Just reading in The Economist a book review of “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You” by Eli Pariser – full article is here:http://econ.st/InvisSieve . Eli Pariser is an Internet activist and is part of MovingOn.org. Eric Schmidt’s (Google CEO) musings of how Google will one day suggest what college to apply for or what book you should read next as a result of the search engine knowing you so well gave me a chill. The concerns expressed by the author were exactly what I was thinking when personalization of search and almost everything was starting to take hold in about 2007.As someone who came from an R&D environment where serendipity and “prepared” chance discoveries could yield new directions or new interpretations of data gives appreciation for Pariser’s view of this extreme personalization being dangerous. “Dangerous” sounds ominous doesn’t it? But I have to agree that not being allowed to see challenging viewpoints or alternative information to a query dampens growth and makes us conformist or shall I dare say -“dumber”?
I recall that when I went to college/university the educative idea was to expose a student to as many alternative viewpoints as possible. Once you leave academe though you have to do this on your own – how does one accomplish that today? I try to read a more diverse set of news media to get those views on news and world events. yet there are times when I feel that I am not getting the right mix. Ever feel that way? Or maybe you can recall a few moments when you discovered what is now your favorite author, or your newest hobby or when you learned you were really good in art. How did you discover those moments? Would a search engine discover that for you?
Ironically as a recruitng Sourcer I depend on people slotting themselves in a career path (engineer, software design for example) and pretty much sticking to it. It makes it easier for me to find them and frankly if one strays from a career path a resume isn’t looked upon as stable although that attitude by hiring managers will have to change. The Generation X and Ys will change their career an average of six to 12 times during their work life, depending on what research you read. They will have to morph their careers more often because of faster technology changes and global economic cyclic forces. So my job will get harder but it begs the question – if you want to change careers and everything you touch is personalized for the “old you” how do you change it?
The book provides some suggestions to get away from the personalization profiling but I am hoping that the large companies that depend on personalization, such as Amazon or news agencies, will come up with a way to show alternative views or picks. Think of the economic reason for developing that algorithm – it expands your area of interest so you buy more. Right now I just ignore suggestions from LinkedIn, Amazon, CNN etc. because I realize that they will only show me the same paths I already took. Are you ready to break out of the mold?