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Facebook -- with or without Google -- will destroy the world as we know it

Thumbs up from ArnoldOn Monday, Facebook announced the launch of a platform that will set in motion a process that will catastrophically terminate the world as we know it. Known by the end-user as the rather demure 'Messages', and internally as Project Titan, it is only those that look toward the future that know its true name: Skynet.

The future can be defined as a flow of time that has the potential to become anything. With an almost-infinite number of possibilities, it's no surprise that we occasionally get dizzily lost in our thoughts of the future. It's also no surprise that most of our life is about making choices, for it is the only way we can control our future. Should I get out of bed? What should I make for lunch? Who will I meet today? Should I ask her out? These are all choices, all decisions that irrevocably alter the future.

Unless we choose for something to happen -- unless we cause an event to occur -- everything else happens to us. When you lose the power of choice, you lose the power to affect your future. You are no longer you -- instead, you are the punching bag of the universe.

Which brings us back to Facebook. We are rapidly approaching a point in time -- a technological singularity -- where Facebook knows enough about you, me and all of mankind that it can make better choices than us.


Choices, choices


One day soon, you will log into Facebook and a 'choice feed' will tell you what to do with your day. You won't have to push a button or type in some kind of query -- you will simply load up Facebook.com and there, in bold type, your choice feed will tell you what choices to make for the next 24 hours. Wear these clothes; take this route to work; don't say Hi to Richard, he's a dick; buy your boss a birthday present -- and so on. You won't hesitate in following Facebook's choices because they'll feel completely right; they'll feel just like your own choices, only they're not -- they're a computer's.

But it gets more terrifying. When every one of us uses Facebook -- and given a few years, this will be the case -- choice feeds will be tailored so that they match up with other people. My feed will say "pick up flowers at 4pm", while the florist's choice feed will say "have a bouquet of pink lilies ready at 4pm for Sebastian."

The social, cultural and financial implications of a system that can match-make with such incredible accuracy are staggering. You will never have to look for a girlfriend or boyfriend -- Facebook will find you one. You will never look for a job -- Facebook will assign the perfect match for your skill set. Want to see a new film but don't have someone to see it with? Don't worry: Facebook will choose the perfect cinema buddy.

With Facebook calling the shots, you won't ever want for anything.

Messages, Titan, Skynet


As far as you and I are concerned, there is only one fundamental difference between Facebook and Google. They are both in the business of accruing monstrous amounts of data about its users -- but they both have very different sets of data. Facebook only knows what we explicitly say about ourselves -- our age, our hometown, our favorite TV show. Our Facebook profile represents who we aspire to be; Schindler's List might not actually be your favorite film, and you might have only read the first page of that Nietzsche book, but who's to know?

Google, on the other hand, can only implicitly deduce facts by our browsing habits. Google might not know our exact age, but it knows a lot of things that we would never tell other people, such as our late-night browsing habits. Google knows that we like to spend hours looking at stupid pictures of cats and videos of pandas sneezing. Google knows that our favorite film is actually American Pie.

In other words, Facebook knows who we want to be, while Google knows who we actually are.

It's when you join those two halves that everything slots into place. That's when the singularity is reached; that's when superhuman intelligence will indelibly alter the landscape of humanity.

With Messages, Facebook will be privy to both your explicit and implicit profile. It will know that, publicly, your favorite book is Lord of the Rings, but that you secretly spend hours writing Harry Potter fan fiction. It will know your exact age, but it will also know your actual mental age and reading level. It will know if you long to live in other countries, or whether you are unhappy in your current relationship. Facebook Messages will know you better than you know yourself.

When the Facebook consciousness awakens, everything will change. You will still make choices, but you won't know if they originate from within or without.

You will be given the choice of opting out, of course. But think about it: can you see yourself leaving Facebook today? Now fast forward a few months, a year. Imagine what it will be like once all of your communication goes through Facebook; quitting won't be an option.

Tags: editorial, facebook, facebook messages, FacebookMessages, singularity, skynet, social networking, SocialNetworking, superhuman intelligence, SuperhumanIntelligence, terminator, titan

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