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Invitation To Evil - Elf M. Sternberg
Invitation To Evil
Most Wednesdays I have the privilege of working from home, so that I can elide my commute and put that time toward getting the kid to places, getting other things done, and generally put in my work hours without sacrificing either work or family. Doing so gives me an opportunity to go to lunch with friends, or friends of friends.

So this Wednesday I went to lunch with a friend and his friend, and in the course of our conversation the new guy made a pitch that I come work for his company, rather than my own. I rolled my eyes; I get pitched all the time by recruiters, I don't need it from acquaintances. But out of curiosity, I asked him what his company did.

They do on-line surveys. That's what they do. Either through their own URL, or as a feature in-lined into a corporate URL, or even as an IFRAME session attached to a single page inside the corporate URL. "What do you want me for, then?"

They have all this technology for asserting that the person taking the survey is who they say they are. They have a massive investment in infrastructure for identifying users, and for putting in IFRAMEs, pop-ups, and other ways of getting information into pages that wouldn't naturally host, or naturally want to host, their content. So they want to branch out from where they are now to advertising. They want to get even better at surveillance. They see that the groundswell of surveillance capitalism is happening, and they want to get in on it before the tide sweeps them over and they're its victim, not its master.

The technology he discussed with me was utterly fascinating, and even as he spoke I could hear whispers of premature optimization being conducted in the cost of saving a few pennies here and there. But the more he talked, the less interested I was in ever joining his company.
If I joined a hive-mind, it would be a smart and sexy one dedicated to great art and music.

He seems like a nice guy. And he was personally invested in the complexity and innovation of the software on which he worked. It wasn't just a paycheck, although that was nice-- it was a paycheck that allowed him to work on cutting-edge stuff. If he didn't do it, someone else would.

I won't. I just can't imagine contributing further to the regimentation and narrowing of human thought by the presentation of large-scale and well-informed influence. If I joined a hive-mind, it would be a smart and sexy one dedicated to great art and music, not the one toward which we're barelling, the one ritualistically confined to selling more Chicken Nuggets and Shake Weights, because that's how the bills get paid, that's how the system knows how to run.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
From: technoshaman Date: March 25th, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Who *is* this outfit, so I know not to interview with them?
elfs From: elfs Date: March 25th, 2016 05:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
It actually doesn't matter all that much. There are dozens of software companies trying to get in where the buckets of money are flying around; this was just one of them. What matters is that when you listen to their patter, figure out what they're selling and to whom. If their objective is to empower the little guys, go for it; if not, run away.
2 comments or Leave a comment