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Need suggestions on where I should focus my research/efforts

(Henry D) #1

Hello F3

For a a few months now I’ve been trying to come up with an mobile app model for a social network.Every model I come up with either seems to similar to the social networks of today or serve no purpose in our daily lives. So I have a question for the forum,
If we suddenly lived in a Utopian society would that society rely on a social network? And if so how could it serve to be a useful(and not distracting) tool?

Feedback greatly appreciated.

The future of information
(Michael Hrenka) #2

Hello Hanray,

thanks for sharing your thoughts with the F3. :slight_smile: Your questions are very interesting, indeed. And the answers probably depend on what you think about when you mention a “Utopian society”. In fact, one of the main purposes of Fractal Future is to find out what a “Utopian society” is supposed to be, and what it should look like.

For simplicity, let’s just assume that it just means we have solved the most pressing problems like poverty, diseases, environmental degradation, catastrophic risks, and so on. In addition to that, people are pretty much free to do what they want. How would a social network fit into such a world? Let’s consider some essential features of social networks for that:

Staying in contact with people

This merely requires a channel for contacting those people and finding out about those channels. You would need something like a “search engine for people” that spits out that information.

Finding the people you want to find

You may also want to search for people with specific attributes, for example shared interests, or certain skills. Again, what you would need is a search engine for people, rather than a social network. Such a search engine would probably curate the information that people spread about themselves, or other people, whether intentionally or not, automatically. Profiles for each person will be generated automatically. Imagine the information that the NSA has about everyone would suddenly be available to everyone, and combine that with the best AI tools imaginable. That would certainly be a scary prospect from the point of privacy, but it would actually be pretty hard to avoid that such a scenario becomes reality eventually.

Commenting and discussing

I imagine that the best way to serve these functions is implementing a specific internet protocol for those. Every node on the internet would have a “commenting layer” on top of it (think Discouse forum software plus Google Docs comments on the side or something like that), that would be customized for each user, so that she will mainly see the comments added by her peers. That would most certainly fix the mess that people are commenting on stuff on all kinds of platforms, and not (only) on the site they are referring to.

Checking out the activities of your peers

Perhaps this is the function of social networks that is hardest to “outsource” to other systems or platforms. It requires a way for people to broadcast their activities to the internet, or a way for an internet service to track the activities of people, or both. With advanced AI solutions it would seem likely that individual users will have a broadcasting policy that lets them share certain activities with the internet automatically, while being silent about other activities. And if there is this “search engine for people” and it tracks what they do (at least if they allow being tracked), then you would probably be able to get automatically created time lines of latest activities for certain people, or even whole groups of people.

Have I missed another important function of social networks?

Further considerations

Anyway, I think the main differences between the social networks of today and their successors in the future is that while today AI works for the social network platforms, later on people will have their own AIs that they can train and configure for getting a perfectly customized internet experience. Also, I think it’s likely that something like a mixture of search engines and social networks will appear, something like a “search engine for people”, probably with lots of extra functionality.


Maintaining privacy in such a world will become increasingly difficult. It may be the case that most people will eventually say: “Ok, I give up, let’s just get rid of privacy entirely and make everyone and everything transparent.” Such a shift would be a momentous revolution for our society. An opposing vision would be to grant everyone the ability to make other people and organisations forget specific data about them. That would require a very intrusive network or nanomachines that interfere with the function of our memories. Perhaps we will even witness a weird mixture of both scenarios. It’s hard for me to believe that things will remain similar to what they are today, at any rate.

It would be good, if we could actually predict the future of privacy, so that we plan for that future, but that’s not so easy. My own expectation is that people will shift their attention from protecting privacy to enforcing transparency, as privacy get increasingly difficult to maintain, given the increasing capabilities of corporations and secret services to track everything we do, given the likelihood that people will be able to 3d print micro-drones that track everything in the environment, and given that the emerging Internet of Things will collect so many pieces of data anyway, that keeping all of them private will become an increasingly insurmountable task. In a future that has basically given up on privacy, it will be very likely that there will be very powerful “search engines for people” that allow everyone to find out very much about virtually anyone, whether they like that or not – and irrespectively whether they actually have accounts on social networks, or any other platform.

The importance of AI

In any case, it should be clear that AI will become increasingly widespread and important. Companies who use AI extensively will outcompete those who don’t. Therefore it’s important to integrate AI into your considerations from the start, and not merely treat it as an afterthought. It will also be important to find out how to make AI work for everyone. AI needs to become as easy to use as a toaster.

Can the internet be made less distracting?

Well, probably people will eventually use their own AIs to filter out things that they would likely to consider a waste of time. Maybe the strength of those filters will even factor in your momentary mood.


Don’t try to make a platform, try to find a way to make AI work for everyone. At least, if you are in for the long run.

(Henry D) #3

I’m glad you brought up the AI because I believe its very crucial for the service. However, I’ve been all over the place in trying to find a core function to assign it. I was thinking an AI that was able to manage all sorts of data input in order to generate daily news. Similar to how Twitter has Moments that is based off tweets and other news reports that it can detect. Generating news isn’t new but a news service that engages the user/citizen so they’re part of the ongoing discussion, while providing the ability to act. The citizen becomes an active participant in any piece of news instead of being spectators. If the average citizen could visually see the ramifications of any piece of news and how that directly affects them could that be empowering? A question I’ve been thinking about and I believe it could if the user/citizen is given enough information and options to act on the matter.

Social discovery functions, comments systems etc etc would be build on top of the “news AI”.

(Michael Hrenka) #4

So far, this doesn’t sound very different from Facebook can do by aggregating and filtering the most timely and interesting posts of your friends. Of course, people can comment on such posts, which is a way to engage people.

Definitely, but how do you want to implement that without a really crazily powerful artificial intelligence?

I’m not sure I get what you want to create. Perhaps some use case scenarios might help.

What I’d love to see is an AI that could aggregate data, content and all the connected discussions in a single personalized user interface. At the moment we have to deal with the problem that those things are scattered among all kinds of different websites, platforms, and apps. Companies build apps and platforms, because they know how to make profits from that. Apps and platforms are not the best solutions however. A streamlined AI generated and AI driven user interface (or operating system) that interoperates with a set of specific internet protocols would be superior. Even rough approximations to that would be quite a revolution. The technical and business challenges might be enormous, but if you are really ambitious and think long-term, this could be the best direction to go.