Does Everyone Know Everything?

I am regularly surprised, though I know I shouldn’t be, at the depth of the information trove that exists about each of us.  I just placed an Amazon order for a book, Deep State by the way, and was treated to offers of this, that and the other things that Amazon wanted me to consider before I said no and clicked to get my intentional order fulfilled.  Nearly all of those things Amazon suggested I consider were of potential interest to me, however.

That has been evolving over time and I have been aware but apparently only subliminally aware.  I know that there is probably little about my preferences that remain unknown.  I am a conservative, I blog thus giving away deeply held belief structures, and I have lived a long time in this age of super information.

It seems, occasionally, that even my account at my local library must be available to any and all comers.  The unsolicited reading material offers I receive are way too close to what I am thinking I might need/desire at any point in time.  Of course, my magazine subscriptions are no doubt known by many marketers.  There may soon be an intersection I’ll pass through following which my near-future thoughts will be expressed to me by external sources before or simultaneously with those thoughts…or so it sometimes seems.

That seems a bit of an extreme at the moment but given the progress (?) being made in artificial intelligence circles, one has to wonder if there will remain any recognizable barriers to artificial intelligence a generation or two from now?

My ordering of this book provides additional information, or at least confirmation, of my leanings.  I am suspicious of government, especially of the government at the federal level.  I am not a fanatic, but I reserve the right to question how certain things are made to happen.  I know that the Civil Service laws were originally intended to assure that government employees were hired on the basis of their skills and capabilities rather than on their connections, for example.  But has that eroded over time?

By ordering ‘Deep State’ I probably am showing that I have suspicions as to how well Civil Service has worked to avoid our having a second, and even more effective, source of governance.  If you’ve not thought about this gathering of personal data, and you are not some kind of crackpot if you have, that has been happening for some time.  Public data banks provide a wealth of information about each of us.  I receive e-mails almost daily about things that are personal favorites of mine.  That is easy for interested parties to find.  The extrapolation of that available data by super-computers can yield expectations of my future preferences based on my past progression into new and different things.  That is simply the art of marketing that exists today.

We are not the private people we thought we were.  We are each grouped into various classes of consumers by various organizations.  Our voting histories are well known to all parties having an interest.  Pollsters have a keen insight into how to frame the group of people from whom they desire opinions.  The Republicans are reported to have had the ‘data’ edge over the Dems in this past national election cycle, for example.

Take a look at the emails that hit your inbox in the course of a few days and I wouldn’t be surprised if you began to wonder as I have been wondering.  The Amazons of this world are ever-improving their data gathering techniques.  The Pea Pods of this world know more and more about their customers’ consuming drives.  The GMs of the world know more and more about our vehicle preferences.  Our banks know a lot about us.  Do they offer their bulk/non-personal data for sale I wonder?

The masters of algorithms can solve for various answers and are improving almost daily in their abilities.  One of our preferences might trigger others’ preferences for what we prefer, and we end up being seen through those searches.  If you do some simple ordering of product over the Internet, you find yourself receiving offers from entities you’ve never heard of before for things that intrigue you but for which you weren’t yet craving a solution.  Yet, those offerings usually trigger some impulse in you since they were designed to do that based on millions of other people’s reactions over time.

We need be mindful that our data is ‘out there’ either personalized or de-personalized.  We may not be seen as an individual, but we can easily be seen as a member of a group of like individuals for whom purchasing patterns have been learned.  We do not need to be known as Al or Pete or Gladys or Joan.  That we are members of a similar group is often sufficient for marketers.

This, of course, goes for physical products as well as for personal preferences across a wide range of subjects.  Prove it to yourself.  Perform a couple of ‘Google’ searches for products of one kind or another that you’ve never used before and then watch what you begin receiving over the next few weeks or months.

We are each known far better than we might like and there is scant little we can do to change that in this data-driven world.

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