I picked this up from a friend because it referred to botnets and I ostensibly do research about combating botnets, but it turned out to be both very different than I expected and as a consequence much more interesting.

The basic observation is that we’ve built a massive number of “bots” which are really small pieces of carefully automated routines which aim to do what humans do, only more of it or faster. However, we have unwittingly ceded some of our own power and decision-making to these bots. This is true from the innocuous (letting Google Maps get our directions for us) to the somewhat scary (letting automated programs determine whether we get a mortgage).

The point made is that, we’ve gotten here without really thinking about where here is and whether it’s a place we want to be. Also, we haven’t considered how all of our bots interact with each other. The recent near destruction of United Airline’s stock because of an article from 2002 being accidentally reprinted by a bot is a poignant example that these bots are not sandboxed away from causing real harm the way we might think or hope.

The podcast then goes on to talk about a “darknet” where we impose strong identity on all participants so that we know who is touching, modifying and using our data. That part is much less fleshed out and I have trouble even believing.

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One comment

bot-mediated reality

  1. This is nicely done.

    I find it funny that I shared that podcast mostly cause it was sort of interesting and I felt that I needed to post something at the time, and it’s the post that has gotten the most commentary. Though none of it in the comments section. 😛

    The darknet part does seem…well…out of it.

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