25 years from now someone in my niece’s graduating class might be the VP pick for the highest office in the land (POTUS). What will that “vetting” process look like? Sure there will be the usual background check stuff, FBI calling their college roommates, PHD advisor, pastor, etc., but what happens in a world where we are declaring our intention and attention (status) all-day, every day. What happens when one of these digital natives, who have been facebooking and myspacing, and flickring and youtube-ing their daily thoughts, ideas, location, and media every day for the next 25 years runs for office?
Past Is Prologue
I had a conversation with my buddy Craig the other day and we discussed how these platforms and models were changing how users interact and part of the discussion touched specifically on:
Right now, every kid under the age of 18 in the US has grown up with potential access to the internet either at home, school, rec center, mom’s office, etc.
For the most part these kids are creating online identities in a ton of places, some are throwaway (to get access to a concert video), and others are permanent (tell my niece she has to quit MySpace and you will end up in a fight).
These kids are getting their own computers (cell phones), self-organizing digitally
They are making their own media (audio, photo, video, text) daily
They are connecting with their friends on these platforms and using them to stay in touch, bully each other, make new friends, etc.
Potentially, this generation will never lose touch with anyone they grew up with – EVER. They graduate from High School Facebook to College Facebook to Work/Life Facebook (or whatever the social platform/graph/grid/mesh evolves to). My niece will be able to keep in touch with, ignore and more importantly, have status on every single kid she is going to high school and college today. I can’t remember every single kid I went to grade school with, but I could probably find a bunch of them on Facebook if I looked hard enough.
Networking? Sure – having the world’s largest, distributed address book in history will make keeping and making connections more interesting.But what happens when you have persistent status of people you know, what they are doing, where they are /were/will be? What happens over time to this data, when it becomes the past tense (was doing, was at, was with)?
Doc Searls has said in a previous VRM meeting that he wants to see a day when the customer can have their own TOS (terms of service) that gives them the right to “nuke my info off your system if I want to quit your proprietary aspect of data”. Outside of the NUKE option (which I think we need), what about an expiration date on my status/intention/attention/media? 15 years from now, does Johnny really want his new girlfriend to see his “Growing Up Gotti” haircut from back in the day? Are those funnel photos from the Preakness really going to be appropriate when your kid decides to “see what mom was like when she was my age”?
Carrying off on this point is a really great and creepy PSA out about kids and the things they are posting to the web:
It changes the game because WE ARE ALL MAINTAINING THE STATUS over our attention/intention/action as well as that of others. There are no reporters, I dont have a secretary, no one is “going to the archives” to find out what I did last week – they just need to follow my twitter feed (which is hooked up to my friendfeed and facebook and wordpress blog) to see what I was doing. Its all in the cache/cloud/reverse chronological order. All someone needs to do is connect the dots (which is getting easier every day).
Your ideas, photos, comments, videos are out there, in the cloud/cache, forever. A persistent, ongoing record, distributed amongst different platforms and social graphs for the world to see. Add in face and voice recognition and that protest rally you went to in college, because that hippy chick you were dating at the time wanted you to go, might become a problem 20 years from now when you run for office, or a job, or meet a not-so-hippy chick. You didnt shoot the video, you didnt know you were on camera, yet it is part of your history. Lots of folks are getting gigs BECAUSE of their participation on these platforms. There are already stories in the “news” (and I do use the term loosely) about how kids are getting turned down for jobs because of things on their myspace page, beauty pageant contestants are losing their crowns because there are embarrassing photos of them on the web, kids are videotaping crimes to get on YouTube.
I hope you know this will go down on your permanent record
– The Violent Femmes
Things to think about:
Will our past actions prevent us from trying for a job (even Vice President) because we know what closets our skeletons are in (“I told the candidate I could not accept the VP nod because I want to spend more time with my family, and because there are some raunchy pictures of me at my roommates’s bachelor party 17 years ago”)?
Will individuals guard their expressions more closely and be more conscious of their attention/intention/status?
What happens when we run into a “blank slate” who doesnt have a facebook history or is tagged in flickr sets? Will we give them the job/trust/reputation? Will they be a social media pariah?
Will I be able to find a “cleaner” to get rid of all traces of Spring Break 2012 in Cancun before my bride-to-be finds them?
Will there be a “Identity Bankruptcy Court” that will order these graphs and platforms to nuke all traces of someone?
Excellent post and thought-provoking questions. On the flip side, I believe eventually a “critical mass” momentum in digital life trails will shift our hypocrisy in dealing with “skeletons in closets.” The scrutiny of candidates is farcical given the degree of bizarre behavior we often learn was behind dogmatically restrictive facades (think virulently homophobic politicians who are themselves gay, evangelicals who turn out to be cheating on their spouses).
Another point I’ve heard made, is that the judgment algorithm will eventually flip, such that people with pristine lifetrails will become suspect. Aw come on, they never drank from a red cup in college? You expect me to believe that? Well what else are they hiding?
Normative standards will change. There’s also much to be said for simply not going to work for people who are so hypocritical as to disavow that people are human and flawed.
But yeah, lots to think about.
awesome – red cup comment made me LOL
algo will definitely flip – and thats where things get interesting – will we get more conscious of how we are portrayed by ourselves and our graph (I doubt it), or will we become more permissive as a society over what someone’s past include. Where is the middle when the extremes are in the persistent cache?
2 big social drivers are reputation and peer pressure. What happens when the “I tried it but I didnt inhale” is replaced by “I did a lot of things in the 2010s I wasnt proud of… everyone else did too”. If there is no stigma (for anything) what do we have to complain about?