It doesn’t know what I’LL do

This was an interesting piece in the NYT yesterday. (And I would have posted it yesterday, but I kept looking for it at the WSJ site, thinking I’d read it in their print edition, and only realized my mistake today).

Headlined, "The Internet Knows What You’ll Do Next," it discussed the idea that … well, I’ll let the NYT explain:

    A FEW years back, a technology writer named John Battelle began talking about how the Internet had made it possible to predict the future. When people went to the home page of Google or Yahoo and entered a few words into a search engine, what they were really doing, he realized, was announcing their intentions.
     They typed in "Alaskan cruise" because they were thinking about taking one or "baby names" because they were planning on needing one. If somebody were to add up all this information, it would produce a pretty good notion of where the world was headed, of what was about to get hot and what was going out of style.
    Mr. Battelle, a founder of Wired magazine and the Industry Standard, wasn’t the first person to figure this out. But he did find a way to describe the digital crystal ball better than anyone else had. He called it "the database of intentions."
    The collective history of Web searches, he wrote on his blog in late 2003, was "a place holder for the intentions of humankind — a massive database of desires, needs, wants, and likes that can be discovered, subpoenaed, archived, tracked, and exploited to all sorts of ends."

Scary, huh? I mean, if you’re privacy advocate. I generally don’t worry too much about that stuff. I mean, I suppose I want to be left alone as much as the next guy, but if the government wants to include my phone records in a database that helps us catch terrorists, I figure it’s the least I can do for the war effort. Have at it.

I worry even less about what such a database of intentions would reveal about me. Of course, Battelle is talking about a collective database to track trends among millions of users (he sounds a bit like Obi Wan explaining The Force). But obviously, the same thing can apply — and already does apply, among marketers — on the micro scale to individuals.

Well, anybody who tries to read my intentions is going to get pretty confused. Any prophetic analysis based on my footprints on the Web would show that I have a greater-than-usual interest in:

Good luck predicting the future from that, Merlin.

25 thoughts on “It doesn’t know what I’LL do

  1. Dave

    Brad, humans are pretty good at deception but this brings back that good one about the Army private, who, after a 3 day pass, goes to see the base doctor and tells him, “I have this friend who is having trouble urinating and is pretty sore too.” So the Doc says to him, “OK, drop your trousers and let’s have a look at that friend.”

  2. Herb

    Off the subject, but I just checked down several threads, Brad, and I’d like to offer you my opinion, and that is that Lee and LexWolf are ruining your blog for everybody else. They are two elitists who insist upon being the instructors on every subject for everybody else. They don’t just disagree, but demean and ridicule all those who don’t hold to their position. They aren’t blog trolls — they are blog bullies.
    As I mentioned further down, some will doubtless counter with Truman’s adage, “if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen.” To which I will respond that these two are burning the house down.
    A blog I like is The rules of civility there don’t allow for the kind of elitism that these two practice here. The bloggers there wouldn’t stand for it.
    That’s my opinion, for what it’s worth. I think you’re losing some valuable people because of these two bullies.

  3. VOA

    While I agree with Herb’s comments about civility, expecting civility on a blog where anonymity rules is a bit like expecting mud wrestling to be played under the same conditions as cricket.

  4. bud

    Brad writes:
    The U.S. Army War College. This, paired with the fact that I was recently observed wandering about that facility taking photographs, should be enough to warrant at least one black helicopter hovering over my house.
    You stumbled onto something important here Brad. If allowed to go unfettered, government eavedropping, especially without a warrant, can lead to serious mistakes against completely innocent people. I can easily see how a completely innocent person can become someone “of interest” to the government which could potentially ruin that person’s life. You really should re-think your position on this issue. It is very foolish to think the government would not abuse it’s power.

  5. LexWolf

    yep, it’s rough to have people disagreeing with you and challenging you to support your opinions, isn’t it? Much better when you can just pontificate to your heart’s content and have people accept your words as if you’re Moses coming off the mountain with the commandments.
    As for your elitism charge, I’ll say it again: you are the one who wants to force your beliefs on others. I want to give them a choice. Who’s the real elitist here?

  6. Brad Warthen

    Now, now LexWolf. Easy there, big fella. Put away the fangs. You’re making it harder for me to tell Herb this:

    Herb, I hadn’t thought it was that much of a problem — partly because in my business, I’m used to this stuff.

    But it concerns me if anyone is, through excessively dismissive or hostile rhetoric, running off thoughtful people. I still have hopes of this blog being the useful forum for trading ideas and seeking solutions that Paul DeMarco has been looking for.

    As you may recall, I have put it to my readers — the virtual "community" — whether to ban someone before. In that case, it was Mary Rosh. I did so when another respondent — in point of fact, it was Paul — suggested it. The last time I looked the overwhelming response was not to ban her or anyone. Paul himself went along with that consensus.

    I’ll have to do another post on this subject, and see what ideas are out there in terms of setting up guidelines for civil communication. Maybe if enough folks who frequent the site voluntarily adopt such a code, we can uphold it through nothing more coercive than peer pressure.

    I really hesitate to turn to excommunication, Catholic that I am. I haven’t done it with anyone yet. Let’s keep thinking about this.

  7. LexWolf

    Thanks, Brad. Especially coming from you who certainly has been much more of a “target” for my comments than Herb has ever been. If you can handle it, then surely our would-be country club philosopher Herb can, too.

  8. VietVet

    I really hesitate to turn to excommunication, Catholic that I am. I haven’t done it with anyone yet.

    As a fellow Catholic may I suggest exorcism in lieu of excommunication?

  9. LexWolf

    If you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, surely you would agree that RTH would be the prime candidate for such a procedure?

  10. Herb

    Sure Brad, of course it’s your call. But you’ll notice that you’ve lost some good people, like Randy. It gets tedious when people just dismiss arguments with ridicule. Or when they get totally trumped, then it’s sarcasm.
    And I wouldn’t stand for someone comparing my newspaper staff to a Nazi, but you guys have to know what you’ll put up with. You’ve got more patience than I have, for sure.

  11. LexWolf

    Trust me, Herb, when and if you ever come up with real arguments I will be sure to give them proper respect. So far arguments from your side are rather thin on the ground, if you catch my drift. In fact, a southern German bird wouldn’t make it past October (September with Randy) if it had to rely on your arguments to make it through the cold winter.
    Your second paragraph is once again a textbook example of elitism. If people agree with you, or at least don’t challenge you to support your posts with facts, everything is fine for you. As soon as they get a little too uppity, you wouldn’t “stand for [it]”. Once again, we have the Left’s maxim in action: “Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee”. The same principle, of course, that gave the world political correctness, campus speech codes and sensitivity training.

  12. Dave

    With the logical trend of the INternet, phone and TV converging into one participatory media, the technical capability to record and analyze what people watch and interract with is already here. Business and marketers know that is worth a lot for target marketing. The data mining of that store of information could offer up enough predictive data to calculate with a high probability the intended actions and focus points of citizens. Used properly, this type of monitoring could be used for crime detection and prevention. If a person spends a goodly amount of time searching and evaulating ways to make explosive devices, there is a good chance that person could be planning some evil act. The Patriot Act addresses this kind of surveillance and rightfully so. Criminal terrorist plots have already been deterred with these types of systems. The alternative is unacceptable, as recent events concerning the Toronto Parliament, Sears Tower, and Holland Tunnel, if carried out, would destroy the free and safe society that we enjoy today.

  13. Preston

    Hey Dave, the Sears Tower and Holland Tunnel issues were jokes. If you truly feel better because these “attacks” were stopped, you need to get out more. These are nothing more than strategic leaks by the administration to overhype BS fantasy that is in their favor. Nothing more.
    I feel more threatened going to a 7-11 in Columbia after dark.

  14. Dave

    Preston, you consider these jokes because you dont live in Chicago or NY. Maybe even the “Jersey Girls” may take that Holland tunnel plot seriously. In London, the Brits thought 9-11 was a joke until they had their own version of a joke last year. But, then again, that is why this country wont let cheese eating surrender monkeys run national security. Enjoy your cheese.

  15. Mark Whittington

    I have come to the conclusion that it would be best to require blog participants to use their complete (real) names. Also, I believe you should reserve the right to publish any material submitted on this blog. It’s getting to the point where good people are going to abstain from commenting.

  16. LexWolf

    Isn’t it amazing how the Left always complains about their dissent being “crushed”? Yet when faced with a little dissent to their own opinions, what’s the first thing they want to do? Yep, you guessed it: Crush dissent!

  17. Dave

    Lex, you are exactly right. Picture Mark Whittington types running the country. First they would outlaw political speech on talk radio because after all it’s too inflammatory for the sensitive ears of Americans. So goodbye Rush, Savage, Ingrahm, Hannity, et. al. Then Mark would form a national Information Review Commission, and the censorship would then go to the press. All political articles would have to be cleared by the likes of Mark W. and his ilk. The founding fathers were prescient however and made sure we had the second amendment so we could make sure we keep the first amendment. That is why Schumer, Hillary, and the other lefty loons work day in and day out to disarm the US people, even to the point that now they are trying to use the United Nations as a wedge vehicle to disarm Americans. For shame!!!!

  18. Preston

    Dave, name calling aside, I was in Washington, DC on Sept. 11, not like you insulated in SC. I saw firsthand a city in chaos, so please refrain from your juvenile name calling on the internet. Making comments that were you to say to me in a non-anonymous evironment, would get you punched in the face, does nothing but make you look like an idiot and coward.
    All you Neo-fascists in SC need to shut up because you are in no imminent danger. You just buy into and then regurgitate ole GW’s BS scare tactics.

  19. Dave

    Wash. D.C. is a city in chaos even when not experiencing a tragedy. Their city government is a tragedy as well as their school system. Not surprisingly, it is run by the socialist left crowd, Democrats of course. And Preston, before taking direct physical action against me, would you not want first to file complaints with the United Nations, and then maybe 17 resolutions later still want to make like the French and offer to surrender. haaaaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa That is exactly what your type did with Iraq. The truth hurts there, doesn’t it, Mr. Tough Guy?

  20. kc

    It’s getting to the point where good people are going to abstain from commenting.
    Posted by: Mark Whittington

    I just abstain from reading the comments of Lee and Dave.

  21. Dave

    KC, come on, admit it, you sneak a peek once in a while on our posts. Fess up now. After all, I read your posts.

  22. Spencer Gantt

    Abstention is a good idea. This blog site has deteriorated significantly. “punched in the face”? “insulated in SC” (and 48 other states)? “Neo-fascists in SC”? What is all this that now passes for conversation and opinion?

  23. kc

    OK, I confess, Dave . . . sometimes I slow down a teeny bit on one of your posts when I’m scrolling rapidly down to find the next RTH post. 😉


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