Web Evolution — It’s a Jungle in Here

By on November 18th, 2017 in Privacy & Security

By web evolution I’m not talking Internet 4.0, I’m talking Darwinian survival. In the Darwinian model, evolution requires three things: variation, reproduction, and selection. The rapid expansion of web content indicates some form of reproduction is occurring, and also that selection is needed. With 554,000,000 pages that match the term “web evolution” this is quite evident. Moreover, this page has to compete with all of them!

Variation and “fidelity” of reproduction occurs in a few ways. First, this is the second major revision of the Technology and Society website in the last three years. Clearly these apply there. But also these iterations are informed by diverse sources of expertise on how to better capture our prey. (More on the food chain below.) I mean, how can we better attract and serve our target audience? Our successes inform others, folks involved in this site who cross-pollinate the ‘memes’ from this site with other sites. (See Susan Blackmore’s discussion of evolution in the first paragraph link.)

Key Point: facts and truth are not part of the “selection” criteria. Credibility is a key concern of SSIT and our parent, IEEE, and we use professional ethics and editorial and peer review to assure this. (Blog entries are not peer reviewed.) But, we might get a lot more “clicks” if we had some audacious lies.

The Web Evolution Food Chain

Our first target is search engines. The concept of search engine optimization (SEO) is used in this iteration of this site, and many others. There are tools and experts to help with this, so some of the informed variation memes are passed via automated means.  Of course the search engines are really targets as ways to get to our real prey, you! If you don’t find us, we can’t communicate with you. Google Analytics provides us with feedback on how many visitors we get, and how many are unique, and where they appear to live, etc. We do not collect personal data unless you send us a comment/request in which case we get some idea of who you are. (This is not a site privacy notice!) But there are clearly sites that do collect significant personal data directly, and also via shared databases. The “web bug” like Facebook’s “like” track ‘every click you make’ (sung to the tune of the Police rock group, “Every Breath You Take“). Combine these with other sources and it is possible to get a disturbingly detailed picture of YOU. (Cambridge Analytica claims to have 5,000 data items on every U.S. adult.) While the easily measured metric is “clicks,” there is some deep, hidden agenda in every web site.

Our Deep Hidden Agenda

First, IEEE SSIT (that’s where you are now) is an educational organization (501(c)3) and we want you to be aware, and to think. Then we want you to engage — comment, join our LinkedIn or Facebook groups, subscribe to our publications, or attend a conference. Better yet, join SSIT, our professional society, or donate to support SSIT. Ideally this site would be a primary resource for persons interested in the issues of how technology and society interact.

This is a battle for survival. A competition between web sites, and to engage you for the greater good that Technology and Society seeks to advance. We are actually motivated by the objective of helping humanity and minimizing the harm — both though the use of technology (and education.) Our survival (web site and organization) ultimately depends on your engagement with our mission.

Right now? I’m setting the stage for my next blog post … on artificial intelligence.