When I first read this, I thought “Well, duh” but then, after thinking about it a bit, I realized it actually is pretty amazing and will have a dramatic impact on the future of advertising, public relations, politics, and dating. Probably lots of other stuff, too.
The gist is that it’s possible, by analyzing the stuff you “like” on facebook, to figure out your race, your age, your gender, your sexual preferences and even your IQ. For instance, if you “like” pictures and articles about Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and ElizabethWarren, you are probably a liberal. If you click like on all sorts of rainbow flag stuff, you are probably gay. That’s the “well, duh” part.
If you think about it, though, lots of things that just seem like common sense today still had to be discovered by somebody. Before Sigmund Freud, nobody realized that your dreams were revealing your innermost thoughts. The ancients thought they were messages from the gods. Before Darwin, the idea of evolution was unheard of. It may seem obvious to us now that two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time, but when Archimedes first realized it and ran naked through the streets shouting “Eureka!” it was a pretty big deal, and streaking was invented.
Besides, it’s not all obvious stuff like that. People who like Jennifer Lopez are more extroverted than people who like Terry Pratchett, for instance. People who like curly fries have higher IQs than average.
The way I see it, this is likely to improve our lives more than to interfere with them – for instance, if facebook could figure out that I’m really not that crazy about cats (being as I seldom click the “like” button on the hundreds of cat pictures, thousands of cat pictures, millions and billions and trillions of cat pictures which pop up, unsolicited, on my facebook page every day) and stop giving those pictures such a high priority, my life would be improved.
Sure, there is a privacy issue. A lot of people might not want people to know details of their personal lives. But, you can’t put the genie back into the bottle and there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Done is done and the world has already moved on to the next issue, whatever it is, while we blather on about this one.
There is a way to avoid it. In the olden days, if people didn’t want other people to know all the details of their personal lives, they would go live in a log cabin in the middle of a dark, secluded forest and never invite anybody in for a cup of tea. They were called “hermits.”
Today, you can do the same thing just by not going on facebook.