Intelligent Virus?*

I debated whether to jump into the controversy surrounding the docudrama “The Social Dilemma.” After all, anyone with common sense understands that big tech, big pharma, Amazon, and Walmart, to name a few, are using artificial intelligence (AI) regularly. They want to predict everything possible about their clients, prospective clients, and the influence a mother’s social media time may have on the unborn’s future preferences. Okay, fact-checkers, that last phrase was sarcasm, not fake news.

Returning to this piece’s point, I had a real-life “AHA!” moment recently.  After having a run-in with COVID-19 leading to a ten-day isolation period, one of my first ventures out of the house reinforced my view that COVID is not the only virus to be feared. There is another virus, one we call social media. It is infecting everything we do, see, read, taste, touch, or smell. 

The idea that anything one says near some electronic devices will lead to an advertising onslaught is nothing new. It has become a running joke in some circles, “Don’t let “Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc. hear you ask for something, or advertising will inundate your timeline and inbox.” I have discovered it is unnecessary to say a word to have one of those little AI invaders flood your systems.

My suspicions concerning the invasive nature of the high tech world were further confirmed when I stopped at the grocery store. My primary purpose was to pick up a couple of items to replace some consumed during our little period of quarantine. However, as I was wrapping up my visit I noticed wine was on sale.

My wife has two vices of sorts. She really enjoys her favorite blend of cold-brewed coffee every morning and a glass of wine before dinner. She is not addicted to either, but they are her little comfort zone indulgences.

Knowing she was running a bit low on her evening indulgence, I picked up a nice bottle of one of her favorite blends. Keep in mind we never buy wine at this chain of stores. In fact, I am the only one who shops there regularly, and I only buy a handful of non-alcoholic items from this company.

Within two hours of returning to my home office computer, the ad above popped up on Facebook. Again, I’ve never purchased wine at that store. Also, I’ve never purchased wine with the credit card I used that day. Yet, in less than 120 minutes, I was identified and targeted. Thus the ad triggering this blog.  

FB inundates me with advertising from Home Depot, Amazon, Tommy Hilfiger, and various companies in the electronics business. It has never pushed an alcoholic beverage my way, and I was a bit stumped. Then I remembered. 

I am a member of that chain’s customer club. I used my club card number to earn a discount on several items!  In retrospect, I suppose I should be surprised it took that long for their little electronic virus to track me down.

*For the record, I have taken a bit of license with the term virus. However, I believe its use here is appropriate.  The AIs identify you, your preferences, and your browsing habits to inundate you with unwanted advertising. This is much like a biological virus that identifies a victim’s weakness and saturates the body whose immune system is vulnerable.

© – 2020

About S. Eric Jackson

See "About."
This entry was posted in artificial intelligence, Daily Life, social media, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Intelligent Virus?*

  1. oldcowdog says:

    Exactly! I feel your pain!

    Sent from my iPhone

Leave a Reply