Fulfilling the Promise of the Internet – Part II

[This is a continuation from the previous entry:  “The Unfulfilled Promise of the Internet – Part I”]

Visions for the future are also a dime a dozen.  (Visionary people, like Musk and Bezos, who can actually reify their visions are a much rarer breed of Pokémon though.)  Here’s a vision for the future– one I just thought up this morning; won’t even cost you a nickel:

As I’ve previously mentioned elsewhere, I personally actually hail from a software development background.  Though I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading, I’ve never formally trained in an MFA program or pursued a humanities degree.  What’s been interesting as I’ve been recently diving more into reading and writing is how little of people’s writing I actually see on the internet.  Sure, there is AO3 and some personal blogs that exist out there.  But on almost everything I’ve seen, the updates are infrequent.  I’ve stumbled over many blogs that haven’t been updated in years and appear all but sadly abandoned.

This is really strange to me.

In the coding world, we have an idea of “GitHub”— a central repository to which people commit and push their code as they finish programming.  On any given day, I may finish coding one or more features to a pet project I’m working on and push those additions and changes to my GitHub account.  Overtime, my GH profile then becomes a portrait of not only my “coding ability” but also a historical record of my journey and growth as a software developer.  It’s really a fascinating historical artifact and if you look at my commit history you can very clearly see:  “Ah, here’s where he learned about fat arrow functions in JavaScript!” or “Ah, and here’s the period where he got super into list-comprehensions in Python!”  One person’s GH profile, in this way, becomes a representation of the person as a coder.

It baffles me why a similar concept/construct doesn’t existing for writers.

My vision for the future:  Every human being on earth, since the time they turn 13, keeps an online blog.  The blog may be private or public but the state mandates that the person journal in the blog, every single day, writing 400 words a day.  The entries would follow the format laid out in “The Alphabet Game” (each day’s entry must begin with that day’s letter).

Over time, using fancy ML and data science techniques, we could then deconstruct every human being’s “persona” based on a super-detailed analysis of their daily blog entries.  Writing 400 days, every single day, is a powerful corpus.  (Over 365 days, you would have 365*400=146,000 words!)  By closely analyzing each person’s corpus of writing, we could discern your political opinions, religion beliefs, and entertainment preferences.  We would know where you stood on social policies (eg. “Universal Basic Income”) or what you thought about certain celebrities (eg. “Ben Affleck”).  We’d know you intimately at an incredibly granular level.  Additionally, in some months, the state would issue challenges like:  “In September, one of your entries should cover, ‘Your favorite author’.” or “In August, one of your entries should cover ‘Your favorite film director’.”

Right now, we live in a strange looking-glass world where we know so little about the politicians we elect into office or the SCOTUS Justices who take the bench.  It’s turned into a truly deranged situation where, actually, the less we know about someone, the more likely s/he is able to win an election or be confirmed!  Because that person becomes a kinda “blank slate” that the electorate (all of us, plebeians) can project our hopes and wishes upon.  Anything known about you in 2020 becomes “baggage.”

But this is outrageously weird, right?  Shouldn’t we demand to know more about these people that we’re putting into positions of great power who rule over us? Not less?  If my daisy world became reality, then people who wanted to operate in the public sphere would be forced to reveal their daily journals to the public!  And we’d see their experiences, memories, opinions, and beliefs in daily, ~400 word snapshots. All since their teenage years!  Most importantly, we’d see their journey through life and how they became the person that they currently are.  Wouldn’t that be something?

Flexible Minds

LetterSong TitleMovie TitleReal Person
AAlways Remember Us This WayArmageddonAlger, Horatio
BThe BestBeauty & the BeastBrie, Alison
CCall Me MaybeCrazy Rich AsiansCarlisle, Brenda
DDrone Shot of My YachtDie HardDonovan, Landon

Neuroplasticity has been recently on mind. (You did almost get a post about “Nigel Farage” today though.) Namely, I’ve been thinking about aging and how as we get older, people seem to grow increasingly rigid in their thoughts and ways. From my limited understanding on what I’ve read, I believe the calcification happens because of our biology. Neurotransmitters, brain chemicals, all that. It’s sadly unavoidable, a fate destined for us all.

To combat the advent of such sadly inevitable dementia though, Bagel and I have been recently playing a game I (creatively) call, “The Grid Game.” We usually play it when we take our evening walks after dinner. The way it works: We alternate taking turns– like I start with ‘A’, she replies with ‘B’, etc. Everything must be done purely from mental recollection– no smartphones or Bing allowed! If one of us gets to the answer first (haha, usually me– but only because we’re playing in English! Bagel language would be a different story altogether) then we give each other hints like, “This is the first movie we saw in the cinema together.” Or– “My favorite song last summer! Played it in the car every time!” Stuff like that.

We initially conceived of the game as a way to help her improve her English. But I have since taken to playing it on my own time and with more specific categories (like “World Leaders,” “TV Shows,” and “Fictional Characters.”) It’s actually harder than you may think; remember, no smartphones! The other day, I got stuck on “Real woman’s name that starts with ‘I'” and after something like 20 minutes, the best I could come up with was “Laura Ingraham.” Not my proudest moment, I’ll confess. (For “Real man’s name that starts with ”I’,” my response was immediately, “Kazuo Ishiguro.”)

Anyway, I now keep a Google Doc open in one of my hundred tabs I have open and occasionally revisit it throughout the week. A coding exercise I’ll probably eventually do (gotta put all the data science I’ve learned to work!) is build a “Diversity Score Calculator” to analyze submissions and then break them down by sex/race/age/genre. I’m still kicking around some ideas but I think it’s an interesting exercise to judge your own implicit bias. When you free-associate, do you most often think of white people? Black people? Men or women? American, European, Hispanic, Asian? Contemporary or historical figures? Artists or politicians? Other? If political figures appear, are they most often right or left, conservative or liberal? For artistic works, summer blockbusters and platinum hits or the classics? Breakdowns like that. Anyway, just my random idea for the day. So much to do and so little time!

PS. For anyone who’s interested, you can make a copy of the template here. And also, here is my own personal August 2020 entry. Again, the idea is to just free-associate and complete the sheet as fast as possible. Like, a good time would be 10-15 minutes. Don’t worry about “appearing PC” or cosmopolitan and worldly. No one’s gonna see your answers! Just be yourself. You might be intrigued with the results.