"I'm Not Convinced We Know Anything"

The Age of Tweets

The Age of Tweets

The current book I’m reading is called The Most Human Human by BrianChristian, where the author talks about what it means to be human from his experience with artificial intelligence. At the beginning of the book he introduces the Loebner Prize, an annual contest that pits humans against computer programs. In the contest the competitors have to prove that they’re human.

That doesn’t sound like a hard task for a human but then think about a human on Twitter. What tells you apart from a robot when you’re reduced to an almost anonymous data point in a sea of millions of others adding to the noise? Twitter is probably the least social social network, where users have very untelling profiles much like the ASL chat room days.

When people ask what Twitter is to me, I mention how I first learnt about Osama Bin Laden’s death on Twitter, a few minutes before President Barack Obama made a speech about it, and before mainstream media picked up the story. Without Twitter, I would have probably learnt about the story a few minutes later on Facebook or less than an hour later on BBC. Maybe if the information was something like an oncoming Tsunami then getting it as early as possible would’ve had practical benefits. However, it wasn’t. I still consider Twitter a great source of news, but most of the time it seems to be nothing more than a plethora of useless information since all the important bits are diluted by the other stuff.

X tweets this, Y retweets, Z replies with an LOL or an analysis with a half-baked philosophical quote or a terrible attempt at a quick comeback condensed to less than 140 characters. Half the time people you are following will be talking about things that don’t interest you. Some of the time they will be having a conversation that you’re not part of. Some of the time they’ll be sharing links of topics that don’t interest you and sometimes sharing content that might be useful to you except there’s so much content on your stream, you can only consume a very small portion of it. Anything you don’t consume is noise. Twitter is not an information superhighway. It’s a miasma of countless loud voices saying different things, each one trying to be heard while paying little or no attention to what other voices have to say.

If there was an experiment to create a social network for AI systems, that social network would look something like Twitter. The chatbots wouldn’t care to know about each other’s personalities at a meaningful level. All they would do is to grab links off the web and post them with a paraphrased version of the title. They would follow event speeches and tweet things like “VP John Doe now talking about web presence.” They would crawl the internet for websites like BrainyQuotes.com and tweet random quotes. And the followers would be able to retweet them and maybe adding internet lingo like OMG!!!, ;)or even ROTFL. And it’s only robots that would be able to consume content at that pace without being confused by the noise.

Twitter is like texting with people you don’t know. It has created people who think they know enough to add to the conversation with authority and tech wannabes who spend the whole day talking. The real techies don’t talk all day, at least not to machine-like humans, but rather to human-like machines and humans.

My opinion is that Twitter fails as a social network. At some point people will realize they’ve learnt nothing on this information superhighway because the information is moving way too fast. But until then I would love it if you tweeted this. :)