Facebook: Angel or Demon?

Massive Invasion of personal privacy? Or inevitable Portent of the Future?

So Katrina turns me onto this Facebook phenomena several months ago, and my first instinct tells me that this platform is something which will have ramifications of almost biblical proportions (thus the references to angels and demons). The only question … is it a force for good or evil?

It spreads in a pattern that resembles a pandemic, as the multiplier effect of every participating individual’s social network is instantly smashed together with everyone else’s. Six degrees just became one-and-a-half degrees … Just like in the human brain, intelligence is created through the number of connections that exist between brain cells — not in the actual quantum of brain cells that exist in the brain. If you believe in the power of relationships and connections, and I do, then the facebook platform, and others of its ilk (YouTube, MySpace, etc.) are actively building the synaptic connections between individual people that will exponentially multiply the number of patterns and overall intelligence of the whole.

Then I picked up this interesting little tidbit on YouTube. Potential for pervasive invasion of privacy something to be concerned about? Absolutely. Therefore, we should run and hide from this, stick our heads in the sand, suck on our thumbs and hope that everything will magically resolve itself over time? Absolutely not.

Those who have read my personal profile know that I believe in the power of the “and” — not the tyranny of the “or”. So, I’ll do what any self-respecting Libra would do in this situation, and hedge my bets [just because I am mostly right and rarely wrong, shouldn’t influence anyone’s opinion on this matter 🙂 ]. facebook is a tool, albeit a massively powerful tool … it is built in a way which provides incredible value for its rapidly growing universe of users, and in so doing, has become incredibly “sticky” for its supply chain. But make no mistake about it, you and I are not facebook’s “customers”. We, the general population of users, addicted to our multiple daily hits of “crack-book”, simply form facebook’s free supply of raw materials, which it ingeniously re-factors into naturally occurring affinity groups, and an incredible source of information that can be used for any purpose whatsoever — commercial, good, or otherwise.

facebook is an Angel AND it is a Demon. It is a massive invasion of personal privacy AND it is an inevitable portent of the future. The battle over personal privacy has already been lost for each of us. For anyone that owns one or more credit cards, a passport, a driver’s license, pays for utilities, subscribes to a magazine, etc. etc. etc. In otherwords, short of adopting a hermit-like existence, and becoming self-sufficient in terms of food, air, water and shelter, and renouncing all sources of modern creature comfort and convenience, there isn’t a way to escape being cross-referenced and mined in an infinite combination of ways. In a libertarian society, there must be an assumption that the powers of good outweigh the forces of evil … otherwise, the machiavellian forces of greed, power, and polarization will easily find ways of manipulating and exploiting the good intentions and assumptions of those that feed off the creature and intellectual comforts that are offered. A little paranoia never hurt anyone, right?

What’s the answer? If the battle over personal privacy has already been lost, then I truly believe that the best defense is a great offense. There is no point trying to protect what you have already lost. Embrace the platform, the tools, the community … get to understand what it is capable of today, and what it will evolve into tomorrow. Become a shepherd, not the sheep. The Chinese characters for ‘risk’ also describe ‘opportunity’. Only by participating, and by being present, do you get a say in what this turns into. And without knowing the “answer”, I can only say that the power and potential of what is being created here, will end up being channeled into opportunities, risks and rewards that we are scarcely able to imagine today.