I recently read The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood and since then I’ve regularly been thinking about the Turing Test. I first came across Turing’s work while studying computer science and mathematics at University. It concerns artificial intelligence, or as he put it: “Are there imaginable digital computers which would do well in the imitation game?” (Side point: Did you know 2012 is Alan Turing Year?)
Late last year, I read about a team of researchers who created a bunch of “socialbots”:
“designed to be stealthy, that is, it is able to pass itself off as a human being.”
This enables those behind the scenes to infiltrate a group of people, reach an influential position and then exploit it by spreading misinformation and propoganda, or to gain access to more private information which can in turn be sold. Their findings were that it’s easy to infiltrate Facebook at a large scale, most people are not careful enough when accepting connection requests sent by strangers, especially when they have mutual connections, and Facebook’s “immune system” did not detect their socialbots.
“102 socialbots made a combined 3,000 friends in eight weeks. The bots began by sending friend requests to random users, 20 percent of whom accepted, and then to their mutual friends, which resulted in the acceptance rate jumping to almost 60 percent.”
Knowing if someone on Facebook (or other social media sites) is “real” or not is going to become more of a problem (if not for you and me, for Facebook).
In two books I recently read, “fake” people were powerfully used: The World According to Monsanto, documents chilling examples of fake scientists traced back to PR companies who influenced the scientific community and Ghost in the Wires showed how easy it was for someone to create a new identity.
So yes, there’s spambots, transparent useful bots and socialbots, stolen identities and fake identities out there. Would I know the difference between those and “real” people, always? Really?
I remarked to Regan the other day that I find that some blogs I used to regularly read have become so insanely formulaic, so robotic-like in their content and publishing schedule (Top 10 Lists! Guest posts! I have the secret!) that I wonder where the personality and edge has gone in lots of blogs. (Not all!)
And yet, Anil Dash blogged:
“The entire modern social web was born from the blogging movement, and social activism has been part of the blogging medium since its birth.”
Has blogging and status updates been toned down over time to have less “realness”? Less “humanness”?
A friend recently lamented on Facebook that once blogs meant daily stories with adverbs and adjectives and now status updates are so dry, boring, too much detail and not enough feeling. She also linked to the book 420 Characters which tells stories within the 420 character limit Facebook puts on status updates.
I know my status updates on Facebook have changed. I’m more aware of what I’m writing, more aware I’m being watched and it changes my behavior. (The Hawthorne effect.) I’m trying hard to avoid doing that with my blog – I want to write about the things which interest me, rather than the things which will get me traffic.
Meanwhile, I’m waiting for my copy of Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything to arrive in the mail.
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