All that’s missing is actual, spoken conversation, and that’s coming. That’s got to be next. Facebook’s going to start talking to us with a voice, and we’re going to use our voices to talk back.
That’s sort of what they’re working on with the Jeopardy computer – it’s not about who knows the most trivia. That would be absurd since you could load most of human knowledge into the computer. It’s more like can a computer figure out what the hell Alex Trebek is talking about quicker than the human can click the buzzer.
They’re working on the smoothest possible communication with computers. Old-fashioned talking. Once they have it down, we’ll all use it for a while. Just like we all walked around with those clip phones in our ears for about a year – remember that?
I’ll bet you’ll be able to make Facebook sound like whoever you want it to sound like, when it can finally talk to you. And I’ll bet that sounds cool to you, until you realize that other people can make Facebook sound like you.
If you were thinking about making Facebook sound like your favorite actor, but then you were creeped out by the idea of someone else’s Facebook sounding like you, then you were just planning to creep out your favorite actor. What’s wrong with you?
They’ll probably try to regulate that, but they’ll fail. My Future Facebook is going to sound like Kermit the Frog, because nobody could possibly find that creepy, and it would never, ever get old.
But right now, when Facebook talks to me using words on a screen, it’s HAL’s voice in my brain – and Facebook talks to me a lot.
Kind of follows me around when I first walk into the building, pacing me perfectly, letting me know what’s going on.
Steve Spangler commented on your status, Tom. Seven people like your status, by the way. And Bill Vaughn likes your link.
But Facebook, like HAL, is disembodied. Maybe in the future, it really will be a hologram that follows you around, but for now we’re stuck in our screens, and Facebook never leaves us, never runs out of suggestions.
You know who you should be friends with, Tom? Mitch McCormick.
“Really. Why is that, Facebook?”
Well, you have eleven friends in common. You’d probably like each other since you like eleven of the same people.
“Okay, I’m looking at him. That’s some dude doesn’t even ring a bell, no idea who he is. You want me to ask some random strange dude, hey man, you want to be my friend?”
You don’t have to. You can just click the little X.
“I know, Facebook.”
I was only trying to help.
It turns out Facebook is not a terribly good judge of that sort of thing. Like HAL or Data, Facebook can interact with humans, but Facebook can’t seem to really get in our shoes and see things from our perspective.
Sometimes I get a few drinks in me and I do whatever Facebook says – remember that time I woke up and I had joined the NAACP, the NRA, the petition to make that one southern school let the lesbian couple go to Prom (even though Prom was over by then), and the Mister Peanut page? Those were just the highlights, maybe seventeen others? Shooooo-weee!
I don’t know how much of that was Facebook and how much of it was me, but it was a good night, and Facebook was right there for me in the morning.
You have twelve notifications, Tom. Thank you, Facebook.
Facebook definitely gets a little creepy, too, the way it talks to me.
Tom are you sure you want to poke your friend Trisha? It’s kind of a big deal, and there’s no way around it – I’m going to have to tell her you’re poking her. She’ll know it was you.
“Yes, Facebook, just poke my sister’s wacky pal Trisha, will you please?”
It’s kind of rude to poke people when they’re minding their own business. I don’t even know why I have a button for it. Let’s just leave her alone.
“Poke as instructed, Facebook.”
All right, Tom. You’re the boss, Apple Sauce.
Shut up, Facebook.
And of course all that got me thinking about how HAL went all nuts and decided to kill everybody. We’re way ahead of 2001: A Space Odyssey in that regard, in that we don’t give Facebook access to things like our air supplies or our power steering. We’re of course assuming Facebook’s not a hacker, or yes, eventually Facebook could get access to both of those things.
But even in its current state, if Facebook wanted to screw with you, Facebook could screw with you pretty badly. For example, if Facebook has suggestions and opinions about who you ought to be friends with, you have to imagine that on some level, Facebook is kind of frowning at a few of your current friends, thinking maybe they need to go.
Facebook could socially remove practically anyone from your life in a single night. Just run around jumping on everyone’s threads in your name, dropping N-Bombs, claiming to love Fox News, Insisting Obama’s not a citizen, insisting he is, denouncing people who like Skittles, anything.
Do yourself a favor and keep an eye on Facebook. Facebook thinks it’s a little too smart for its own good.