Be Random to Save Humanity

The machines are on the march. But not in the way Hollywood has portrayed. Robots are not marching over the hill in their droves, firing frickin’ laser beams at us. If anything, they’re turning out to be a bit lame.

The real machines you need to fear are the massive servers housed at Google, Facebook and other social-focused companies.

These servers are so numerous and the space they require so vast they’ve been termed ‘server farms’, as if they’re a field of corn or a shed full of cows. As whimsical as it may be, think about it for a moment. It’s not the machinery that’s in the farm: it’s our data – it’s you and me.

Our data sits in those farms, being harvested into produce that the big tech companies then take to market and sell – and they get an incredible price for it too.

But eventually the price falls. Not only does the market get bored of the same types of data showing up time and again, but it also gets flooded with others who have followed the innovations of the likes of Google and Facebook. The big tech companies must now bring fresh data to market.

The way they do this is by fully utilising the one thing that computers can handle – predictable behaviour.  The more predictable we become, the more the computers can predict what we’re going to do next. Everything from social trends, purchase intentions and even voting intent is up for grabs.

Predictability feeds the machines. It makes them stronger, and the stronger they get, the worse it is for all of us eventually as they move closer to a full takeover.

I’m using dramatic language, especially as ‘the takeover’ won’t actually be that dramatic. Indeed, it may have already happened.

The takeover simply means the point at which we have become so predictable that everything we now consume and do is a result was predicted by the machines.  It’s a cycle and best described using the metaphor of a car engine and exhaust.

As we go through our lives we put out so much data about ourselves from our ‘digital exhaust’. We are literally spewing data everywhere.  The genius lies in getting all of those exhaust fumes and feeding them back into the car – eventually making the car run off its own fumes.  That is what is happening right now in terms of humanity and the machines – they are feeding us more and more of our own exhaust fumes, and we’re gobbling them up. Eventually, humanity at large will be run on its own fumes – if it’s not already.

There’s a simple solution however: Be random.

Machines simply cannot handle random behaviour. It’s the one thing that we can use time and again to beat the machines.  By which I mean it’s the one thing we can use to stop the big technology companies using our data to feed us our future.

All you have to do is be random. Some examples:

  1. Every now and again go on to Google and search for things that you would not normally search for.
    1. Not got a patio? Search for patio furniture.
    2. Really would not go on holiday to Turkey? Search for holidays to Turkey.
    3. Scared of heights? Search for tickets to to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
    4. Search for random kitchen appliances.
    5. Search YouTube for artists you never normally listen to.
  2. Check-in on Facebook to somewhere you never go – you don’t need to go there, just check-in there.
    1. Never go to the library? Check-in there.
    2. Vegetarian? Check in at a burger bar.

Get it? Just be as random and opposite as you can. Think of wacky and crazy things and share them in the comments.

Unleash your randomness – set yourself free.

Diary of a Food Addict: Ring Road Rage

Last week, I confided how irritated and angry I got at a moronic driver who was weaving around the Redditch Ring Road in his chavved-out little car. He was so dangerous, and people were honking as he narrowly avoided them. I was so angry as he did the same with me, especially as I had my daughter in the car at the time. I thought about how it’s only a matter of time before he kills or maims someone, and how he should be taken off the road. What can you do, though? Call the police? That’s no good unless you gather up the witnesses and they’re not really going to be interested until he actually has killed or maimed someone.

He sped off into one of the car parks, and later on I am 99% certain I saw him and his girlfriend at a stall in the grounds of the church where there was a fete happening. His green and black baseball cap was so distinctive. At that time, in that moment, I really wanted to walk up to him and just punch him in his chavvy little face, to teach him a lesson that his actions have consequences.

I didn’t, of course, and concluded that it was a big risk to take without absolute certainty, that it wouldn’t set a good example for my daughter, and that I’d be the one who actually gets into trouble not him. Rightly so. It’s not up to me to be judge, jury and executioner.

So I walked on by. I even concluded that it was just not worth trying to remonstrate with him. He was so chavved up, and his girlfriend too, that it was clear to me they were just too far gone, too far for reason, too far for an appeal from me to their considerate side, if one exists.

“Funny,” said my confidant, with a raised eyebrow. “You got really angry with him, but can’t you see how similar you are to him?”

“How so?” I enquired, with lips pursed. I didn’t want to be like this person, not one jot.

But she explained that my overeating problems are often caused by me swerving in and out of the rules, even the ones I set for myself. I don’t conform to the norms, and I don’t behave as I know I should.  I show disregard for my loved ones, and I put them in danger because if I have a heart attack and die they will suffer greatly because I’ve failed to plan my finances properly – again, another result of ducking and diving the rules and the norms.

She continued that I had sped through life, jumping between the lanes, and yet people around me – people who care about me – are all honking their horns and trying to get me to change my ways.

How frustrated must they feel, she noted, that they try to help you but you just keep on driving through the lanes in a haphazard manner. They must feel like punching you square in the face sometimes!

But they don’t, she said. They decide it’s not worth it, that it’s going to cause too much aggravation, and that ultimately it’s not their responsibility to change your behaviour, it’s up to you and only you.

I pondered the analogy (dare I even call it a parable?) for some time afterwards, and I still am.  It’s about time I drove my life forwards in the right lanes, in the right way. Not someone else’s version of ‘right’, and not because someone else is telling me to do so, but because it’s simply the right thing to do to honour and protect all those around me, but also myself. I deserve better than to die as a result of my own ‘careless driving’.

Pro Tip for Dealing with Free Trials

We’ve all been there and got the scars from trying to cancel a “free trial” once the period is over, or to just cancel some other service you’ve realised you don’t need anymore.

Some of the worst offenders include Experian’s CreditExpert service, and subscriptions to The Times. Add your story in the comments, I’d love to hear it.

Here’s one way you can get around having to call or write to them:

Most of these services will have a facility to let you ‘update your card details’ that will only let you stick in the details of another credit or debit card. So here’s what you do:

  • Find an old bank account that you don’t use any more – make sure it’s on ‘free account’ mode, downgrade if you have to. You’ll still be able to to keep your debit card.
  • Empty it of funds. Leave the balance at £0.00 and don’t apply for an overdraft.
  • Change your account on the website so it now uses the card for the account with £0.00 in there.
  • When the company tries to take a payment it’ll bounce.
  • They will probably send you some warning emails, but eventually they’ll just cancel your account 9 times out of 10. Chances are you’ve been paying in advance, not in arrears.

There are some heavy warnings with this however. The biggest one being:

READ THE TERMS & CONDITIONS

Some of them will have terms stating they’ll let the account arrears build up before sending the heavies to your door. Watch out for that.

One variation to the above is to make sure you use a credit card. Call your credit card company and tell them to block payments to the website/company you want to cancel with. Again, make sure they won’t fine you or make your account stack up as a result.

This method is not ideal, and it’s not a nice way to do business. But neither is it nice not to let your customers leave you when they want. You’re running a website not the Bates Motel, just let us go.

So this is your way to stick it to them. Bounce the payments. Turn the tables. Make them do the work.

Eventually they’ll do a Netflix – they were amongst the worst, now you can walk away and come back whenever you like, and look what it did for them – it made them rich!  Funny what not treating your customers like prisoners can do!

 

Don’t get too attached

Honestly, this has to be my 100th time of starting a new WordPress-based website-cum-blog.  I do this a lot.

The main reason is I just like to have a website I can play with. Somewhere for me to play with new ideas, methods, and also to try out themes and plugins before I put them onto a client’s site.

So why not have a development server? That’s a hassle. This site runs on the same infrastructure as my clients. If something works here, it’ll work for my clients.

I’ll do blog posts – and I’ll genuinely engage in having a blog. Just be prepared for it to change before your very eyes without notice. This is a ‘bleeding edge’ area. If you like things to stay still for a moment, this is not the place for you.