“The Internet is becoming the town square for the global idiots of tomorrow.” Hobart Clems, seriously misquoting Bill Gates
THE CLARION CALL: The Dimformation Age is now the primary motivating force behind Homo erectus asphaltus’ slide into the vat of historical risibility. As if we weren’t silly enough to begin with. From Tacoma to Timbuktu, the monkeys are running wild in search of the ever illusive Holy Data Grail, peering into the storehouse of mutating prototypes, seeking a whiff of whatever new techno-bobble the Wizards of Bling have come up with to tantalize the masses.
One only need spend a few minutes near a hot modem to come to the realization that something sinister has taken root inside the so-called Information Age. What once was akin to a trek through the Wild West is now becoming a babbling hodgepodge of irrelevant noise, brought to us by the good folks at Google, Yahoo, AOL, Fox News, CNN, and assorted other URLs. The game is simple: To squeeze a buck from the wallets of hot-wired Mojo Monkeys. Party on.
Allow me to be the first to say (in the last two minutes) that the Internet is a playpen for seven billion monkeys with too much nothing on their hands. If you’ve got little better to do than tweet away what time you have left on the old mudball planet, you’re in need of a Complete Digital Makeover. Only $98.95 at your local Super Cyber Spa! Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
THE DIGITAL ADVERTISING CABAL: “You can skip this ad in 5 seconds.” The Technocratic tsunami has now entered every facet of our lives, whether invited to the party or not. Denizens of the Dimfo Age are under virtual (no pun) assault by a plethora of electronic hocus pocus. And, from all accounts, it’s only going to intensify as we barrel down the Dimformation Highway. When you hear an electronic billboard speaking to you by name, recommending the new Mexican-Tibetan taco stand down the street, you’ll know your soul’s been hacked. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
Exhibit A: Imagine a cadre of otherwise intelligent primates gathered around a café table, thumbs twitching to an invisible pulse, tapping the keys of their “smart” phones like drunk chipmunks. Instead of communicating to each other over a couple of beers, each of them is lost in the immediacy of a Twitter feed. There’s something stupid about this picture.
Here’s an idea: When in the company of flesh and blood comrades, turn off the freaking digi-pads! Then, despite being deprived of the wonders of virtual life, you might have a chance at real socialization. FaceBook will live without you for a few hours. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
LET’S TALK ABOUT CYBER SPYING: Here’s how the pundits at NPR put it: “One of the fastest-growing online businesses is the business of spying on Internet users. Using sophisticated software that tracks people’s online movements through the Web, companies collect the information and sell it to advertisers.”
You notice a pair of shoes on Zappos, the cyber shoe mall in the Cloud. When your 30 seconds of attention span hits the wall, you flip the channel and instantly find yourself on a website devoted to people who like to watch zoo animals copulate. Don’t laugh, if it doesn’t exist today, it will tomorrow.
An hour later, you’ve managed to surf another 250 sites, remaining on each one an average of 4.166 seconds. Somewhere along the yellow byte road, you notice a box on your screen alerting you that the very shoes you perused not an hour ago are now on sale. And, of course, the ad is brought to you by your pals at Zappos. Perhaps not chilling enough to ruin your week. But it gets a lot more hinky. Take a peek at what’s lurking in your cookie jar. Five’ll get you ten you don’t recognize half the sites that managed to wiggle into your computational device. Gives the phrase Ghost in the machine a whole new slant. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
SO MUCH FOR ANONYMITY. Regardless of how anonymous you pretend to be, THEY know who you are, what your digital footprints look like, your data preferences, and most importantly, they know your threshold for credit card debt. It’s just a matter of the right interface between the cyber advertising gurus and your neurons and your fingers automatically start tapping the keyboard en route to another irresistible PayPal shopaholic victory.
You might not have suspected that you harbored a latent jones for that new $400 Neil Young box set. But, by God, it’s suddenly in a UPS truck with your name on it. Free shipping! Amazing and heady stuff, amigos. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
Exhibit B: According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, our personal shopping patterns involve complex market decisions that turn out to be easily identified. At least to those who want to know what makes us tick. As it turns out, that happens to be quite a lot of preying eyes.
Here’s an excerpt from Monsieur Duhigg’s lofty tome: Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code — known internally as the Guest ID number — that keeps tabs on everything they buy.
And that “everything” can include fascinating tidbits about you garnered from third party providers. Again according to Duhigg, Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you’ve ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own.
We are becoming little more than data flotsam, worker bees in a vast hive of dimformation, scrutinized by algorithm nerds in an effort to keep corporate margins on that slippery slide upwards into the proverbial black. Today’s investors aren’t interested in Benjamin Graham’s quaint security analysis. What we want is a fast buck, ticker tape frenzy, flash trading, short sale excitement. Anything to beat the odds. Russian roulette with somebody else’s credit.
“We don’t need no education…….” especially if we’ve allowed ourselves to become just another brick in the corporate wall. Your very own data is little more than a cog in somebody else’s business model. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
HOLD THE PHONE. That cute little mobile device stuck in your ear is also the latest in a long line of intrusive advertising tools. The more WiFi you are, the easier it is for advertisers to implant their nonsense into your digital noggin. The notion that your social life is yours is about as defensible as the belief that Mickey Mouse saved Florida.
If you think being tracked like a wounded deer through the autumn woods by a pack of blood thirsty advertisers is a disgusting invasion of your privacy, it’s probably time to quit automatically hitting that “AGREE” button when signing up for a new Cloud Adventure. Ah, but who has the time to read the fine print? In these uniformly quotidian times, you are what you click. Links R us. Surfer beware.
If you feel like you’re being watched while chatting away on your expensive G4 mobile droid, don’t rush to therapy complaining of paranoia. Save your co-pay. Big Brother certainly is watching. And you’ll end up paying for it, sooner or later. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
Exhibit C: I recently saw a “news” blip about the next salubrious advance in our race to the Technological Mansion in the Sky. Instead of having to remember that endless litany of irritating passwords, soon your digital I.D. will be a simple wag of the thumb. You guessed it: fingerprint recognition.
Kind of makes the weekly run to Target seem a little sordid, especially knowing that every half-wit hacker in the Universe will have access to your unique skin grooves with as little effort as it takes to boot up an iPhone. Biometrics might sound positively hip at first glance. It’s the second glance that needs attention. Welcome to the Dimformation Age!
THE FUTURE IS HERE: You’re never more than a zilobyte away from the infinite mass of meaningless drivel now passing itself off as information. And the buck never stops, because the Wheel of Fortune is now embedded into every facet of your life. As you’re presenting your fingerprints at the checkout line, amused by the bewitching technological miracle swirling around you like a swarm of locusts, stop and remember this: Monkeys with smart phones are still monkeys. And primates are social animals with innate needs greatly exceeding the banalities of virtual friends, comparative digital shopping, and pirated muzak. A picture of a banana never filled the belly.
Give me bikinis instead of bloggers; rum instead of RAM; coconuts instead of cyber crap; H20 instead of HBO, ham instead of spam; a camp fire instead of a fire wall. As far as I can see, the greatest single act of rebellion left to us is to turn off, tune out, and take a walk.
The Dimformation Age can fend for itself.
(editor’s note: For more on cyber spying, see Joseph Turow’s “The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth.” Just be careful where you buy it. And while you’re at it, check out Electronic Frontier Foundation’s advice to protect your privacy at www.eff.org. Look for “Six Tips to Protect Your Search Privacy”)
NED MUDD is a regular contributor to The Zephyr. he lives in Birmingham, Alabama. email@example.com.
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