What next?

The weekly photo prompt is Alphabet and the picture I took as a header for the daily prompt about Learning Style (yes, a day late) seems to fit. While my thoughts are a bit off the assigned topic, which was how I learn. The prompt seemed relevant since yesterday,  instead of writing, I was reading a couple of articles that, to me, relate to learning. Specifically about how computers learn.

How will a computer learning change things? Supposedly, Windows 10 is heading in that direction so the future is near, or for those more quick to adopt, here. My computer already creeps me out sometimes, when it pops up ads, the same ones on every web site, like they are stalking me.

Sometimes it can be amusing: One time I was stalked for weeks by adds for a hotel for which I had reservations, made through a real live travel agent. A woman I value most highly, although I rarely use her services. I am glad there are still living travel agents for those times when things are new to me and the inter-web, as my son calls it has SO much information that it overwhelms.

I suppose it is comforting that Big Data, while it knew what I was searching for, didn’t know when I would be where. It would have been even more creepy if I suddenly was getting pop-up ads for restaurants and stores beside the hotel with coupons for those specific dates.

I was looking at area rugs on-line a couple of weeks ago. We bought one at a brick and mortar store and I am still being stalked by e-rugs or somesuch (FYI: I don’t recall the name of the site, and there may actually be an “e-rugs” site, but my use of the term is supposed to be generic and is not either an endorsement or criticism of such a business, if it does exist.)

One article, “The End of Internet Advertising as We’ve Known It” by Doc Searls, was about how many people, like me, are getting tired of being pestered by ads that are tailored based on our search history and are learning to turn the ads off. I haven’t learned to do that yet but will be working on it after I finish this post.

Now that massive amounts of long term data is available, they have realized that very few people click on those tailored ads and even fewer actually make purchases.BTW:  I have a suspicion that a significant number of “clicks” are inadvertent, and wonder how many people get annoyed and turned off by the business. How many times have you accidentally clicked on a pop-up add and been sent somewhere you didn’t want to be?

One idea that they are working on is a way to tell the inter-web (again this is intended to be a generic term) that one is shopping for such and such when you want to see the ads and have them off by default, so that a simple search for information on a topic is not construed as a desire to buy something. This would be better for advertisers than having everyone turn the ads off for good. The article calls the idea “intentcasting”. I like this idea, being able to shop, and get information about products when I need something and not be pestered when I don’t need that sort of information.

Some time ago I wrote a post about how it used to be more fun to search the internet. I wonder if some of that fun would come back if it wasn’t so very important for the top results of any and every search to be advertisements.

The second article, “Kindergarten for Computers” by Will Knight was about artificial intelligence; specifically whether and how they could try to make a computer emulate how a child learns. It sounds good in theory…if you want computers that can think for themselves. Before we head too far down that road I wonder if we should consider a different question: do we want to create machines that think for themselves? for us? The article does seem to be based on the idea that we do.

Never-the-less the article, which is very much about learning is interesting.

On a personal level I learn in a myriad of ways. Sometimes one way and sometimes another, but I learn best when I am interested in something. That results in my seeking information about the topic from many different sources: written, videos, lectures, for broader topics I like to take classes where the material is structured and I can interact with other people interested in the topic. If I am interested I take the time to interact with the material, taking notes, experimenting and finding ways to apply the learning day-to-day. I wonder: will computers will ever be able to do that?

Since we use computers so much in so many ways I would encourage you to take a look at the articles. The more we know the more we will be able to learn how to use our tools and the more we can, maybe, shape how our tools use us.

6 thoughts on “What next?”

  1. I don’t know if you were aiming for humor, but I must admit that I was laughing the entire time, because I’ve also been stalked by ads. I remember the first time it happened, I was totally freaked out that I mentioned it on my Facebook wall. People were already used to it, and told me to turn off my cookies. I still haven’t figured that out. With regards to computers thinking, I will always remember those Sci-Fi movies of machines trying to kill humans. Ones like iRobot and Eagle Eye. Noooo, we don’t need computers thinking! 🙂


    1. It was intended to be humor, but also to get folks thinking. We have let go of so many things with regard to privacy.
      The first time I noticed how prevalent it was was when I made a facebook post that simply said “I just decided to go to Africa”. In the blink of an eye all of the ads had the word “Africa” in them. On that prticularly tickled my funny bone was the one that offered “African designer shoes delivered next day.”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I share your pain. I few sites look so inviting. If you go there you have to search for a way to get to the bait, it is just a mass of arrows that mislead. But they (the ad detectives) are really on the ball. Amazon will shoot something (books mostly) my way that look so inviting!


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