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.
I laughed out loud at the last line.
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You know, you write very entertainingly, Andrew. Good ideas, well executed. You should really try your hand at something more long-form.
Thanks! I’ve been working on a couple of long-form ideas in the background (one collaborative project which will be announced as soon as I *FINALLY* get PEP! 2 done, and another thing which will take a lot longer) but I have real problems with physical/visual descriptions.
I think I’d be better at writing plays or something than novels, because most of the writing is dialogue or very plain description, but haven’t the first clue how to go about doing that (I tried Big Finish’s story competition partly because it might be an in for them, as they mostly do audio drama, which would be perfect for my skillset I think, but they didn’t like the story I submitted).
Either way, it’s good to know that people liked this one, as I’m usually pretty cautious about my fiction. What’s especially pleasing is that it’s people I respect, like you or Debi or Andrew Ducker or Simon Bucher-Jones (who co-wrote The Book Of The War among other things) who’ve given me positive feedback about this. It makes it much more likely I’ll do more fiction of *some* type…
I vote, not for long-form — not everyone is cut out to write Angel Pavement — but for lots and lots of sharp short-form funny stuff like this!
And Andrew, my goodness…you must stop being so diffident. I think trying some playwright stuff is an excellent idea for you, I used to write monologues for actor friends of mine, just gave the things away…turns out I wasn’t any good at writing actual plays, but at monologues I was alright…and that was good information…and you should stop wondering, and start experimenting, start finding out what you like to do. Try a bunch of stuff…!
But first try another couple things like this one, which made me laugh.
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