Phishing for Phools

Thursday, July 16th 2015

Adblockers and Virtual Agents as Counter Measures

Wednesday, July 15th 2015

The secrets of most marketing are simple:

  • repetition,
  • programming the unconscious,
  • and emotion (often fear).

You get repetitive words and imagery that are designed to condition the unconscious; messages designed to trigger emotion, bypass reason, and condition the memory so that later associative thinking favours the advertiser -- often quite unconsciously. E.g. I Imagine, I Experience, I Like: The False Experience Effect.

The scope is extraordinary: using smells to increase sales, using colours associations in ads to direct peoples' attention to stands in supermarkets, shaping news feeds to be amenable to marketing messages, and so on.

You go into the supermarket and select a particular type of toilet roll. Why? You naturally accept the structures of a debate about social policy? Why? Usually because you are a victim of advertising, PR, propaganda, or whatever you want to call the variety of advertising you have been duped by. "Duped" in the sense that your rational mind never received and parsed the message or made any decisions about it.

Humans are quite fallible in this regard; neurolinguistic programming, subliminal messaging, neuromarketing, and so on are something of a science. They systematically exploit weaknesses in cognition, e.g. cognitive biases. This is gradually transforming propaganda from the crude use of obvious tropes, to something of a subtle science involving shaping thoughts via algorithm.

(One prime example is Facebook's experiment with altering peoples' newsfeeds to alter their moods. I imagine one of the big controversies of the next few years is going to be when Facebook, or whoever it ends up being, is caught charging advertisers to "shape" a users entire "online experience" toward a marketing aim without ever showing that person an official "ad".)

But something interesting is starting to happen.

Adblocking is one of the first widely adopted examples of people using using a virtual agent to modify their "virtual experience". In this case, it's filtering out the more obvious sources of advertising.

The process isn't actually that complicated - various plugins use algorithms to block content associated with domain names known to be ad networks, some html elements that look like ads, and so on.

About 20-25% of users use adblockers (it varies from region to region).

As adblocking takes hold, those who make money from advertising are trying to make their advertising less obvious, less easily parsed and blocked by algorithm. They're disguising it as "content", a messages from people you trust, and so on. They're blocking users who use adblockers. They'll set up technical hurdles to prevent adblocking ... and other countermeasures.

But the people who really know what they're doing are already using other marketing techniques from the more cunning realms of neuromarketing and so on. The rest will follow.

The obvious distinctions between advertising content and "real" content will collapse. To the point that advertising will take the form of modifying "real" content with everything from automated insertion -- all TVs in a video might have their labels changed to "sony" for instance to deep marketing concealed in apps you use. As that becomes easy to spot, subconscious symbolism will be inserted instead, and so on.

At some point, superhubs will spend a great deal of time charging for patterns of behaviour known to favour marketers. If payment isn't made, they'll alter their systems to prevent that pattern of behaviour. The battle will be over how the medium shapes experience via algorithmically generated patterns. Traditional advertising will some hokey and ineffective in comparison.

All of this will occur without the typical users' knowledge. Indeed, it will be impossible to actually understand the process consciously (that's the whole point!). At this point, technical countermeasures will be a necessity. The evolution of adblockers.

As software becomes more ubiquitous, the user interfaces will become more human - natural language, facial recognition, virtual reality, etc. The virtual experience more immersive (VR, AR, etc). The simulated worlds and personalities we interact with will reflect the interests if the businesses and institutions that run them or influence them. Police will demand records. They will be used for surveillance but government and private institutions alike. People will need their own countermeasures. It's not about privacy, etc, per se.

<dons tinfoil hat>

Because all this isn't just about advertising and which bog rolls you decide to buy. It's about who gets to control your unconscious.

It's about protecting yourself from being programmed.

Human Rights Must be Universal

Tuesday, July 14th 2015

All human rights must to be universal.

Many otherwise sensible people thinks it's okay to exclude certain categories of people (foreigners, criminals, terrorists, etc, etc) from "due process". This obviously leads to injustice for those unfortunates. Which is bad enough in itself.

But there is nearly always a gradual expansion of those "exceptional" categories. They end up including more and more people. (Refugees become "illegal arrivals", environmentalists become "eco-terrorists", hackers become "cyber-terrorists", and so on.)

If some people don't have access to due process it's only a matter of time before you don't have access to it either.

Epic Cabling

Monday, July 13th 2015

British Transport Films Collection, Volume 8, Points & Aspects 1974.

The Bono Interval

Saturday, July 11th 2015

The Bono Interval - the number of minutes before Bono appears in a given music documentary.

The Connoisseur, Craftsperson & the Artist

Friday, July 10th 2015

Most skilled people have three things going for them:

  • the connoisseur: the part of you that appreciates other peoples' work (or other aspects of the world around you);
  • the craftsperson: the part of you that can develop detailed steps and follow them -- with the aim getting things done and finds satisfaction of producing work for others to enjoy;
  • the artist: the part of you that takes the connoisseur's appreciation of things, synthesises novel combinations of ideas from it (usually unconsciously, but not always) and hands them to the craftsperson to be knocked into shape (along with an excited, adventurous feeling).

Too much connoisseur and not enough craftsperson? Frustrated critic. Think: film critic who'd secretly like to make movies.

Too much artist and not enough craftsperson? Unfulfilled dreamer. Think: utopian who feels like a failure.

Too much craftsperson and not enough artist? Uninspired methodical technician. Think: session musician who just does it for the cash.

We're at the bottom of page 7.

Click a page number above to go to that page.