JP Barlow, democracy and ACF

Alexander 'Sasha' Chislenko (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 00:58:58 -0400

[ ACF stands for Automated Collaborative Filtering if you forgot]

The September issue of Wired carried an article by
famous-as-a-visionary John Perry Barlow, entitled
"The Powers That Were".

JPB calls US democracy "Government by Hallucinating Mob,
driven mad by television", explaining that much of the
knowledge about current social issues is available to the
public via advertisement-sponsored TV (and other mass media)
that selects both content and presentation with the goal to
keep the audience near their TV sets, so that they can see
more ads and make more money for advertisers and media owners.
As the result, juicy/silly non-issues manufactured for
keeping the lowest common denominator bottom glued to the
couch, steal public attention from real serious problems -
and then the populace elects its representatives to "handle"
these TV-induced collective hallucinations.

JPB suggests some observations on how U.S. got into this
pitiful state, and ideas on how the Cyberspace can help
restructure social knowledge-delivery and decision-making
mechanisms. He does not mention ACF - though, in my opinion,
ACF has the potential of playing a very significant role in
intelligent demassifying and fine-tuning of the architecture
of social conversation.

Now, the question is, will the ACF developers steer their
technology towards commercial goals, trying to develop
"personalized glues" to paste each individual bottom to its
couch, and deliver whatever-pleases-you-personally to keep
you in front of the screen even longer and see more - and
better targeted - ads than TV ever could - and make still
more money? Or will ACF system development be based on an
effort to leverage the potential of the technology for
intentional social engineering?

My expectation is that this will be business-as-usual:
efforts will be made to make money, but the resulting
technology will have some social-restructuring side-effects.
The cultural consequences should be somewhat beneficial - this
time. We just seem to be lucky to live in the technological
period when the irresponsible-as-usual development happens
to bring positive results. It started recently and may end
well within our lifetimes. Maybe, by that time we'll learn
to rely more on vision than on luck. Maybe, not.

You just finished reading a post on my "Share" list. Hope you enjoyed it.
Feedback is very welcome, brief or detailed. Feel free to forward.
Send me a message with *subject* line "help lists" if you need list info.
Alexander Chislenko <<>