‘Facebook puts our brain time on display’

‘We had internet fairly early on in our family. As a little boy, I was instantly fascinated by that medium. Most of all, I dreamed about the possibilities. What if in the future, you could even see people? And talk to them, live? That used to be as far as the daydreaming went. Look at what we have now.’

‘The internet has changed incredibly rapidly. At first it was just for exchanging information between A and B, then it was between A and a website, and now we are in the age of social media. People sometimes complain that we have less social contacts these days, but that’s not true. Those social contacts are in our pocket now, on our phone. Although the quality of those contacts is a different matter.’

‘Now is the time of ‘the Internet of Things’: physical objects connected to one another via the internet. Your agenda can see where you are and whether you’re going to make it to your next appointment. Your home uses the internet to ‘calculate’ when you will be home, so the heating will be on, vacuum cleaning will have been taken care of and the oven will be pre-heated already. The building blocks for that are already there.’

‘It’s going to be intense on the personal level. Current developments in the area of social media are only the first step. Facebook already knows almost everything about you, but in the future it’ll know much more still. Photos will be interpreted by means of facial and object recognition software. What environment are you in? What items are you using? What are your favourite colours? Do you like certain brands? In what social circles do you mingle? How much time do you spend looking at a certain photo? What is your browsing behaviour like? We’ll be analysed in detail. We sell more and more of our brain time to Facebook. And Facebook puts it on display for its advertisers.’

‘Privacy? You could say privacy means knowing more about yourself than other people do. But we’re approaching a point where that’s no longer the case. Facebook and also Twitter will have a gigantic database of information, and be able to connect that information, putting it all together. It’s happened before that a woman found out she was pregnant from Google. She googled her physical symptoms and before even she knew she was carrying a baby, Google started showing her pregnancy advertisements.’

‘In a few years, Facebook will be offering dating suggestions. They have the data for it, and it’s more reliable than that on a dating site. On a dating site, people mostly try to portray themselves in a more attractive, socially desirable way. It might be a great solution for educated women; they’re overrepresented compared to men in the cities. Facebook would become their ultimate feelgood friend if it could give them a match…’

‘The question is: should we want all of this? Most people will say they have nothing to hide. But what if a Facebook-grade database like that gets hacked, and all your private messages will be out in the open? I think we should head towards a personal cloud: all info about you being stored on your own computer. And Facebook and Twitter only being able to use it with your permission.’

‘IT continues to fascinate me, but I miss the human component. The more IT, the less people. And I like people. Another great passion of mine is the piano. Music fills a void in me. In music, you do still see the human component. The best instruments are made not in a factory, but by human craftsmanship. One day I want to travel the world playing the piano. That’s basically my greatest dream for the future.’

This interview was conducted by Leon van Eijndhoven for the magazine ESTA.

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