Ok, it’s completely bonkers to propose that CCP-avilated ByteDance might be able to read the minds of Americans via Tik-Tok. I get it. I sound like a crazy person. But how do you explain this: my teeth have been sore recently for some reason.
And, lo and behold, today I got pushed a video that had to deal with someone’s teeth hurting.
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. Given my age, etc, then the algorithm simply is guessing that someone in my demographic might have teeth issues.
Given that Bytedance, the owner of Tik-Tok, has gone so far as to track the location of Forbes reporters, I suppose it was inevitable someone from that company would check me out since I keep ranting about I suspect their app can read people’s minds.
So, today, sure enough, I saw someone from Bytedance in my Webstats.
I don’t really think that Tik-Tok can read our minds. I don’t. I swear. But repeatedly, again and again, I have been pushed very, very specific videos that seem to track with my internal monologue and I simply don’t have any ready answer for it.
Usually, it seems to happen after I think about something really hard in a concrete way. I like, I see an image in my mind for an intense moment or two. Then, usually within 24 hours, I get pushed something along those lines by Tik-Tok.
It’s eerie. It’s inexplicable.
I suppose it’s all just a coincidence. It has to be. Right? Right? Big Tech can’t read our minds — yet. I mean, if Big Tech had the ability to read consumers’ minds wouldn’t that be, by definition, one of the biggest advancements — and secrets — in modern history?
I know we’re working towards having some primitive ability to read people’s minds, I call it “digital telepathy,” but for the time being such stuff is the stuff of cranks like me with too much time on my hands.
I suppose AI might has something to do with what I’m noticing? Maybe? But for me, the point is, be it digital telepathy or AI, whatever it giving Tik-Tok the ability to figure out what I’m thinking in such a concrete manner fucking needs to be banned or regulated.
A few days ago, I thought really hard about the time many moons ago when I slept overnight at a hostel. Well, would you believe that I got pushed a Tik-Tok just now about that VERY SAME THING — someone worried about sleeping at a hostel.
Because that was the memory I thought about — how unhappy I was as an Old sleeping at a hostel. And there it was, a video of a young woman looking very concerned about the risks associated with sleeping at a hostel.
I know — know — it’s not possible that Tik-Tok is actively rooting around in my mind.
But…it is very eerie. I didn’t tell anyone about this memory. I didn’t tweet or blog about it. Only *I* specifically knew that I was even aware of such a situation in the first place.
I don’t know what to tell you, folks, but Tik-Tok is up to its old “digital telepathy” tricks again. The first instance is not so obvious, while the second is really, really spooky.
Ok. So, the first instance of Tik-Tok getting way, way too close to comfort, as if it’s rooting around in my mind is I got pushed a video of someone pretending to be concerned about turbulence during a flight. This is something I think about a lot — that if I ever make it big and get to become a smug “bi-costal” liberal that when I suddenly find myself flying all the time that I’m going to have a lot of angst over turbulence.
The second instance is really, really, really spooky.
For a long-term scenario I’ve been toying with, I’ve been thinking really hard about the capital of Australia. I thought it was Sydney until I realized today it is actually Canberra. Just a moment ago, I was pushed a video of someone noting this very thing.
I continue to be amazed by Tik-Tok’s ability to figure me out to a very, very specific degree. I’ve written about this phenomena repeatedly — even going so far as to suggest Tik-Tok can read my mind in some way — but let’s talk about the latest version of this, which I think might be explainable without any strange, kooky ideas.
A long time ago, I had brief, intense celebrity crush on fashion It Girl, Alexa Chung. Now, what’s so weird about this is for some time I’ve been pushed videos of Jane Birkin (who Ms. Chung looks up to a lot) as well as her daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg.
I find all of this kind of weird. I find it weird because I started getting pushed videos about Birkin and Gainsbourg pretty much out of the blue. But I will admit that once I was pushed the videos that I lingered on them and liked them, which could explain why I also got videos of Chung pushed my way as well. Maybe? Anything to explain what’s going on rather than to suggest digital telepathy. What about what I was looking and liking on Tik-Tok could possibly have narrowed down what the service knows about me down to my interest in Chung and, by extension, Birkin and Gainsbourg?
It’s all very strange. Spooky even.
I don’t think Tik-Tok can read our minds — even though it definitely seems like it at times, but….the mystery of algorithms remains very eerie.
The short answer is, of course, no, of course not. This is a demonstrably silly idea and I am a fool — and maybe a bit of a kook — to even bring the subject up. And, generally, I just don’t believe in conspiracy theories. I’m of the opinion that the vast majority of actual conspiracies are well known and the public generally doesn’t care.
Ok. Having said that, let’s yet again ponder a scenario whereby Big Tech, and specifically Tik-Tok, is in some way able to not only monitor what’s rolling around in our minds but use that information to push content to us in an eerily specific way.
Up until a while ago, Facebook — now Meta — was, in fact, looking into how they could read people’s minds to the point that they even patented a way to do it. They have since scrapped this research and so, lulz, obviously they aren’t using any such technology to read people’s minds, right?
So that should be that. Big Tech isn’t reading our minds and if they were, we would obviously know about it because it would be such a huge milestone in technology. The ethical implications of reading people’s minds without their consent would be just too big for Big Tech to overcome and so why are we even talking about this?
One thing I will note is how beneficial it would be for, say, the NSA or CIA to be able to monitor the minds of diplomats and other major officials in foreign countries. And, in general, some of the most cutting edge technology used in a practical way is developed not by private industry, but by government agencies like DARPA — which came up with the Internet.
This brings us to Tik-Tok
Tik-Tok is a Chinese company and there is little or no separation between Chinese tech companies like Tik-Tok and the security agencies of the CCP. So, if you were of a conspiratorial bent, you could definitely find yourself pondering the possibility that Tik-Tok is using digital telepathy is not only read the minds of America’s youth, but use that information to push them ever-more addictive content to keep them using what is now one of the most popular social media platforms on earth.
This is the point where you laugh at me and say all of this is just crazy talk. And, honestly, whenever I find myself talking to a tech person I go out of my way to try to get them to dissuade me of my paranoia. I explain to them what’s happening and I ask them to explain to me why I’m wrong. The most common explanation they give me is it’s all a coincidence and Tik-Tok’s algorithms simply now me so well that it just seems like it can read my mind.
This is similar to how there is the horror story of a young woman being sent pregnancy related coupons in the mail because of what she was looking for on a big box retailer’s website. Ok, I get it that makes a lot of sense and explains most — but not all — of what I’m noticing.
As an aside, I’ve started to try to keep these suspicions to myself — especially at bars — because, well, people think I’m completely insane and don’t want to talk to me anymore when I causally broach the subject. Which, all things considered, is probably understandable.
The only reason I keep thinking about the bizarre conspiracy theory is the fact that some of the video’s that Tik-Tok pushes me aren’t nearly as general as what happened with the pregnant teen and the coupons. I still struggle to understand how Tik-Tok’s algorithms can be so good as to narrow down a very specific thing I thought about intensely in passing.
Usually these spooky events have something to do with my body, something I haven’t told anyone about. And sometimes, it’s something I just think about really hard for a moment or two out of the blue. It’s those specific type of incidents that give me pause for thought when I get pushed a video on Tik-Tok that is about that very specific thing.
But I have no proof and probably never will. And even if it was happening, it is the CCP we’re talking about, so it’s not like we’ll ever find out. Though if Big Tech in the United States was also reading our minds, then, I suppose the secret might pop out eventually.
Which leads you to wonder what the reaction would be. I’m of the opinion that after the shock wore off, there would either be a huge outcry where the population demanded some sort of regulation crackdown of Big Tech — or nothing would happen.
It would just be another thing that we all knew about, but didn’t care because, in general we got better products and services because of it. Though, of course, if it was proven that Tik-Tok — and by extension the CCP — was reading the minds of America’s youth….I suppose that might be considered something akin to an act of war?
Relations between the US and China would definitely suffer.
Anyway, this is all nuts. There’s no way Big Tech can read our minds. I’m just noticing really good algorithms.
I don’t believe in conspiracies. In general, I believe the biggest conspiracies are actually pretty well known and people just don’t care. And, yet, there is the issue of Tik-Tok potentially reading our minds.
I wouldn’t keep talking about my suspicions if it wasn’t for the fact that Tik-Tok continues to push me very, very specific videos that directly connected to my internal monologue.
The latest instance of this is pretty surreal. I found myself recently thinking randomly about the darker side of rock legend Chuck Berry. Specifically, how he had a gross personal stash of homemade porn of women using the bathroom. I thought about this for a moment or two a few days ago. Then, would you believe just a few moments ago Tik-Tok pushed me a video about that very specific thing.
This keeps happening to the point that I’m struggling to figure out how it is that it could simply be “algorithms.” It. Happens. All. The. Time. And, yet, I have no proof and any time I bring up to anyone else they look at me — rightfully — like I’ve lost my mind. The idea that Tik-Tok, and by extension the Chinese government — has the ability to read the minds of America’s youth is enough to give one pause for thought.
And if Tik-Tok can read our minds, then maybe Big Tech can, in general, read our minds as well. Then the question is — can they aggregate what they read or is it simply a point-to-point technology where they can do it, but not really do anything with the information?
Anyway. Big Tech can’t read our minds. Right? Right?
I’ve long found Tik-Tok’s algorithms so good as to be, well, spooky. The service often pushes me videos that are so personalized as to be downright eerie. It’s like it can somehow pick up on keywords rolling around in my mind.
Meanwhile, there is the issue of how I keep getting pushed extremely graphic videos about “girl stuff” that maybe is best left on “female Tik-Tok.” It’s not so much that it has to do with “girl stuff” as it is, well, I’d at least like a little warning of what I was about to see.
I keep getting pushed extreme close ups of illustrations of female genitalia being used in a video to discuss this or that thing about it. Or, most recently, I saw an extremely graphic video about how periods work. It was both illuminative and eye popping, to say the least.
The question of course, is why? Why am I, a red blooded American dude being pushed content that is obviously intended for a female audience? What makes this even more curious is 60% of my For You Page is “hot chicks” in various states of undress doing hot chick stuff. So, it’s obviously very jarring to see all these nubile hotties then out of the blue see and extreme close up of an illustration detailing the different types of labia.
I’ve often joked in the past that I’m a “male lesbian,” but that still doesn’t account for what’s going on. If you really, really wanted to be conspiratorial and paranoid, you might believe that Tik-Tok knows specifically what I think all the time — what most men think about all the time — and so it pushes me specific videos to accommodate that.
Of course, one possible non-crazy explanation is some how it is reading what I’m writing of the novel I’m working on and it can tell that at times I’m writing from a female POV. Maybe? That sorta makes sense.
But that would involve digital telepathy and I’m still note prepared to believe that is even a possibility.
Ok, so I was obsessively using Twitter as I’m apt to do, when I noticed someone say something about how they like the Steve Martin movie “Man With Two Brains.” For a moment, I thought REALLY HARD about a different Steve Martin movie, “All Of Me.”
I thought specifically of the scene where one character says to the other, “Back in the bowl.” Or, if you want to know — this specific scene:
Let me be clear — I didn’t tell anyone this. I didn’t search for the scene anywhere. All I did was think about it really hard for a brief moment. Then the moment passed.
Would you believe that Tik-Tok pushed that very scene at me out of the blue just a moment ago? The moment I saw it, I had to think, “Well, if Tik-Tok can read our minds, then there’s yet more evidence to suggest that is the case.”
But I suppose it’s all algorithms, no any extremely advanced and hidden technology that would allow the Chinese government to read the minds of America’s young people. Right, that’s not possible, is it? Is it?
So, a few days ago, I watched at YouTube vide of Christy Brinkley on the Howard Stern show where she talked about why she was never nude on film. I didn’t think anything more about this until I started thinking about her daughter with Billy Joel, Alexa Ray Joel.
I thought about how she obviously has gotten a lot of work done, probably because she had a chip on her shoulder about the iconic nature of her mother’s beauty.
So, today, there I was obsessively using Tik-Tok when I was pushed a video that dealt with this specific issue. It was as if Tik-Tok peered directly into my mind, made note of my stray thought about Alexa Ray Joel’s changing appearance and decided to push me a video about that subject.
Now, I suppose the case could be made that Tik-Tok is extremely intrusive and it noticed that I saw the YouTube video and it was THAT, not any sort of mind reading that caused me to get pushed the video.
This would be the logical explanation, but for the fact that this type of shit happens all the time. In fact, there is sometimes a nuance to whatever potential mind reading might be going on.
But, I’m not prepared to say, for sure, that Tik-Tok or Big Tech for that matter, has the technology to read our minds. Definitely something to think about. Because the other option — that a combination of being very aggressive searching into my apps and algorithms gives Tik-Tok, a Chinese company, the ability to figure out what’s going on in my mind.
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