Behind the Internet Operating System

Many pundits tell you that the computer is ushering us toward a new Golden Age of Information. A few tell you that the computer is destroying everything worthwhile in our culture. But almost no one tells you what Stephen L. Talbott shows in this surprising book: the intelligent machine gathers its menacing powers from hidden places within you and me. It does so, that is, as long as we gaze into our screens and tap on our keyboards while less than fully conscious of the subtle influences passing through the interface.

~ The Future Does Not Computer – Transcending the Machines in Our Midst

Sophisticated Data Analysis on Human Behavior

Hilary Mason, lead scientist at, shows how revealing a URL-redirection tool can be when one knows how to design data systems that capture intelligence.

Here is Jeff Pierce from IBM Research, presenting how users prioritize, select and read their email on mobile devices. This requires intimate study of human finger movements on a massive scale behind the scenes, without the users knowledge.  In this case, what is being presented is behavioral research for the purpose of improved software user interface design and functionality.  But what one is left wondering is what other behavioral research projects are currently underway that measure human behavior in other, perhaps even more, intimate ways.

Attracting the public via Fun & Entertaining front-ends

Here is Ben Huh, who runs almost 50 “entertainment” web sites that receive over 15 million unique visits per month.  Huh operates seemingly harmless sites such as Failblog and ICanHasCheezburger.  I don’t think many viewers of these sites understand just how sophisticated the thinking is behind these sites, and that the ultimate goal is to migrate the user to “become one with Internet culture”, immersing the physical into the virtual.

Military Industrial Complex’s (MIC’s) Pervasive Influence

In this short version of Steve Blank’s presentation on the Secret History of Silicon Valley we have an admitted former member of US Intelligence telling us that Stanford, MIT and Silicon Valley companies are assets of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC).

Framing Perspective:
Cool Simple Attractive Engaging front-ends with
Highly Sophisticated Behavioral Data Capturing back-ends

These presentations begin to frame a picture describing the level of sophistication and ultimate goals for the Internet, where the public is immersed into a virtual playground while back-end scientists develop sophisticated data collection and behavioral feedback systems based upon data-driven observations of largely-unaware users.

In the example videos presented in the blog post, we see “cool” web sites and their founding-operator marketing to users the benefits of collaboratively created culture and using this narrative to persuade the public to further embed themselves into this virtually contrived world, which is largely designed and operated by a network of MIC created and run companies and academic institutions. As users and usage rates increase through these web site front-ends, usage data proliferates across the cloud, so that companies, academic researchers and government can engage in ever sophisticated analysis of larger and more comprehensive data sets that model our collective behavior in highly intimate ways.

Introducing Highly Masked Behavioral Controls

In this next video, from a February 2010 gaming conference, we are exposed to a computer/video game designer telling the audience that gaming psychology is being used more and more to manipulate user behavior via B.F. Skinner-type rewards and penalties (see Skinner Box posted below), which we now see proliferating the online and offline worlds via loyalty reward programs and the like.

One can imagine people being rewarded for riding their bike to work by government, or for listening to certain in-ear programming while they sleep, or penalized for not reporting on their neighbor who didn’t separate his trash into recycling bins on Tuesday.

Further, in very recent articles we are witnessing discussions on how this same data can be employed by government to actively “engage” youth in government, which can be translated to rewarding citizens for government specified “politically correct” behavior.

Skinner Box
Skinner Box

The Internet Follows DoD’s Roadmap

As the picture becomes more clear, what one starts to understand is that the Military Industrial Complex is deploying a technological system that is increasingly capable of executing real-time feedback and infinitely granular monitoring of users, while simultaneously implementing societal controls based upon this feedback.

Under Admiral Art Cebrowski the US Military has implemented a similar such system under the force transformation program, typically referred to as Network Centric Warfare (NCW). What the DoD learned is that network centric systems of this type bring limited freedom to the users on the edge, but dramatically increase centralized Command and Control (C2), and thereby limit overall liberties of everyone who operates within the network.

Next Article: Are we building a tollbooth society?

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~ by Plug N Play Human on May 7, 2010.

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