The Internet Of Me
Feb. 26, 2022 — Now that I’ve activated my new blockchain persona miner, it’s going to be so much easier for me to manage the additional 8 personas I want to deploy next summer, and use them like individual offshore Swiss Bank Accounts for my social holdings.
I’ll tell Google, or Alexa, or Cortana, or Whatever, to let my MeBots know that I’m interested in something, and they can each go off (or on) and appropriately be the many different Mes that “I” need to be. I don’t have to pick one. What a relief.
I’m not sure yet where the boundaries between them will be or should be. I’m not sure what differences I “need” while still adding up to being Me.
But, I’ll just let ’em run around and see what happens. Down the line, I might be forced to decide whether I want to change them or whether I’ll let them change me.
I gotta say, this is gonna be the greatest thing since Privacy, a real pain in the ass that was gettin’ on my last nerve. Up to now, social media already showed that as soon as I stopped caring about my privacy, people fell quickly into just a few groups. One group stopped telling me anything privately. Another stopped paying attention altogether. A third took it as an invitation to be even less private themselves than they have been before. And a fourth looted me like an abandoned department store. Arguably, I maintained privacy mostly to avoid those groups.
But if I have eight or more MeBots, all independently and differently active, and all doing something I want them to, then there’s more than enough of “me” to go around, while no one of them is comprehensive enough to be the full me. What do I need privacy for? Problem solved!
It’s not even a new idea. We saw this coming years ago. Back in summer of 2016, a person could already have an identifiable persona on TV, a completely different persona on Facebook or Twitter, yet another in the world of people who still read or had long attention spans, and even another in the custom network of people who made up their environment behind closed doors.
Out in public, it wasn’t yet as clear as now whether it was easier to personify or to impersonate. Personifiers created audiences and lived within them; impersonators found audiences and visibly joined them. For most people, the opportunity to do either without significant money or permission was still pretty novel. Some were learning, but most people, mainly casual voyeurs, were disinterested in either option over the other. They trawled both — without concern for whether they were visiting publicity or society — imagery or reality.
Back then, the casuals could still be shocked by moments when publicity and society unexpectedly collided. Persons “well-known” to them were occasionally the subject of *Breaking News* in which a key assumption — that the person’s private self was not anti-social — turned out to be False!
2017 and 2018 then came full of such surprises, to the point that sometimes it was pretty unclear whether these individual’s public persona and social persona even knew about each other.
Eventually it became fairly common knowledge that the more wealth and power a person had, the more easily their multiple personas could inhabit the same room simultaneously. Turned out that these people were everywhere! Before the unveilings, a huge number of especially rich and powerful figures had established celebrity status as mad geniuses, eccentric lovables, hell-bent innovators, and pragmatic heroes — all operating under some vast but vague tolerance exempting them from what ought to be “normal” rules.
The increasingly frequent bursts of freed information seemed to mean that some tipping point had been hit. If you were somebody that had something to hide, suddenly you might have more to worry about, too. The time had come to fortify what little privacy there was still to be had.
But for the rest of us, neither rich nor powerful, there was increasingly less worry about this old-school currency of public reputation and social privacy, or their conflict.
Let’s face it: if forced to choose, people typically wanted collateral more than they wanted privacy. And although Privacy law for The Common Man was being enacted more than ever, when would most of us who don’t have probation officers need it? It seemed newly useful mainly for people who were unwillingly notable, and significantly less useful for those willingly not notable.
Meanwhile, for most of us, the big shift to self-help was on. There were two big privacy tactics being learned.
One tactic — virtual anonymity — was to just develop so many different personas that no one of them was comprehensive enough to be more authoritative (or even more necessary) than the others, certainly not definitively representative of the aggregate person. Basically, they were just wholly owned subsidiaries funneling different stuff from different places to the same place.
The other tactic — popularity — was to simply not have anything warranting being private about, so it didn’t actually matter if anyone was looking.
Even before the millennium changeover, pop culture had already mastered the latter tactic, Popularity, in the art of being “famous for being famous”. The stretch from Queen Bee Mean Girl or Cheerleader Captain in high school to Society Pop Tart was pretty short for those interested, and not much farther from there to Stardom. In America, wholesale appreciation of Alpha Plastic Regina George became fabulously refined with Paris Hilton, who for those historians born after 1995 supplied the evolutionary missing link back to the art’s archetype, Rula Lenska.
Before the digital web, keeping up appearances had been high-maintenance work for those practitioners, but now its effort-to-payoff ratio is fantastically small. There’s almost no barrier to entry. Importantly, there’s also a working theory in the craft that high frequency Appearance dilutes any background personal reality to a level of insignificance, anyway — which levels the playing field for people with truly insignificant personal realities, not only for the shameless.
In this mode, the ability to quickly regenerate Appearance, especially after any incidental crash-n-burn, mainly relies on the willpower to just keep moving, which is now a lot easier! It is exactly why reputation is nothing more than credit now: when you don’t have enough, the key is to find a different lender, and the Public is where the lenders hang out. Here, Publicity simply trumps privacy. It counts on a culture that it also actively grows, somewhere between amnesty and amnesia.
Whereas, in the former tactic, where Anonymity is pursued, the culture is bounded by the alias and the alibi.
Privacy fans will note that the unifying theme at work there is “It Wasn’t Me”. The relevant skill set, plausible deniability, comes to some people naturally, even magically — but most people have to work at it. Luckily, the need is so circumstantial that (unlike publicity) there is only a low requirement for daily attention: unless you’re being investigated you probably do not have to get busy with deniability that way, and once you get the hang of it, it’s far easier to generate it on demand. On the other hand, the workload is significant in a different way. Anonymity needs to be staged beforehand, and defended afterwards.
Since anonymity’s work does take effort, we naturally appreciate that automation (especially digital) makes it faster, cheaper and prettier for either of the two best ways to do it: one work vector is about secrecy, but another is about illusion.
Both secrecy and illusion have the goal of pre-empting any penetrating attention. Secrecy fights against nosiness, of course, while illusion fights against recognition.
In both cases, disguises can be valuable, and the trick to using disguises comes in two dimensions: how to disguise something (including how to disguise yourself!); and how to not be noticed doing the disguising.
In theory, it doesn’t really matter whether what the person is disguising is important to anyone else or not; the level of effort is roughly the same. And thanks to automation, the expectation now is that if something is made easy to do for anyone, it is probably then easy for everyone who can get their hands on whatever made that difference. Thus, we can have a general proliferation of evasion, where (whether through secrecy or illusion) it is harder to be detected for who you are, where you are, or when you’re there, except in the way you decide to tell people. The lesson of Anonymity is that if you need privacy, you don’t have to get it; you just have to not give it away.
Problem: Things are also a lot easier for bad guys, too. There’s no question that, thanks to automation, we still worry now about who can break through our disguises more than we do about being able to create them.
Thing is, the bizarre confluence of identity theft and oversharing has been running strong since 2010, a paradox of idiocy that stays fueled by the commercialization of technology on both sides.
But here’s the root: it’s a system. Most of the oversharing is by amateurs trying to create personas; most of the theft is by professionals smart enough to impersonate them. It’s not surprising, then, that the business of making “smart” personas for amateurs would bloom. Like the eruption of digital auto-exposure cameras solving the problem of crappy snapshots, turning oversharing into Personal PR Programming was just a logical next step.
So… What about nosiness?
To really avoid invasive exposure, the art of MeBots is to make each one of them really busy but completely unnecessary to all the others. We don’t need our multiple personas to reinforce each other, guarding us with their interlocking arms; we just need none of them to be cross-referenced with any of the others, without our permission.
In fact, no one in public needs to know who we “really” are when we aren’t interacting with them. We just need them to know what we really want, regardless of why… when we are with them. And the most predictable way to interact confidently is to pick them before they come looking for us.
Here in 2022, it’s now assumed that anything you put out there is going to be “shared” for free. And we’re not so much tied up in the old-school anxieties of public reputation and social privacy anymore. With an infinitely large and much less-controlled supply of audience at our disposal, our new-school concerns are more about deciding when to be imaginary and when to be real. That’s what we use our bots for.
Afterthought: We can ignore this, but in hindsight (say, back to March 2016), the public fluidity between real and imagined identities has a serious downside: the dissolution of Society.
Publicity really thrives on people having nothing to lose. It has the effect of letting notable people re-program and reboot themselves endlessly, and of un-notable people endlessly consuming for free… with the definite drawback of making everyone less reliable and therefore less important. It doesn’t offer much to the permanence of a community’s membership. It just turns the community into a temporary market segment.
Privacy, on the other hand, presupposes that people do have something to lose. Having something to lose inspires making relationships that provide trusted support.
Seen that way, is privacy the only way to convert publicity into society?
Maybe Privacy isn’t really about Me. Maybe Privacy is really about We.