Sell Your Memome Into Slavery

Wired reports on a new app called Citizenme which will help users consolidate all the data there is to track and sniff about us, as we go about generating it. “Spy on yourself and sell your own data,” Wired concisely puts it. Yes it’s a real app in development.

From social media profiles to the fitness trackers we’re now strapping to our bodies, it’s all data gravy, baby. It’s all very valuable too, and now an app lets users sell their own data into the great gaping maw of marketing, where the app makes its commission, right at the welcome gate to the maw. It begins with the obvious info from social media sites, then the service plans to expand as:

the [Citizenme] team wants to… integrate far more information, including location data, statistics from health trackers, or your even genome, via services like 23andMe. That would let you learn far more about your online self and how advertisers perceive you, while providing still more data you eventually could sell.

Grammar is [sic], oddly for Wired.

Appropriately enough, I recently snapped this pic of a paragraph from Neal Stephenson’s ‘99 novel Cryptonomicon:


Wow, relevant. (NB: RIST stands for ‘Relatively Independent Sub-Totality’. In effect, entities. Human beings, in this case.)

So yes, now we can sell our memomes, which is a delightful portmanteau of meme and genome. Citizenme is effectively building a simple trading platform for digital impressions of every slice of connected life. We can auction off our entire information aura at will, rather than remain oblivious as our personal bytes are swiped willy-nilly.

It’s a slightly demented path back to online dignity––to be sold all the stuff we really want? As opposed to? Whatever we were buying before, aka not enough, presumably.

Anyway: all the images, all the experiences around, they’ll now be designed just for me! Let them in. Let them in!

A quick search and I’ve discovered The Human Memome Project. It’s pretty interesting.

They write optimistically about some very laudable goals:

Our aims include discovering the data signatures that most positively affect health and longevity, creating a narrative and conversation that critically explores and leverages the potential of ideas for longevity, and developing longevity-centric lifestyle designs, use cases, cybernetics, datasets, AI and personal services.

I know I’ve passed days in reverie about the same.

The Human Memome Project’s focus is also about taking the reins of the data we all generate, but decidedly not about selling it. At least, not to the highest bidder, not right away.

It’s an inquiry, and a quest, into the construction of grander perspectives of ourselves; ourselves and all those things, those factors that influence our states of being. We fluctuate from one to the next as elements of our internal and external environments change. Shall we exercise some control over these (elements)? Control our exposure to memes, just as we strive for greater control over what we eat?

We should. I think so. Memes flow into us and integrate, often deeply, into subsequent states. What we take in, we also put out. It’s a whole ecosystem of ideas, elements, and experiences. As humans we are but one type of conduit moving through memetic (and genetic) space.

So. We have a high-defenitition memetic impression of ourselves. It exists, if not all in one place. We might try toward “health and longevity,” as the HMP hopes, or it could be sold directly to companies who’d ideally like ’360-Views’ of every customer. Marketing teams newly equipped with technicolor scalpels.

These two projects bring me back to a really fascinating tension underpinning most advances in wealth and technology. I’ll summarize it thusly:

Well, damn! Should I sell this shit right now, or use it for something better a little later?

The corollary to this core question replaces ‘sell’ with ‘buy’ and ‘use it’ with ‘wait’.

It’s a very real psycho-social gap, with either side populated by the apathetic and diehard alike. Caveats, yes, but those also serve as reinforcement (of the gap).

My theory is, advancements in technology will act only to widen the gap. Maybe more significantly, it’ll stratify the clusters of literacy, access, and competency; the gulfs between always widening.

I’d venture to guess: the more technicolor your mirror, the more technicolor your scalpel.

To put this all another way, the “haves and have-nots” view of inequality pertains more to divides in technology than it does to wealth. The division is driven primarily by tech, at least. And the bridges connecting the “how much” continents with the “how little” islands are likely to shrivel up under the withering pressure to sell, or buy, this shit right now.

Granular views, anyone?

Sand sculpture by Carl Jara.

Sell Your Memome Into Slavery


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