(With apologies to the Star Wars Wikia from which the above was yoinked.)
There’s hand-wringing aplenty that can be taken from articles like the one Jeremiah Owyang posted a few days ago about social profiling and the ways this might shape up in the coming years. Certainly, there are a great many people who, upon learning about services such as Klout, would not care to learn that
- their online activities are being watched,
- their online activities are being judged, and that
- these judgments are being rounded up by a proprietary algorithm that actually has credence with the places we shop.
How long until the kinds of discriminatory scenes that are today’s tongue-in-cheek sci-fi become very real inconveniences, or worse? Like those put-upon protocol/astromech droids denied entry to the Mos Eisley cantina, the flipside to the Palms thing (wherein people with higher Klout scores were quietly receiving upgrades to their service) could turn the tables on current social hierarchies.
Which means that right now is a hell of a time for me to be reading Vernor Vinge’s Rainbows End. It’s one of those futurist joints that was, when written, felt ripped from tomorrow’s headlines. Reading it now, you can still sense the just-around-the-corner-ness, but even that’s become any-second-now-ness since its writing.
Characters in the nearish future are subject to scoring mechanisms that are a dime a dozen, and half-heartedly pursue this or that one to try and rack up points on a lark. It’s a shiver-worthy reminder that today’s reward systems are tomorrow’s marketing tool to categorize and, in Owyang’s words, digitally groom.
The glass half full side of what may strike many of us as highly Big Brotherly, though, is that
a new pecking order in business could emerge that breaks corporate hierarchy, wealth, or attractiveness.