I suppose I was around fourteen years of age when a couple of my friends on my block confiscated a shotgun. It was at a time in my mental immaturity where I believed that violence settled everything, and that respect of ones peers was a worthy priority. The interesting thing about weapons and force is that until you are the possessor of it, all others are oppressive, unjust, and cowardly. The minute you become responsible for weilding objective power, a certain degree indulgent entitlement comes along with that. In an interesting turn of events that occured that summer, I learned a valuable lesson in power tranference and power implementation. I learned that you never give away what for the most part is a source of your power, and that you are solely responsible for the consequences of acts done with that power.
These thoughts entered my mind as I sat down and read an article in the November/December 2011 edition of Technology Review. The article was entitled,”A Social-Media Decoder” and it was on one level the story of a company, Bluefin, that analyzes the updates on Twitter for their clients. Clients such as CBS, Pepsi, Mars, Comcast, Fox Sports, and Turner Broadcasting to name a few of the major media players they work for. What caught my attention, was not so much the dumpster diving of my updates to provide Fortune 500 companies with intel about my feelings regarding a Coors commercial during a Rams game, but how the company was started.
According to the article, what began as a project at MIT(the publishers of the magazine)of Deb Roy, a computer and cognitive scientist, to teach robots how to speak expanded into a shared company that boast of the list above. The shared partner would be Roy’s PHD student, Michal Fleichman, who assisting Roy in researching how humans learn how to speak by a set of famous video recordings of Roy’s son learning how to speak, decided it would be too troubling to wait for Roy’s son to grow up to develop this project. Instead, Fleichman used baseball games to teach computers how to speak. This would lead to grants in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would help fund the extension of the initial project. The extension, of course, being not only to have computers know when a homerun was hit when watching a game, but also to understand what was being said when a social media stream was feed through a video stream.
There are a lot of questions that came to my mind as I read through this article. The first being, the question of privacy. Then came the question of why is MIT teaching robots how to speak. At a certain point my ego kicked in and I wondered if the robots ever wanted to RT something updated through the Owl’s Asylum stream on Twitter. When thinking about the power of the RT, I allowed all of these curious thoughts to exist into one culminating momentous question.
What the hell am I doing with the technology that I am assisting in becoming the next corporate monolith?
I’m watching the brothers Ahbseenkwestion(y’all know, D) and Khairi(everybody knows Lion) develop a clothing line(Stolen). That’s an important development because if you know the history, the brothers met through Twitter. That is the proper harnessing of a tool without letting the tool absorb your energy. It is a power transference. I also consider Asylum, and I want to be humble about the recognition given by United Black America, and Asylum making The 100 Best Black Websites, 2012 Edition. I realize that we couldn’t have made that list without many of the contacts made through networking on Twitter, as well as leveraging Twitter and WordPress through the “Tweet Old Posts” plugin from developer Ajay Matharu.
And all of that is beautiful, but it doesn’t cause me to forget the smell of a shotgun and feeling of overwhelming control. It doesn’t make me forget that for whatever technological reasons, Twitter doesn’t seem to recognize Black issues in its Trending Topics. Being in love with Twitter(let’s be honest here, have you seen my Tweet Counter? This is my second account…) is like being in love with a White woman that is being pimped by the Ayran Brotherhood. She’s knowledgeable, witty, the life of the party, just don’t do that Black nationalist thing, “keep it ghetto”, and you are always in for a great time.
One thing I learned that summer so many half moons ago is that it isn’t about the power, but who has it now. Who is willing to use it, and often, the idea that stuck with me was, with great power comes the need to display greater degrees of apprehensive intensity of those that wield great power along with you or more than you. Due to an unsuspecting adult’s careless placement of a shotgun being stolen by his nephew and hidden under the bed of his nephew’s buddy up the street, another teenager who got the gun from the buddy whose mother found it, wound up with his first robbery conviction. Power is an interesting dynamic, is it not?
In closing, I applaud the technological dumpster diving going on over at Bluefin. I hope you guys find all of my updates appealing and confusing as chinese arithmitic until Eric B got his hands on it. I fear for a planet of robots that can learn to speak as much as I am scared of the semantic web. I like my machines dumb and easily pliable. Humans haven’t invented the evolution of social consideration so I’m a bit hesitant when those beings start playing “create a man”. I’d like to remind everyone that although my recent rekindling with Twitter has been fun, it is only a romp with an old sex buddy. And after I’m through fucking Twitter, it is still #FuckTwitter.