Let me be clear — I do not think Tik-Tok (and Big Tech) can read my mind. But there continue to be times when I struggle to understand how an algorithm would know something so fucking specific to what was going on in my mind.
In this case, I have something so specific that I can point to it and wonder. Now, obviously, you don’t know what’s really going on in my mind. And it’s possible that there is something I did without thinking about it (no pun intended) that tipped Tik-Tok off to what I was thinking about. But, either way, things are very Soft Singularity no matter how Tik-Tok figured something out about what is rolling around in my mind.
So, here we go. There’s a famous picture of man in a crowd of Nazis who is the only person not to do the Nazi salute. Here it is:
Ok, no big deal. Well, would you believe I was looking at my Webstats and I saw that someone had literally asked the question, “Why is there a circle in the picture?”
This question was at the forefront of my mind for some time. Then, just today, Tik-Tok pushed me a very, very specific video that answered that very question.
This is probably the most specific that Tik-Tok that has gotten when it comes to pushing me spooky content. I say this because the only because I simply can not think of any possible way that Tik-Tok would have any indication, any metric that I was interested in that specific picture unless it was reading my mind.
Absolutely no one listens to me, so I’ll be brief. Some time ago, I thought out a very feature rich social media network. If you go to my Instagram account, you could see me think it through hundreds of little videos. In hindsight, it was all a huge waste of time, but given that Facebook is in trouble AGAIN, I thought I’d give you a brief overview of what I came up with.
The point is, if you used Usenet 25 years ago, you may remember how, in its own way, it was pretty feature rich. A lot of the concepts of Usenet are now used by Reddit. But the social media platform I was thinking of would be different than Reddit because it would be a direct competitor to Facebook.
The idea is, everything with this service would be based on some of the core features of Usenet that made it so much fun to use. First, everything would be based around a “Group.” That would be the basic element of the service. You would, as part of the on-boarding process, be forced to group all your friends into Groups.
This would be a way to keep different parts of your life separate. This is a real problem with Facebook at the moment. So, that problem would be fixed. But, as I imagine it, this would be a very feature rich aspect of the service, so you could create Groups on the fly that would be about subjects as well as relationships.
Next, within each Group, you would have Posts and Threads. So, you within a Group, what on Facebook is a Status, would be a Post. And all of your Posts inside a Group would be threaded. So, if you posted something really interesting about your life in your Politics Group, if things got really animated, then you could at least keep track of what was being said.
Even more interesting, a Post would be very feature rich. Each Post would have its own Slack-like channel and the ability to have up to four people in a recordable video conference. And, what’s more, you would have the ability to in-line edit each post so it would be absolutely clear what you wanted to say.
This brings up an interesting possibility — you could have content providers push their content into the service using the existing formatting from their individual Website AND that content could be inline edited by readers in a way that preserved that formatting.
Anyway, I’m well aware that the social media space is cold as Pluto. Silicon Valley has moved on to VR / AR and other newer, more sexxy technology, so lulz, nothing will ever come of this. But it’s too bad. Facebook is really weak right now and if you could get some startup cash, this idea is cool enough that you would probably get some traction.
Now, before I continue, let me be clear that I don’t think Tik-Tok can read my mind. But it IS entertaining to think about various aspects of a scenario whereby it is. Also, let me also be clear — the vast majority of how Tik-Tok has me (and everyone else) figured out is using the FYP really is algorithms. They really do have the ability to figure me out using nothing more than algorithms. What I’m going to talk about is those few times when Tik-Tok has pushed me something that is so specific to me that I struggle to understand how it’s possible that nothing more than scanning all my Internet use, etc. would explain things.
Ok. Here’s what I’ve managed to glean from my study of Tik-Tok which is totally not reading my mind.
Tik-Tok gets itself in trouble when it seems to latch on to something that has flashed through my mind for a moment or two with intensity. So, I futz with my headphones, thinking really intensely about my headphones and their different features.
Then, next thing you know, I get pushed a video on Tik-Tok about, you guessed — headphones.
I suppose you could say that in that specific situation Tik-Tok is so deep even into my computer usage that they somehow figured that out. I’ll give you that one.
But, then again, how do you explain the “But I’m A Cheerleader” incident I mentioned a bit ago. That is something was exclusive to my mind. That’s just eerie. And, as I keep saying, I’m totally willing to accept that all of what I’m noticing can be explained via algorithms.
I guess, I’d just like someone with the technological know-how to explain things that are very specific to my mind that Tik-Tok has decided to push me videos about.
Even though I KNOW that Tik-Tok isn’t reading my mind — that’s just crazy talk, right — I continue to be at a loss as to how it figures out the phenotypes of girls I like or even more weird, their personalities.
Then I start to think about if Tik-Tok has even the slightest practical ability to read my mind and use that information to push me information, who else has it and what are they doing with it?
I’ve already had once instance where I fucking swear Tik-Tok pulled a fast on me by nudging me into what it felt was the best “second track” creative option for me — photography. That starts to make you think maybe we’re not just talking about digital telepathy but some combination of digital telepathy hooked up to AI.
That’s enough to make you stop cold in your tracks.
You know if Tik-Tok has such ability then Big Tech in America damn well has similar technology that’s probably far more advanced. Then there’s the NSA and CIA that probably has something far more advanced than even that. I’ve often idly wondered if maybe “Havana Syndrome” is some sort of extreme form of digital telepathy whereby the attack is about “downloading” as much of someone’s mind as possible.
That’s extremely fantastical and bonkers, but, again, I’m just running a scenario.
Anyway. All of this has got to be bullshit. There’s no way the technology exists to read our minds exists. We would know if it existed. Right? Right?
Tik-Tok can not read our minds. This is simply me idly imaging why it would be so hard for us to believe that it could.
If I’m regularly being pushed videos on Tik-Tok that have no logical explanation other than there is some way that the service is rooting around my mind, why is it so difficult for anyone to believe me? And, that, is really, why this bothers me so much — reality (especially a shared reality) is very, very important to me and if something is obviously happening and I’m the only person seeing it, it makes me question my own sanity and I fucking hate that.
The biggest obstacle is how unexpected something like that would be. The moment one establishes that something is even possible, you begin to have severe cognitive dissidence as you process it. There are a lot of questions associated with this possiblity.
If Tik-Tok of all people can read our minds, who else can? And what’s the technology being used for? How extensive is it? Is it a point-to-point technology or is the information that Tik-Tok (and others) is gleaning from reading our minds being aggregated and processed somewhere for some later, nefarious reason?
Then there is the issue of how such technology could be developed in secret. Digital telepathy would be equal to the mass adoption of the Internet itself in historical and cultural significance. And, given the national security implications, Tik-Tok being able to read our minds in secret might, in itself, be seen as an act of war on the part of the Chinese government at some point.
It also opens up the Pandora’s box of, essentially, the Singularity already being here now, but in secret. Or maybe some sort of “soft Singularity” may exist. And, again, the issue of — why hide such technology and what’s the long-term goal of its secret use?
Also, how do you explain how subtle, granular and nuanced some of the editorial decisions this mind reading technology seems to be making about me (and others.) Now, obviously, some of this comes not from any mysterious mind reading technology, but they really do have some very advanced “algorithms.”
And, yet, how is it possible that these “algorithms” could figure out not just the phenotype of girls I like, but their personalities? Is it even possible that it’s not just mindreading going on, but some sort of AI hooked up to what it finds out about me? When a service can figure out that there is a specific young woman in New York City that I would fall in love with at first sight if I met her in person…that’s pretty eerie. That takes some abstract thought on whatever “algorthims” are involved.
If my mind is being read — which it isn’t — it’s not just being read, it’s being read and rooted around in to make some meta-editorial decisions using the videos I’m being pushed on a regular fucking basis.
Or, put another way — given how eerie, how spooky, how specific Tik-Tok is when it comes to what it pushes me these days, whatever the reason seems like a pretty severe national security threat. If it takes bonkers white racist Tucker Carlson to draw attention to it, then, lulz….I guess?
But, again, if Tik-Tok has mindreading technology, then, you know damn well that Facebook, Google, et al have it, too, they’re just a lot more sly about it. Tik-Tok, because its nebulous connection to the autocratic Chinese government doesn’t give a shit.
Anyway, thanks for attending my TEDtalk. I don’t believe Tik-Tok can read our minds, but I fucking hate how spooky their algorithms are.
I’ve stopped thinking Tik-Tok can read my mind. It can’t. But I will note another EXTREMELY SPOOKY co-incidence that took place recently. As part of writing in long-hand scene summaries for the four novels I’m working on, there’s a word (it’s inciting, if you must know) that I write so sloppily that it looks like another word, a word that evokes alarm in my mind.
Occasionally in the last few months, Tik-Tok has pushed me some very alarming videos purporting from the product of that alarming word. I was aghast that I would be pushed that type of video for any reason and began to question why Tik-Tok’s fucking algorithms would be pushing me such alarming content.
Then it hit me — in my mind, I’m thinking “OH MY GOD…oh, I just wrote inciting…” If you wanted to believe that Tik-Tok had the ability to read my mind, you would say that what was happening was is the reason I was getting such weird videos pushed to me was the alarm in my mind that initial confusion generates within me.
But this is just crazy talk. Tik-Tok can’t read my mind.
As I understand it, the connection between Tik-Tok and the Chinese government is rather…nebulous. As such, given the increasing geopolitical tensions between the United States and China, it’s easy to imagine the Chinese government dabbling in fucking with us via our pop culture that is growing ever-more influenced by Tik-Tok.
This sounds really paranoid, but it’s also how the Real World Works.
How else do you explain that Bella Poarch — who has no discernable talent other than she can bounce her head to music — is now a popular singer and what not. But, I’m being paranoid. Which is never good.
So, I guess just keep using Tik-Tok? I dunno. I’m just a rando in a flyover state.
Today, I was walking around and the movie “But I’m A Cheerleader” briefly passed through my mind for some reason.
I never mentioned this event to anyone. I did not write it down. Nothing. No outward indication that this occurred other than I softly chuckled to myself. Flash forward and I’m using Tik-Tok.
And what do I get pushed?
A video about that very movie.
That’s just spooky. If Tik-Tok is reading my mind, it’s not through any magical mystery alchemy — it’s being done using technology that, to date, is the stuff of science fiction. Or, at Arthur C. Clarke would posit, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
So. I’m very, very open to this belief being debunked. And I’m willing to believe there’s something I’m missing, some way that it was just a random co-incidence. Ok, that’s very possible.
But that specific, obscure movie being pushed to me within a few hours of me thinking about it…..is spooky.
Given the sheer volume of horrible (sometimes “woke”) hot takes to be found on Tik-Tok, the Chinese government may bring down the United States without firing a shot.
Or, to put it another way, the “algorithms” that are definitely not reading my mind, seem to push me bad hot take after bad hot take. Sometimes, the hot takes in the comments are so very very bad that you feel less intelligent for having read them. Like, I saw one that said, that novels “don’t have acts.” Uh, what?
Then there are numerous hot takes on the John Mulaney – Olivia Munn — Anna Marie Tendler imbroglio. Then there are the weird hot takes about the Met Gala that leave me saying OH, COME ON. For instance, someone said the fuss over the below look was unwarranted because, lulz, to her pegging was something only bottoms got worked up over and to her, it was just sex.
I will note, in passing, that I worry that the Chinese government may be fucking with our pop culture by making people like Bella Poarch famous for….what? Bobbing her head and being hot? (I still don’t get that one, but, then, I’m an Old..)
I’ve finally come to believe that Tik-Tok can’t read my mind. I’ve finally come to believe that all that’s happening is their algorithms really are so good that what appears to be “spooky-they-can-read-my-mind” pushed videos is simply very good algorithm technology. (Which, I believe, in itself is dangerous and a national security risk, but, lulz.) I say this because I ran some casual experiments in my mind and, if Tik-Tok can read my mind, it chose to ignore the bait.
Also, I think a lot of what I’m noticing comes from Tik-Tok really REALLY rooting around in anything I do online, even if I’m not using my phone. Somehow, it’s also scanning what I’m writing right now and all that writing I’ve been doing for the four novels.
So, Tik-Tok is NOT reading my mind.
But, there is a specific aspect of Tik-Tok that at least causes me some puzzlement — the specific women’s videos it choses to push me.
This is where things get really, really, murky. How Tik-Tok would know I like a specific type of woman with a specific type of appearance is something I struggle with. That there are two or three women with the late Annie Shapiro’s phenotype that I get pushed is very curious indeed.
And then there’s Emily Blunt.
Even though she’s talented, witty and beautiful, I’ve never much thought of myself as a Emily Blunt fan. She’s just another hot brunette British actress who did a really great turn on SNL a while back, if I recall. But today, I was pondering all of this and something occurred to me — maybe it’s not Emily Blunt, but Alexa Chung that I’m being pushed via a proxy.
Now, at this point, I have to say that a long time ago I had something of a celebrity crush on Ms. Chung. An online troll played a prank on me, causing me to think something was real that was not real (sort of a catfish, if you will) and, as such, now I’m in terror that any mention of her on my part will cause the FBI or her “people” to swoop down on this blog, looking for proof that I’m a deranged fan.
This is not at all the case. I don’t even think about her at all anymore, feel extremely sheepish about the minor misunderstanding and just want to forget the whole thing. In fact, given that someone in Brooklyn is REALLY interested in me since I mentioned I want to cover NYFW at some point in the next two to three years, I suddenly am paranoid that her “people” are worried I’ll bump into her while taking street fashion pictures in 2022 or 2023.
Trust me, I will either actively work to avoid that from happening or if I did accidently run into her just because it was NYFW I would feel so bad that there was even a small chance that she would be alarmed at my presence that I would probably turn a heel and walk in the exact opposite direction to avoid that nightmarish situation.
In other words, leave me alone, FBI agent. Stop putting any post that mentions Ms. Chung in my file.
But anyway, back to the issue of Emily Blunt as an Alexa Chung proxy.
Why would I be pushed Emily Blunt if I’m not really a fan of hers? If you wanted to put on your tinfoil hat, you could say that since there aren’t that many videos on Tik-Tok about Ms. Chung, I get Emily Blunt videos instead.
Anyway. Lulz, nothing matters.
I have four novels to develop and write as quickly as possible.
Now, let me be clear — I do not believe either that Tik-Tok can read our minds nor that it is somehow doing a primitive form of “inception” on us. But I have an extremely — and I mean EXTREMELY — active imagination, so you got posts like this.
So, there I was, thinking I had Tik-Tok all figured out. If it was reading our minds, I had set-up just the type of situation whereby I could test this theory and see what happened.
And then nothing happened.
And THEN, I thought about something. In the days leading up to me having something of an ah-ha moment about photography, I was being pushed EXTREMELY specific videos on Tik-Tok about photography. Or, more specifically, how really great photos were actually produced.
So, when I had an ah-ha moment about buying a prosumer camera in the coming months with my camera in my lap, I thought I had a “gotcha moment” setup for Tik-Tok.
Now, however, I’m beginning to grow more concerned, in a way. What if very nature of how we imagine our minds, relative to how Tik-Tok sees it — is all wrong. Our conscious mind doesn’t float on our subconscious, it’s all one big thing that Tik-Tok can root around at well.
So, this theory goes, by the time I had my “ah-ha” moment about buying a prosumer camera, Tik-Tok had already moved on. I wasn’t influencing Tik-Tok, it was influencing me.
The only reason why any of this matters is I hate being manipulated in the extreme. So, even the bonkers, totally-not-real idea that Tik-Tok is rooting around in my mind — even though it’s not happening— is enough to make me angry that it’s POSSIBLE that it’s real.
If you look at things this new way, it’s just not something you can test. How do you test if someone is reading your mind if all they know you so well that all they have to do is subtly ping you photos and your mind takes care of the rest.
So, I dunno. Tik-Tok is probably going to continue to use its algorithms in a way that spooks me and I will have absolutely no way to prove anything one way or another.