The one-sentence summary
You can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself – a filter bubble – if you are unaware of the way in which the internet filters your search information.
- The internet is hiding a lot from you because it guesses what you want to see. For example, Google has 57 signals to work out what they think you want to see, which means that your computer could be becoming a one-way mirror, reflecting your interests and reinforcing your prejudices.
- Taken to the nth degree, this means that you may discover no new ideas.
- A filter bubble is the unique universe of information for each of us that only we see. It has three main characteristics:
1. You’re alone in it
2. It’s invisible
3. You don’t choose to enter it
- As a result, you can get stuck in a static, ever-narrowing version of yourself – an endless You-loop.
- Viewed collectively, this could mean we are, without knowing it, giving ourselves a ‘global lobotomy.’
- Once owners of such data have clocked your habits, they can embark on all sorts of ways to exploit them, including ‘behavioural retargeting, in which the 98% of people who leave retail websites without purchasing are prompted again.
- This type of algorithmic sorting can be more biased than individuals due to ‘overfitting’, where hackneyed grouping are simply too stereotyped.
- If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer – you’re the product being sold.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- Traffic levels can be artificially manipulated by understanding the power of the most common search terms. The headline that has everything is apparently: “Woman in sumo wrestler suit assaulted her ex-girlfriend in gay pub after she waved at a man dressed as a Snickers bar.”
- With information overload, we compress everything into shortcut concepts that capture the gist. Our neurons create schemata so that we don’t have to re-invent our understanding of ideas and objects every time we see them.
- Even experts suffer from this in what is called Confirmation Bias, which ironically makes them more likely to be wrong than many laypeople.
- Unknown unknowns (what we don’t know we don’t know) can create massive misunderstanding, such as the long-held belief that California was an island.
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- It probably doesn’t justify a whole book – many of the chapters veer off brief to journalism, geeks, and politics – and although it’s an interesting idea, it doesn’t justify the ‘explosive’ endorsement from Chris Anderson on the cover.