier story for more on Homo app.)

I’ve just come across three-year-old story notes on a remote corner of my hard drive. I have a character on the skytrain considering the  merely absent presence of the other passengers. One advantage of living in Bangkok, he has always believed, are the rich opportunities for people-watching. But it has … Read more

Sci-fi becoming history: Is your homebot watching you?

 

Sara’s mopping in another room. Our homebot, a robotic vacuum cleanerhas joined me here in the study. It cruises about, tsk-tsking at piles of notes on the floor, savoring my breakfast crumbs and generally making me uneasy. As I’ve told Sara, this critter appears far too intelligent. Plus I suspect all the homebots in the world are connected via the internet to pursue agendas we can’t even guess at.

 

The World War II expression ‘

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Murder your darlings: Writing rule of style du jour

 

johnson portrait
Murder your darlings

Read your own compositions, and when you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.

Samuel Johnson, from James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson, 1791

 

Excellent advice. (I once presented this maxim to a writing class, trying to remember which great man had originally proposed it. In fact, half the great writers in history have said the same thing in one way or another.)

Lose a few chapters, gain Read more

Do goldfish suffer paranoia?

bigdataweb

From the time you get up till the time you go to sleep—even beyond that, if you use a digital sleep tracker—the average twenty-first-century citizen is subject to constant surveillance, caught in a interrogative crossfire, a sticky network fixing your locational, attitudinal and general behavioral spoor 24/7, holding it for the digital spiders that come to collect all this lovely data and cart it off to Big Data centers for digestion and construal in ways that help the spider collective … Read more

No rewind, no undo

 

 In my last post, ‘Interpermeable realities, material & digital,’ I suggested that manipulative impulses, as well as sources of addiction, are leaking over from our digital worlds into our material realities. The impulse to conduct a word search in a paper book for just one example.

UNDO buttonEven before the digital age, of course, we’d experience impulses to alter our material world merely by wishing hard. A faux pas, for instance, could make you wish you had access … Read more