Meme Propagation

By on May 30th, 2013 in Ethics, Societal Impact, Topics

Deb Roy in his TED presentation on “The Birth of a Word” gives us a glimpse at a technology with potentially high impact.  His primary talk discusses how, over 5 years, with a 18/7 audio/video recording from every room in his house, his MIT team is able to trace the word acquisition of his son. I will let you contemplate the pros and cons of having 100% of your household activities recorded for posterity.

However, his team applied the software they used to capture every use of specific words by his son, then connecting these with every word from members of the household in the proximity of his son, to analyse other interactions.  One source was the feed from every major television network. The second was to track emerging phrases from these sources via the blogosphere/twitterverse.  Their result is the ability to obtain near-real time measurement of the impact that a given source is currently having on the population at large.

A popular TV show may trigger social media flow with a positive feedback loop bringing more viewers into the show.  The proliferating comments may provide analysis of what works best in the show, what is not working, where viewers want the story to go.  One can envision a program driven impromptu by viewer responses measured in the Twitterverse.

However, a second example was President Obama’s State of the Union address. This showed much broader distribution than any single TV show, with massive response and interaction in the Twitterverse.  One can envision real time AI analysis (Deb Roy has been working with Bluefin Labs which does this commercially) that is used to critique a political speech or event.  In the extreme, a presenter may get coaching feedback from real time evaluation, altering the presentation spinning up on the teleprompter in real time.

Consider a political debate where candidates are receiving real time talking points based on analysis of the Blogosphere, and altering their apparent positions based on this.  The good news is that it would require some fairly smart candidates to pull that off, or perhaps ones with nothing in their heads except the words that are being feed to them anyway.  But now the kicker. Activating a zombie army of previously captured devices, all of which have twitter accounts, and you can re-direct the discussion. The discussion migrates from starvation in Iran to education in Latvia. Both candidates arguing the strategic value of Latvia and how their proposals will yield the best educational outcomes.  And the only indication that this discussion has been hijacked is that neither candidate knows where Latvia is. But the good news is that they are supporting education …..somewhere.