In December 2009, Google began customizing its search results for each user. Instead of giving you the most broadly popular result, Google now tries to predict what you are most likely to click on. According to MoveOn.org board president Eli Pariser, Google’s change in policy is symptomatic of the most significant shift to take place on the Web in recent years-the rise of personalization. In The Filter Bubble, Pariser uncovers how this growing trend threatens to control how we consume and share information as a society–and reveals what we can do about it. Personalized filters are sweeping the Web, creating individual universes of information for each of us. Facebook–the primary news source for an increasing number of Americans–prioritizes the links it believes will appeal to you so that if you are a liberal or conservative, you can expect to see different links. Even an old-media bastion like The Washington Post devotes the top of its home page to a news feed with the links your Facebook friends are sharing. Behind the scenes, a burgeoning industry of data companies is tracking your personal information to sell to advertisers, from your political leanings to the color you painted your living room to the hiking boots you just browsed on Zappos. In a personalized world, we will increasingly be typed and fed only news that is pleasant, familiar, and confirms our beliefs-and because these filters are invisible, we won’t know what is being hidden from us. Our past interests will determine what we are exposed to in the future, leaving less room for the unexpected encounters that spark creativity, innovation, and the democratic exchange of ideas. While we all worry that the Internet is eroding privacy or shrinking our attention spans, Pariser uncovers a more pernicious and far-reaching trend and shows how we can-and must-change course. With vivid detail and remarkable scope, The Filter Bubble reveals how personalization undermines the Internet’s original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas and could leave us all in an isolated, echoing world.
Biotech is big business, or as Trump would say, “very, very big.” Now a giant called Celgene is investing in biotech’s future by buying Impact BioMedicines with a possible $7 Billion ante up. Good investment? Well, biobucks are hotter than Bitcoin, long term. Just watch any network news report, the second half of which is all pharmaceuticals, with side effects. Development takes years and millions, and the payoffs are big, and losses also. Drug patents expire, rivals vie for space, with mergers and acquisitions the ultimate power play. Trump is trying to deregulate everything from the EPA to the DEA. It’s a “go big or go home” strategy. The cancer drug Jakafi is a huge seller for two other pharmaceutical giants, and Celgene wants to compete. They want in. On the ropes with their own drug expiring soon, they have little choice. The CEO touts the future of using genetic engineering to attach genes to molecules, similar to what Ron Howard’s show Breakthroughs reported last year in which a neutered HIV targeted cancers past the blood/brain barrier. Meanwhile, supplements like Nugenix is being hyped to athletes to improve testosterone. (The Dan Patrick Show advertises it NBCSN. Wink, wink.) Is there a dark side to biotech? “CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, which are the hallmark of a bacterial defense system that forms the basis for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology. It may soon be possible to eliminate certain diseases genetically, to change the eye color (and more) of babies, and to lengthen the lifespan of humans. Many strides have already been made, such as the means to fight cancer using gene therapy. To some, this is all “playing God,” while to others it is progress: the “search for better explanations, leading to discoveries,” as David Deutsch put it in “The Beginning of Infinity.” Whatever one’s beliefs, there are problems with all technologies, as discussed in the new book on social media interfaces: “Dawn of the New Everything” by Jaron Lanier. In my novel “The Methuselah Gene” a neutered HIV is used, not as a cancer therapy, but to implant a longevity gene taken from a bristlecone pine tree past the blood/brain barrier, and extend human life by decades. A pill to do something like this is now in the works, and may be here within a decade. How much would such a pill cost, and will only the super rich be able to afford it, not the “Young, Dumb and Broke?” In the New Rules governing culture, before our young icons can acquire near immortality via science, what if nefarious forces tested it on a small town without their knowledge or consent…and discovered that there were side effects?
Tom Cruise is a fan of science fiction. He is a fine actor who takes risks, and has made many movies in the genre. He has talked on Oprah, on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, and the Tonight Show. He is also a Scientologist. Harlan Ellison is one of the most award-winning science fiction writers ever, with multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, plus Edgar awards in the mystery category. His story “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” is a classic. Almost single-handedly, Ellison saved Star Trek in the early days from extinction. He wrote the “City at the Edge of Forever” episode, and in an audiobook of the same name tells how it all happened. The Terminator was Ellison’s idea, too. Based on an Outer Limits episode he wrote, and a short story. He sued James Cameron, who settled out of court. So here’s the question: why not get Tom and Harlan together on a talk show? Can you imagine the fireworks? Why? Harlan knew L. Ron Hubbard personally. Hubbard told Harlan that starting a religion was the best way to make money. Listen to this brief conversation. Ellison talks to Robin Williams about it. His award winning “A Boy and His Dog” was made into a Don Johnson movie whose ending was twisted by Hollywood hacks into a joke. Is Ellison combative and a narcissist? Sure. So is Trump, and he got elected. Ellison is also right. Trump is not.