Created by Mithun Shetty, Shane Stone, and Xin Zhang
A link to our presentation of the Google Glass App, XperienceLearning
Reading Ebocloud reminded me of one of my favorite TED talks, “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain. In her talk, she emphasizes different ways introverts play important and often critical roles in our society. She makes points about creativity requiring periods of isolation and other ways that introverted behavior is often so useful. Being a pretty strong introvert myself, most of her points make a lot of sense to me, and many of the examples she describes have at some point applied directly to me or to someone I know. It is probably for this reason that the technology in Ebocloud unsettles me so much. I can’t imagine an environment less conducive to introverts.
The dToos have some extremely cool applications in the book. I particularly liked the Helping Hands app and the example of the group of friends collectively jumping out of the way of a bus, and I generally enjoyed Moss’s cleverness in coming up with interesting applications for the technology. What I think would be problematic, however, is the overarching goal to bring human minds closer to together and forever end human loneliness. While the idea of it sounds good in theory (especially to extroverts), I think the constant connection would become exhausting and eventually debilitating.
I would claim that any current (and foreseeable future) human society requires hermits and eccentrics to function. Even in the world of Ebocloud, the majority of the innovation driving the new tattoos comes from the two characters in the book most separated from the rest of the world, Radu and Ernesto, and it should also be mentioned that Lotte and Penchast choose to leave for a remote island in Desalt’s novel.
Our society today thrives on interconnectedness. We pursue it avidly, expanding the scope of social media in every direction we can. I broadcast to the world what music I like, what news I find interesting, even the state of my love life without a second thought. I do this both to learn about myself through my choices in assembling an online persona and to make this available to others so that they might learn about me as well. But we do not live in a world that could produce the Ebocloud, which caters to “the primordial urge for belonging”. Interconnectedness as we crave it is centered around the individual. We seek to know each other, but not necessarily to unite. I need control over my music, my profile, my identity. We use social media to define ourselves as discrete entities within an increasingly large world, and any common bond we form with other users is secondary to the ability for us to personalize our own experience.
Ebocloud shapes our addiction to social media into a single leviathan, capable not only of connecting the people of the world, but physically influencing them. Rather than simply allowing users to interact, the Ebocloud begins to shape people’s behavior through the use of tattoos that release hormones to encourage ‘good’ behavior. This is a literalization of the way that social media can lead toward the development of a more empathetic society, as well as how our reliance on technology can come to control us. But while social media today can influence their users, they do so in a very different way. Websites like Pandora and Netflix which recommend content to their users will influence people’s tastes and form small ‘communities’ of users who are all consuming essentially the same content. However, these communities are not families like the ebos from the novel. Today’s users exist in an isolated bubble, only connected to their fellow consumers by invisible mechanisms used to recommend more content. I couldn’t find other Netflix users with similar taste if I tried. There is no brotherhood between us. Netflix has no moral investment in how we relate, and would probably prefer that we remain isolated enough to maintain the illusion of originality rather than let us feel like near-identical cogs in a much larger machine.
Ebocloud acts as a parable for the good and bad that could emerge in the next step of social media, but it is one that is unlikely to occur. The Ebocloud is an answer to a problem that the world does not believe it has, and as long as our society remains as ardently individualistic as it is today, I expect the world to move farther from its interconnected utopia before it gets any closer.
Ebocloud, by Rick Moss, features a world where a deep social network drives humanity towards a social singularity. The social network – the Ebocloud – connects strangers into familial units and awards points for altruism. In combination with the functional tattoos introduced, the cloud has the power to influence and direct humans with ‘superhuman’ efficiency. As a result, groups of people can be harnessed to perform acts that would otherwise be impossible to coordinate.
Much of our conversation in class revolved around the ethical ramifications of the cloud. In my opinion, the ability of the tattoo to biologically influence others both very dangerous and a boon to society. The tattoo is also necessary for the efficiency mentioned above, so the question becomes whether or not it is worth the potential dangers it introduces. For example, someone could hack another person’s tattoo and paralyze them by flooding their body with a certain type of hormone. The connection the tattoo proves to Ebocloud allows for the ‘computing’ power of humanity to be pooled into a single resource. The cloud can mine this data and through humanity produce works that benefit the populace as a whole. The idea is reminiscent of a ‘hive mind’, a concept in science fiction where a single entity controls a group towards a common goal. The structure certainly exists in Ebocloud. It is demonstrated in the book that the Ebocloud can control humans successfully, and that it is only one step away from turning people into drones. There is a great risk that humans become absorbed into their ebo’s and lose their individuality.
With a hive mind structure, the cloud can harness human thought as the ultimate creative resource. In my mind, what puts apart a smart artificial intelligence and a stupid one is the idea of supervised vs. unsupervised. A supervised machine can produce decisions based on the information that is already within its database. An unsupervised machine can make new decisions and teach itself based on what observes. The Ebocloud to me is strictly a supervised machine. I believe it will succeed in harnessing the best ideas of others, but will ultimately falter in producing great ones of its own. In the end, I see the cloud ushering a new era of human efficiency, but not one of great understanding or advancement.
Ebocloud produces an interesting alternate reality with many possibilities. I enjoyed that it took a different approach from other singularity stories and put the focus on giant social structures like Facebook, and what would happen if this became an even bigger part of our lives. The book definitely a scary and impressive vision of what could happen, and it definitely made me think about the dangers, difficulties, and benefits of control.