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-25 years ago

26 years ago – looking into the future?

Today is the 25th Anniversary of the Web.  How time flies. I have had a personal computer (Mac) for 27 years. Of course I didn’t start using the worldwide web until the 90’s, when everyone else did. I was using the computer for design and word processing.  I learn something new nearly every day, but instead of catching up, I seem to fall behind as the technology advances. I learn as I go, just not fast enough.  The panacea of personal computers? Things have kind of gotten out of hand.

Last evening I added an unusual item to my ‘Wish List’ on Amazon.  It is a ‘spiralizer’. This morning I see it is an Amazon ad on my personal Facebook page. And not just any spirilizer (there are many) but the exact one I had chosen. A coincidence? I think not. I’ve heard about the increased power and perception of information gathering programs online, in particular the one associated with Amazon…the possibility of drone delivery of items before we have even ordered them!! The mind boggles. I recently said to my husband I’m glad we lived before computers because we have a little perspective on the whole thing. At the moment I find it interesting because I know a little about what is going on. If only I understood what I know.

A couple of sites from which I buy books are using software based on my past purchases, as they try to figure out which books to market to me.  I could just ‘unsubscribe’ from their emails, but it amuses me. My tastes are eclectic enough that they haven’t pegged me quite yet, and it is interesting to see the correlation between what I order and what marketing emails flow on from that.  The flaw in their diabolical plan is, I order books for other people as well as myself, but of course they have no way of knowing that… or do they??? So, with my recent purchase of the book titled ‘Markets or Governments-2nd Edition: Choosing between imperfect alternatives’ I notice they have not come up with a further selection based on that title. Give them time. I ordered it for my husband. His reading tastes are about as opposite from mine as it gets. They probably do account for that, somewhere in the algorithms of the extrapolation of the cowabungus… oh, how would I know???

I worked in marketing/promotion/advertising for over 10 years, in my previous life, which has now been a long time ago… before personal computers, and long before the Web. We used focus groups, surveys, direct marketing and all kinds of things to try and target our market. According to Wikipedia modern advertising started in the 1920’s with the advent of the tobacco industry. Those who don’t want to be a target could stop all internet and electronic usage, and close their eyes when they walk down the street…hmm, maybe not that last one. Short of that, most of us will just have to tighten up our privacy settings and learn to be discerning consumers. Everyone wants a little piece of us, or more accurately, our money and purchase power. Don’t click.  Say no.  Hang up the phone, or deal with the consequences.

I feel sorry for those who are naïve and fall prey to the less scrupulous among us but that has been going on all of my life, and I’m pretty sure long before that. Consumers have been targets, well, forever. What about Eve convincing Adam to eat that apple? If that wasn’t target marketing I don’t know what is.  What business hasn’t received a dishonoured cheque (when cheques were still used, of course)? What person hasn’t been disappointed by a product or service that fell far short of the promised expectations?

Browsers get more powerful and enable us to find information as never before in human history.  I can type a foreign language into Google and get a translation within seconds.  I can find out how to repair my toilet, or what the heck a ‘spiralizer’ is!  I can even find out how to improve my privacy online.  Power has been, and always will be, a double edged sword, so be careful what you wish for… I looked, you can’t order a horse from Amazon but you can order a horse-y game…. I wonder what kind of ad would appear on my Facebook page then?

Yours, in privacy… Ardys (surname withheld for security reasons)