[In case you haven’t noticed, Brennon Slattery has been writing for us for a while. He’s our resident tech expert, and we’ll now be featuring him in a tri-weekly tech column: “Ones and Zeroes.” It’s a nod to the language of binary code. Don’t worry, it went over our heads too.]
The other day I woke and discovered I’d married Pabst Blue Ribbon. I always thought that if I were to cement vows with a product (which I can, in this state), it’d be through the expected channel: rocketing into late-morning consciousness soaked in the boozy rot-gut binge sweats of recession-proof hipster swill. Instead, PBR had infiltrated my Facebook photographs, the .jpg representations of my memory, and become, somehow, a part of my personal history.
How did this happen? Had I unknowingly signed a contract, shaken hands with some suit with a twirly villain’s mustache? Or had Pabst covertly jammed its fingers into my digital life?
Sounds very “Philip K. Dick making whoopee with Inception,” but despite its sci-fi underpinnings, the concept is not too far-fetched.
Aza Raskin, the creative leader of Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser, heralded the age of corporate-sponsored falsified memories in a 45-minute keynote speech at the University of Michigan School of Information. If given access to one’s Facebook photos, Raskin said, marketers could manipulate our recollections.
“Our past actions are the best predictor of our future decisions,” Raskin said, “so now all of a sudden, our future decisions are in the hands of people who want to make money off of us. That makes me very, very scared. I can see this happening and I can see it happening very soon.”
Add to this OMG-they’re-out-to-get-me concept the fact that Facebook is, when it comes to online privacy, a Swiss-cheese mess. The latest eff-up is that Facebook’s online games were sending private information to marketers. These profitable leaks have happened before, and will happen again.
Also, memory implantation isn’t as difficult as you might think. In some studies, up to 50 percent of test subjects have sponged untrue memories. Our minds are fallible and elastic; all it takes is some suggestive wordplay and boom—you’ve been traumatized by a fallacious prior experience getting lost in a mall.
So if we were to somehow give up the rights to our Facebook photographs (oh wait, we have no rights to our Facebook content), and some cunning bastards determined that, true or not, those beers I’m jamming are all Pabst, a forged-on-bullshit corporate relationship is born. Suddenly I’ve never drank anything but Pabst; I am, and always have been, a brand loyalist, a true hipster, and man, I’m not gonna worry about it anymore.