Your Bubble or Mine?

Alex Epstein comments on and shares an excellent video of TED presenter Eli Pariser on Beware the Online Content Filter Bubble.  Pariser shows that Google search results are highly customized.  They are not uniform from user to user.  They represent an insular view of the online world based on the user’s preferences and behavior, a personal bubble cut off from the rest of the Net and the real world.

Pariser innocently pleads that large companies like Google and Facebook have a social obligation to connect that bubble to the world.  They should include content that isn’t just relevant but important and fair, and even challenging and uncomfortable.

He points to changes in the newspaper industry a century ago that resulted in a seachange of social-based journalistic and editorial ethics with the hope that such integrity will happen again.

Eli, seriously?  [Insert evil laugh here.] This isn’t your great grandfather’s society. This is anarchy.

Current media can have its benefits, like social media used to report atrocities and uprisings. But that’s a lucky side effect. No one calls Fox TV on its absurd claims of being unbiased. It’s only when it gets truly outrageous like the News of the World’s voice mail invasions that anyone notices … long after the government has been co-opted. Google’s mantra of Do No Evil quickly gets compromised in the complexity of a pluralistic international community. Facebook is frequently lost when it comes to personal privacy.

Corporate self-regulation is a failed experiment, especially in a competitive tech market that must produce ever better results to generate more revenues the next quarter. The US Supreme Court has given corporations individual-like powers to spend money on elections and influence government and policy but without the concomitant nuisance, I mean obligation, to be a socially responsible citizen.

Our me-first consumer generation expects higher service and relevance in an Internet awash with virtually unlimited choices. And even if people aspire to higher ideals their actual actions don’t reflect it, such as in dating.

Externalities be damned, even in politics. The current conservative government and the rise at all costs of the individual as the final  decision-maker and budget spender over government and social institutions mean the bubble will have metamorphosed into an entire virtual universe before anyone gets around to worrying about it, much less noticing.

Still, it’s good to know. I applaud Alex Epstein for sharing a few options to insulate oneself from the prying eyes of the Net.

Me, I’m done training wives and search engines. I don’t want to start again. I don’t have any boundaries. I’m thrilled Google is listening to me and creating my own bubble. I’m fine with my dalliance with leather crotchless chaps and hairless goats a few days years ago following me around. I just want to know when I get to name my bubble and start selling virtual real estate there in my new world. I’ve long said that I live in Marcland.  Come over and join me any time.


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