I was recently somewhat relieved to discover that the great AI threat to humanity has been overstated. It can be fooled quite easily I realised, simply by adopting irregular and unpredictable online behaviour. Switching on my phone one morning this week I am faced with a notification for a news item tagged “your interest in Tom Cruise.” I would like to take this opportunity to categorically state that I have absolutely no interest in Tom Cruise (unless it is related in someway to the downfall of that rich white fallacy, The Church of Scientology), and it took me some time to work out how Google’s algorithms had come to the conclusion that I had any desire to know what the diminutive Hollywood prat had been up to.
Eventually I remembered that one evening a few weeks ago, lost surfing a YouTube tangent, I had watched a video clip of Johnny Vegas being interviewed at some red carpet awards event. Now, I am willing to declare openly, here and now, that I do like Johnny Vegas. He has a brutal honesty and vulnerable openness to his comedy, and often says things that are so tragically truthful that I laugh out loud despite myself. But, standing in a line of celebrities being interviewed, who should Vegas be standing next to in the line, but pixie impossible Tom Cruise, and Vegas was saying to the woman interviewing him how she was only talking to him because she was waiting for Tom Cruise to be free. And also, I remember now, Tom Cruise was mentioned in the title of the clip.
We all know how everything we do online or on any connected device is recorded in someway and fed into an ever-growing store of knowledge with which the big internet companies make their money selling this knowledge of us to advertisers. But it is reassuring to know that they haven’t quite got it right yet. Why else would I get adverts for over 50s holidays, or endless adverts for the thing I just bought and have no need to buy another one of? It helps I guess that I am not on Facebook and have no desire to join (I’m still in the majority. Five billion of us are still not on Facebook). But I suppose it does worry me slightly that in the future our lives, when they end, may be judged by our online history. And if I continue to avoid letting Google and Facebook know who I really am, by refusing to continually feed them real knowledge of what I am really interested in, my Amazon sponsored funeral may well have a large poster of Tom Cruise hanging over the coffin. This is the nightmare future I envisage. You have been warned.