Well, of course we didn’t intend it from the start. We’re not monsters, are we?
It’s just, you have all that data, and you’re going to start using it, aren’t you? After all, we’re a business, and we want to give value to our customers.
No, not the users! The advertisers!
Look, if you’re going to pay fifty cents per page impression, you want to make sure that impression counts. So, you know, Ford weren’t going to put a spot on some hippie community wanting to ban cars, and the cigarette companies weren’t going to place anything on the cancer survivors ones. Well, bad example, but you know what I mean.
So obviously we’ve got all this data, and we can predict what the eyeballs – sorry, the users – are actually going to pay attention to, and it’s getting easier all the time. Eventually we know what they’re going to do before they do themselves.
Look, people aren’t special unique snowflakes, you know. People are predictable as hell. And once you can predict one person, you can predict them all.
Well, of course we had the power to predict one. We needed it just to run the site!
The thing is, people aren’t very different. There’s, what, eight, eight and a half billion people in the world? That seems like a big number, but it’s only thirty-three questions.
OK, it works like this. You ask people yes or no questions, right? They split people into two groups. Do you like chocolate? Are you a conservative? Are you female? Is it night-time where you live? That kind of thing. Each one of those questions gives you one bit of information. Choose the questions right – and those aren’t the questions, though they were of that type, and pretty soon you’ve got the person you’re questioning down exactly. Thirty-three bits of information can differentiate eight and a half billion different items. Or people.
No, that’s really all you need, if you choose the questions right – so long as the questions are totally independent, because each question predicts the answer to a load more. Like if you have a Rolls Royce you’re gonna be richer than the guy who goes to work on the bus, right? So if you’ve got a Rolls, you have a job in like a bank or something, not as, I dunno, a street cleaner. You’d have to ask the math guys about that, but that’s the idea.
Of course there was nothing wrong with it! I used the site myself, didn’t i?
No, we didn’t force anyone! They were *giving* us the information! People *like* to give information about themselves. And they were doing it all the time – we got most of the data from games. They’d click all these survey things to get points in games.
No I *don’t* think it should have been regulated! This is America! We’ve got rights! It’s hard to imagine a more fundamental right than the right to play video games.
So once we’ve *got* this thing… I mean, it knows what people are going to do before they do, can you imagine what a goldmine that is? So we start testing it out, and we get it posting status updates for them. We have it post a couple of “Lol, I’m so drunk!” and “chillin’ an pillin’ an lisnin to choons” kind of updates, and the eyeballs whose page they post on don’t realise they didn’t post it themselves, so we offer a service.
No, *NOT* that one! Like I said, we weren’t monsters! We just said “for a small fee, we’ll do your updates for you! No more having to type, we’ll just auto-update, so you keep in touch without the work!”
You’d be surprised how big the take-up was on that. And of course the ones who went for it first were the easiest ones to model – our core demographic weren’t string theorists and brain surgeons, you know? – so it worked very well, for a time.
But then, of course, it happened. We updated someone’s page, and they died before the update.
PR nightmare, you know? Some fuckin asshole kid ripped off his tits on meth has a brain aneurysm, and two hours later his status reads “I’m so high, doodz!” We’re deep in the shit here. Like BP deep. Subterranean.
So then one of our marketing team pulls the masterstroke of the millennium. She remembers this thing called the Turing Test, which says that if you can’t tell the difference between a computer program and a person, then the computer program *is* the person. So, OK, no-one can tell these updates from the real thing, so they are the real thing.
So we can repackage it. Call it ‘Virtual Immortality’. Live on in cyberspace after your body is dead! For a very reasonable monthly fee, you can keep updating your status, IMing, tagging people in games, all the same stuff you were doing already. You can live forever.
So *then* the problem comes when we start deleting accounts.
Look, we’re a fucking business, not a charity. We’re in this to make money, and if those losers can’t pay the bills, the plug gets pulled. Simple.
But people start bleating that we’re ‘killing people’. Do they do that when hospitals pull the plug on some freeloading asshole? I don’t think so. So we have to come up with something to keep these people happy.
So fine, we’ve got these games. You can level up either by paying money or by getting other people to help you. So we make it so that once the dead guys’ money runs out, we’ll keep the account active so long as they can get enough points – which they can only get by getting paying customers to help them. It’s adding value.
So you gonna help me or what?
Fuck you! My company saved millions of lives! Your grandma’s still online today because of me!
The least you could do is click my fucking cow.