Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Creating positive, individually and societally beneficial ubiquitous computing and communications

Posted in business and convergent technologies by Timothy Platt on August 20, 2011

I have posted several times recently about the human face of our rapidly emerging and increasingly global system of communications with all of the information processing capabilities that would underpin it. When I wrote When People Become Nodes in Largely Automated Information Management Systems I touched on how we become immersed in systems that are always available, everywhere and all the time and certainly for anything like our emerging systems of ubiquitous computing and communications that offer what is potentially a virtually unlimited access to information and information sharing. And I offered a utopian vision of what we could build of this, complete with a glowingly positive YouTube video as provided by Corning as a marketing message.

I have also posted to the possible dystopian potentials in this, depending on how it is developed (see Filter Bubbles and the Limitations of Automation in Selective Search – 1 and also Part 2) where everywhere and all the time can mean dividing us collectively into tiny and even stridently extremist, mutually antagonistic but fundamentally disconnected factions.

I have written about the technology and about business and organizational models but ultimately, everything I have been writing about in this blog fits into a larger human story and this is always all about us – all of us. We are, as I have repeatedly asserted in this blog, entering a period of rapid and profound change, and we have only started on this path. We have created some of the basic tools that will make the rest inevitable – but what we build is up to us and we have to both create and live with the consequences of the decisions that we make. And I add that we have to live with the consequences of decisions we turn over to others to make too. If we do not like the filtering and screening limitations of Google’s new personalized search, we can vote with our clicks and turn to other search engines that do not do this, and I cite DuckDuckGo as a specific example as it is a search engines specifically set up to not bubble or track its users.

• As an exercise in enlightenment, I suggest making a set of search queries for issues of topical and current interest to you, and with both Google and DuckDuckGo. Google will give you your own “personalized” view of the internet and of what rises to the top for your search within your bubble and DuckDuckGo will simply show what would rise to the top without bias in implementing its organic search algorithms.
• Use the exact same search queries with the same terms entered in the same order for both search engines. And get some of your friends and associates to do the same and with those same queries – and in this enlist the help of people you know who have different opinions and general priority preferences than you do.
• And share the varying results with your impromptu test group.

I find myself thinking simultaneously of Tea Party extremists and of their evident entrapment in their particular bubbles, and of the information immersed family in Corning’s A Day Made of Glass. Both will prove to be true images of what is to come, and both will come to be seen as limited perspectives of a larger and much more complex global reality. We have to decide which is more prevalent if either, and which more marginal. And I add that bottom line, even the seeming utopian vision could be dystopian depending on the range of information and perspective visible or blocked.

I am sure to come back to this topic area again – and I recommend bookmarking DuckDuckGo and even making it your primary search engine, and certainly for when you seek information on anything more controversial than a current local weather report.

You can find this and related postings at Ubiquitous Computing and Communications – everywhere all the time.

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