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.