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Social Media for Shy People

“The photos we keep tend to be flattering.”

~ Black Mirror Be Right Back

The Uncanny Valley of Human Interaction

This note marks a new step in the progression of Pikasoft. I’ve always loved Computer Science and Software Engineering, and part of living up in the Forested North is the chance to finally complete a long-sought Ph.D. in Software Engineering. It’s great to be diving deep into Software again, but what software?

The choice presents an interesting challenge. As I’ve noted in previous presentations and posts, the Nobel Prize that Bardeen, Brattain and Shockley won in 1956 was a) going to create a $Trillion-dollar industry (no matter what), and b) going to give a fantastic ride to anyone who could stay fully onboard. A 10 Myths of Venture Capital presentation that I used to give back in the early-2000s, quoted a Worth Magazine article of that period that noted that the VC-industry routinely divided $20B in profits among about 3,000 VC-industry-workers every year. Not a bad business to be in, but what happens if the Moore’s Law music stops?

It was a great business to be in, but I’m coming to believe that it’s over. I’d love to replace my 2013 MacBook Pro, but Apple doesn’t make a machine (almost 4 years later) that’s as fast or as powerful as it is. Any step forward would be two steps (and lots of dongle-cables) back. I believe that this is true across the industry. Moore’s Law on the desktop is over.

I think we’re also seeing a “Moore’s Law Crash” in software. Big data and advanced analytics solutions are great, but they don’t live in desktop-land. The desktop and our handhelds are ruled by social media — the Facebooks and Instagrams and Snapchats that link us up but otherwise don’t (in my opinion) move us forward.

Friends are better than Friend-requests, and I don’t think that social media are any substitute for genuine human contact. With that in mind, I’ll be using this space to explore what I will call “Social Media for Shy People.” Here I accept that Social Media have a purpose, but that in their current incarnations give us a creepy uncanny valley of human interaction.

What I’m describing here was magnificently presented in a 2013 episode of the British television program Black Mirror, entitled Be Right Back. The idea here is that our social media posts are not Us, but instead present a perfect, idealized version of the us that we think we are. We are, as people, best characterized by both our strengths and our failings, but our social media image is just an idealized snapshot of that reality. This may be fine, to a point, but you don’t have to watch too many Black Mirror episodes (for example: Hated in the Nation, or Nosedive) to see the Uncanny Valley all around us.

We need contact and I believe that it’s possible to create a media that helps us engage as us — not as an idealized snapshot of us. I’ll be writing about that in coming posts.

I am just getting started — Much more to follow…

Copyright 2017 - John Repko