This afternoon I took the kids ice skating at the top of Palos Verdes. While I still have my buddha working, there are times when older sensibilities take over, when I'm dressing, for example. I wore my A&F snowboard pants (not really thick at all). But to over compensate for the fact that I know that in such environments, I should wear no labels whatsoever, I wore a sheer RL Polo Sport shirt that says so right on the front. And furthermore, I wore that black Kangol skull cap my wife bought me for Christmas. Hedging my overcompensation, I brought along my black fleece with the zipper neck and no labels. Nevertheless I decided against the slightly worn cap with some obscure reference to yachting or golf. Needless to say, I was awash in mixed signals, then again, I'm quite a code-switcher. I also came armed with small talk. Get down to business quickly and get back out again is the rule. I think I ended up talking too much to one guy and not enough to another. Whatever. This is paragraph #1.
In paragraph 2, I relate a somewhat obscurely related fact, which is the matter of sunglasses on eBay. Some of you may know that if you have some difficulty registering, or are a newbie, or have changed your identity in the past 30 days, you will have a probationary thingy attached to your account in the form of a pair of sunglasses. This indicates to potential buyers of whatever it is you are trying to sell at eBay, that you may not be whom you appear to be and that only minimal information is available about you. Nice concept.
Here in paragraph three, I attempt to be a bit more serious and come to the real point of the discussion which is to reflect about some of my first thoughts about that which Howard Rheingold has provoked me into thinking. I have been unassiduous in my completion of his Smart Mobs, but yesterday somewhere just past page 176 he mentioned Auranet. Auranet is a 12 foot 'personal space' in which smart items located on your person will automagically coordinate and negotiate this and that information about you to similarly equipped persons at some point in the future.
I'm married. Do I keep a copy of my kids photos, or do I protect those from all strangers? I've got a lot of money in the bank, which credit card do I expose - do I set a profile for when I'm slumming? I'm horny and on the make, do I set to beergoggle mode, and what if She is the Right One? How much do I go about wearing on my sleeve? Which labels do I select from my electronic closet? What's in your wallet?
In answer to the question of what we should be asking ourselves now that we are in the golden era of bigger and more pervasive is better of course, I suggest the following. This has always been the great warning I have held, which is to beware of perfect simalcra. As Marshall Blonsky instructs, very little of what we process as real information is actually authentic, and we are not protected. The news and information and knowledge we present in the future, about ourselves, about the world, about any and everything will come without a metadata guarantee. We will be so intent on getting the crap through the goose of the electronic global mind, that we won't pay much attention to its provenance. Instead we will rely upon systems of reputation to give us credibility, and these systems of reputation will be content agnostic. It will be more important to us to trust people and systems to connect with us than it will be that everything they tell us always be verifyable. Half the point of establishing a trusted friend is not having to second-guess everything they tell us. The problem, of course is that crap will get under the radar.
I'm thinking about this crap factor as I prepare myself to review the resignation letter I have recieved from trusted sources several degrees of separation from the originator. But I know that this letter has not got a PGP signature attached, and never would. I am not the original target of this letter, so I cannot know that it's not a fake, nor can I know if it is generally undoctored if it isn't a complete fabrication. And though I am likely to trust the folks that sent it to me, and having generally reconciled its existence to the fact that I have seen it coming from multiple directions of trust does not change the fact that the entire artifact may be a fabrication.
Which brings me to a point about modifying the architecture of the XRepublic to accomodate the blogosphere. What would it take to completely defraud the blogosphere? How difficult or easy would it be to get the top blogsources commenting about X knowing that X would inevitably lead to certain conclusions being drawn by rational people? I'm suggesting that such a thing, if not practical now, could be done with a sophistication heretofore unknown. I am suggesting that the margin for error is significant. I'm saying that anything can ultimately be hoaxed. I'm also saying that we'll be used to that.
This is the context for the discussion of sunglasses in the Auranet.
Maybe I don't want you to know that I'm married. Or maybe I just brought my kids to the ice skating rink and stood around taking digital pictures like an idiot because I was really spying on Mr. D who I just happen to know would be there today. Maybe I'm just shy and not from around here and don't really want to talk to anyone today. One never knows, does one?
The more we depend on our electronic auras to present ourselves, even as we get more and more sophisticated with our labels and social signifyers, people will remain as opaque as they wish to be, and sometimes inadvertantly more than they want to be. I raise the flag because we may lose the skill. Just as some of us smalltalk well, others of us are completely awkward. We depend on some electronic Cyrano to express ourselves, and wind up incapable. We will literally be at a loss for words from processing so many digital signals and icons. Who hasn't been tongue tied? Who hasn't found the perfect personal ad and found ourselves practicing dozens of times what message to leave on Her answering machine, only to sputter like an idiot. Maybe she had Caller ID and I am screened for life.
Which brings me to the second to last paragraph, which was The Last Castle on television last night. Robert Redford spoke to a dyslexic corporal sharing the same bighouse prison yard. The corporal was 2 years into a 7 year bid. He had been in the service 13 years, and committed a crime that took 15 minutes. Redford suggested that he was more Marine than anything else. This is easy for a certain type of human to do face to face...
Today, I'm very concerned about my privacy. I want to wear sunglasses and I don't want to submit to mind-cavity searches by the authorities. In that, I am like many of my peers in the information technology business. We may come to regret that. We never know when we may have to run down the street screaming for assistance like Griffin Dunne in After Hours.