Friday, May 18, 2018

You Are The Product

General wisdom states that "If you don't pay for this service, it means *you* are the product."

Google (among other heavyweights, including the Chinese government) seem to be evolving this paradigm to, "And we can make you into a *better* product!"

Neoliberalism means everything is for sale, and Google appears to be taking one concept behind that a step further. You may not actually want to sell your soul, but years of labor in capitalist workplaces have embedded the idea that Continuous Improvement applies to your inner being whether you do or don't.

PDCA cycle

We've used Lean in the workplace. We've used Kanban. We use Kaizen. We've even used that Marie-Kondo-for-manufacturers, 5S.  I'm a Six Sigma Green Belt, and could, if prompted, tell you the history of process improvement from Shewhart's Statistical Process Control, through the giant of the field Deming, to Motorola and DMAIIC, to the Lean techniques of today.

So much so that we feel a nagging sense that we should use these powerhouses on improving ourselves.

Well, be nagged no more. Google is in the process of developing a way we can ask ourselves what customer-related CTQs (issues that are Critical to Quality) we may have, measure the problem, analyze the problem, develop an improvement, implement a solution and continuously measure it to make sure our improvement is not falling behind (control).

It's called Google Selfish Ledger. (The name is apparently borrowed from Dawkins' Selfish Gene but refers somehow to epigenetics.) It's a compendium of everything you've ever done in the vicinity of your phone, but rather than remaining a dumb repository of data, it is imbued with a sense of purpose, in order to find out more about you and guide you towards the ultimate you - your Life Goal. It will prompt you to do and buy things in line with Google's values - for example, local fresh food.

Personal improvement is only the bait dangled by Google. The ultimate aim is that the ledgers will eventually, acting more like Dawkins' Memes than Selfish Genes, pass down your information to the next generation, where they will be "sequenced" in the same way geneticists sequence genomes, enabling more accurate predictions and solutions to societal problems.   (Via The Verge.)

Whereas one has to love Google's endearing hubris, I'm not convinced that this total loss of individual privacy and freedom will lead to the Land of Milk and Honey.  For one thing, if Ledger prompts you to do things, then by definition it is not *your* behavior, but your natural behavior augmented by an outside influence. This will result in a positive feedback loop. The Ledgers' overall understanding of human behavior, when sequenced, will not encode human behavior, but Google users who have been prodded and poked into doing things differently. It will be an interesting thing, but it won't be human.

Here is the video from The Verge.

(Note: I could not find the promised link to the Google video)

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