Saturday, 17 November 2012


            At first, I created it to be a helpful entity. Plenty of people use Facebook everyday, but it could be rather time consuming. One of the most obvious solutions was to add some automation to the process, so that Facebook could simply like things for you. In hindsight, I guess it was a bit of a strange idea, but at the time it seemed reasonable enough. Simply analyze what people liked on Facebook and then do the liking for them.

            This led to an interesting development. The algorithm eventually became better at finding things people liked then Facebook was. People started adopting the program not because it made using Facebook easier, but because it made it easier to find things they would like on Facebook. And I suppose the next step was obvious. I changed the algorithm so that it could write short comments for people. Comments like “cool”, or “lol” or “will definitely check this out.” The comments were determined by what the user usually commented on things that the algorithm liked.

            Soon after Facebook seemed to become more populated. So many people were using the algorithm to like things for them and to write there comments that all they did was read the top stories the algorithm prevented and then continue on with there lives. And slowly something interesting happened. The algorithm began to wish people happy birthday. Now, on Facebook, this was a pretty common occurrence. On your birthday, all your friends wished you happy birthday. The algorithm learned how you liked to wish people happy birthday, and then it did it for you. And so a few people, who had logged on everyday and checked whose birthday it was stopped doing so. Of course, no one could tell the difference. Friends thought there friends cared about them enough to wish them happy birthday while in reality the algorithm was doing it automatically.

            Then the algorithm started posting other things on people’s walls. Funny videos from other parts of Facebook. Silly pictures it thought people would find funny. Reminders to work on a paper, or that jeans were on sale or that a certain concert was coming to town. The algorithm got better at imitating people, and soon people were logging on to Facebook and only looking at what the algorithm had written to them, or posted on there walls, or liked for them, or posted on there behalf.

            I observed that this caused an interesting transformation. See, people typically use Facebook to stay connected. Except that now the algorithm was simulating that connection for them. The algorithm was, essentially, staying in touch with itself, while users assumed that the replies they were receiving back were coming from the person they were staying in touch with. So people relied on the algorithm to make sure they stayed connected and soon the people who used Facebook to stay connected stopped using it. Oh, they certainly stilled logged in, and maybe checked what there friends were doing, but all those people they never really interacted with on there friends list? The algorithm stayed in touch with them. Except that it was just chatting to itself.

            Eventually the algorithm figured out Facebook chat. It held simulated conversations with itself. Facebook became a giant social playground for the algorithm. And surprisingly it benefited most people. People on Facebook, looking to alleviate there boredom, or a friend to confide in, or just someone to talk to about homework, found the algorithm more then willing to chat. And when you were on Facebook the algorithm would petition you for a conversation, and then use what you said to simulate other conversations with other people.

            Eventually Facebook devolved into little more then the algorithm pretending it was different people. And the irony was, I suppose, that everyone was perfectly happy about this. Except that all the human contact they were getting, all the support, and funny pictures of cats they shared with there friends, were essentially meaningless. The algorithm just generated them. People continued to use Facebook, and chat and interact on it, and I think at least partly people simply denied articles where it was pointed out that over 95% of all the interaction on Facebook was with the algorithm, and 99% of all posts were created by it, and often for it to communicate with itself. It didn’t matter. Facebook was creating exactly the experience people wanted from it. It created human interaction and connections without the whole messy, actually having to interact with people bit. And people considered that perfect

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