A tragedy in three acts. You are the doomed hero.
You go to a website on your phone. It's legible for the first split second, and then the "mobile optimized" version renders. That text you started reading? Gone. None for Gretchen Weiners. The scroll lags and life is no longer worth living. There's no button to go back to the real version.
You're thinking of moving to New York because you're tired of the Bay Area. You search for a semi-famous restaurant by name. Google gives you a page full of matches with one keyword in common from San Francisco. You add "New York" to the query. Google does that thing where it looks like it's tired and hangs for a second and a half before giving you total garbage. Three months later in Manhattan you look up the restaurant and it autocompletes the search for you three characters in. The restaurant uses too much salt.
You finish a Slate article. You see two recommended articles you want to read, one about growing marijuana and one about women in tech or something else Slateful. You middle click the first article and it opens in the same tab because Slate is the worst. When you press the back button the other article is gone and all of your recommendations are about marijuana. You smoke a blunt and your company's next twelve technical hires are men.
This is the face of mandatory mind reading. You know what you want and the machines don't care, they know better than you, because look, who are they going to believe, you you, or data you?
(The one page play is over, now for 400 pages of commentary)
When I started writing this, I tried to itemize how much of what I see was algorithmically tailored specifically for me. I stopped because it was everything.
- Facebook feed
- Google results
- Gmail priority inbox
- Google Drive rankings (I'm really dependent on Google, aren't I?)
- Every news site I read except Hacker News
It's 2015 and there are APIs to detect what capabilities a user machine has and adjust accordingly. It's 2015 and data mining has gotten sophisticated enough that pretty much everything can be customized on the fly and be kind of close to what the user wants.
These are both good things, but electric voodoo telepathy should be used responsibly. I spend so much time trying to trick software into working when it should notice what I'm doing instead of going off its model of who I am. I have to copy and paste web pages because I need what I'm seeing right now on these pixels here, not whatever the server deigns to give me the next time I ask. I've been working on a personal app that just opens what I've got open in desktop Chrome on Android Chrome and visa versa because I have to switch so often just to get through some sites.
Mind reading doesn't really work for tools. I sometime use my bottle opener as a screwdriver —it's got a little flat part that fits into the screw head and I have no idea where my screwdriver is. However, when the time comes to open a beer, I would be really disappointed if it were magically replaced with a screwdriver.
Please, let me drink in peace.