Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bots Run The World

70% of the trades on Wall Street are done by automated programs.

50% of the traffic clicking through websites comes from automated programs.

22 of the top 30 editors on Wikipedia are automated bots.

22% of tweets come not from humans, but from bots - this seems appropriate since Twitter asks humans to mimic bot code in 140 characters or less.

And thanks to Andrew Cuomo, Barack Obama and Bill Gates, 40% of the evaluations of New York State teachers will be calculated using a complex algorithm called a value-added measurement - in other words, a bot will hold a teacher's job and reputation in its mechanical hands.

We have now entered a Brave New World where humans have to act in increasingly standardized and mechanistic ways or risk financial ruin, unemployment, isolation and discard on the dustbin of society.

Scary stuff:

As increasing numbers of us use online resources and social media in connection with our jobs as well as our personal lives, we need to realise how many of our "co-workers" are in fact algorithms, because we will have to live up to their standards. Bots are becoming our peers.

It used to be an insult to speak of someone "behaving mechanically", but now such behaviour is becoming both economically and socially desirable. It pays for bloggers to write articles optimised for search engines and crawler bots rather than human readers. Twitter, on the other hand, asks us to reduce our social discourse to 140 characters of hashtags, links, and @ handles, in imitation of the code webpages are written in.

We're at a turning point in the development of the internet. Bots, like any other scientific innovation, can be used for benign or malign purposes.

The identity issues that Ronson raises are only the thin end of the wedge.

We've started to see numbers of humans pretending to be bots, a strange development that signals a shift in the power and identity politics of the internet. Ronson had a bot pretending to be him, which is annoying. But following the release of Ronson's videos, we have been confronted by Twitter versions of ourselves – @dan_o_hara, @lookrobertmason – accounts that are humans, pretending to be bots, pretending to be us. In such an online environment, where your true identity is reduced to an algorithmically generated collage, and where humans – already an endangered species – are simulating machines, it's hard to say if being "you" online has any real meaning.

At least Ronson's bot could be killed, in theory. The other bots out there, beyond anyone's control or even understanding, are not so killable. When Ronson looks for the people trying to control the internet, he's looking in the right place, but at the wrong species. The internet is increasingly becoming a post-user environment, regulated by something much more uncontrollable than humans.

How do we take back our financial system, our education system, our political system, and our social system from the bots?

How do we regain our humanity and stop teaching our children to act more like robot consumers than humans?

How do we humanize society again?

Somebody told me the other day that Americans on average spend 55 hours a week on electronic media, 45 minutes a week in a natural setting.

One way to start taking our country back from the mechanized humans running things and the bots they use to control us is to stop spending so much time in the "virtual world" and more time in the "real world."

Given that the electronic media so many of us are using every hour of every day is poisoning us, poisoning our air and poisoning our water, poisoning the people who make the stuff in factories in China and poisoning the people who discard the old models in junk heaps in Mexico, we may have to return to the "real world" soon anyway.

After all, the earth can only take so much "virtual" before the environmental, societal, and human consequences become too stark to ignore.


  1. Skynet from The Terminator movies is coming.

  2. Problem is data mining is such a strong revenue stream, the enemies' goal is to keep us online as much as possible.

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