One normal day not so many years ago, in a poorly decorated conference room with leftover bagels from a meeting earlier in the day, sat two men. One man was a nerd, good with computers, numbers, and coding. He understood how things like calculators and CD players really worked. While the rest of us just paid money to get them while gladly admitting our best guess is that all electronics work on magic. And batteries. Oh so many batteries.
The other man was a businessman. Smart suit, even smarter shoes. He listened intently as the nerd spoke.
“So basically we have been working on this for some time and I am here to explain to you some of the benefits of this new invention.” The businessman yawned, waiting for the nerd to get to the point. Looking sternly across the table he spoke, “Get to the point.”
“Yes of course. Imagine this. A world where you can see into the mind of the consumer. You know what they buy at the store, you know what movies they like, and what music they listen to. You even know what they looked at but didn’t buy. You can see who their friends are and who their friend’s friends are. A giant tapestry of information connecting every consumer in the world. You can see where people are, where they want to go, keep track of where they’ve been. They can share their political views, ethical views, their deepest secrets are there, just waiting for you to rush in and give the consumer exactly what they want. The best part is, the consumer won’t even know what’s going on. All they see is a new product ready for purchase, “and what’s this?” they’ll say. “This is exactly what I wanted how convenient!””
The businessman could keep silent no longer. “Yes! the easier we make it for the consumer to find and buy all the products they already want, the more money we can make. It’s so simple. We can’t lose when we know what they want, what they fear, what they love and will protect. We can play both sides of the game. We can use the news to prey upon their fears, torturing the mind daily by insinuating that their worries will come true. Then we can be the savior, inventing a new product, a new toy, a new movie to take away the fear and fill them up with joy. Oh how glorious. How trillion dollar net gain glorious.”
The nerd smiled at how excited the businessman was becoming. “But wait, there’s more.”
He continued, “These consumers, they all think that they’re right and the other person is wrong. They go on and on with their petty arguments. They have no interest in understanding another being’s point of view. Their focus is solely on destroying that which has opinions differing from theirs.”
“Yes of course, it’s called politics.” The businessman chuckled at his own wit.
The nerd continued. “Well, imagine that we know exactly what side each consumer is on, AND we know when and if they switch sides. We can see what news stories they have been reading or watching. We can listen in on their conversations with supporters of their view. We can go inside their mind almost to the point that we can predict what emotional effect a certain event will have on them. Then we can use this outburst of emotion to..”
“Make more money. Yes of course. Emotional outburst, plus product placement equals give me your money you ignorant minions. This is a tried and true marketing tactic.”
“Well what if we could even make advertisements in a way that the consumer may not even know they’re watching an ad?”
“Ah, the great white whale of marketing. Go on.”
“Well, through this new invention we can flood the consumer’s mind with so much pop culture that they will become addicted to it. Then it’s only a matter of creating a connection between pop culture and corporations…”
The businessman chimed in, “This show is brought to you by…”
“Exactly. The next thing you know they are addicted to the corporations and their infinite supply of products. We can invent one product, then disperse versions with new features throughout a period of five to ten years. Of course we will have already invented all of these “innovations” years before we release them, but the consumers don’t have to know that. All they need to know is the feeling of being left out when they don’t by the latest model. The possibilities are endless!”
The businessman sat back in his seat and looked up for a moment, imagining how proud he would be of himself for all the money he would be making in the future. Then, looking back to the nerd he asked, “So, what do you call this brilliant new invention of yours?”
The nerd smiled and replied, “The internet.”