The following is a mashup of three passages. One from Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things, one from Raj Patel's Stuffed and Starved, the Hidden Battle for the World Food System, and a previous passage of my own writing. No sentence was kept fully intact and I inserted additional word/thoughts/diatribes.
It is the automobile’s silent compatriot. In it, shoppers resembled nothing so much as rats in a maze. So why should I, the buyer, be followed around the Internet on banner adds and in paid search results? I pay a price for that in personal brainpower.
This is not a consensual hallucination. It is virtual harassment and seems, to me, to constitute the domination of intelligent machines over my mind. (Teyssot, 230) Command over the body certainly follows and is already evident in big data’s marriage to healthcare, GPS navigation, and Japanese sexbots. The body is a battleground where appetites of sex and hunger spar with death fueled by lust and greed. (Milton, 201) If people could download doughnuts as easily as they can search for porn, the population would be much fatter.
In the iconography of the information age there’s no one to talk to, and the store is designed first and foremost to drag me into the digital mire. The internal geography of what was, ultimately, the first consumption factory with its cages for young children’s squirming legs and inebriated teenagers drag racing the produce section is all melted down in the informational stew.
No matter how well seasoned, this stew is still just information. Is there some point at which enough information amasses that it becomes knowledge? No. Not automatically at least. But what, exactly, is knowledge? For the purpose of this inquiry, I will call knowledge the intelligent compilation of information into a set of principles or guidelines that could be utilized by someone unfamiliar with the original information to pursue a defined goal. The nature of this goal is where the concept of wisdom enters the arena. For whom and for what purpose is the goal being pursued? If, “It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine” as Donna Haraway posits in her “Cyborg Manifesto,” then who or what is directing the online grocery shopper to make choices that will lead to health for his/her human body? (Teyssot, 230)
What's the difference whether the treasure is money, or property, or even culture, or even just plain knowledge? It all seemed like exactly the same thing to me, if you take off the wrapping—and it still does! Sometimes I think that knowledge—when it's knowledge for knowledge's sake, anyway—is the worst of all. The least excusable, certainly.
-Franny Glass (Salinger, 179)
As the act of grocery shopping moves steadily from supermarket to smartphone, the physical acts that make up a trip to the store will be lost. Then I’ll have to think less, or more hastily, or more sketchily, about the epidemic of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Milton, John, and Masson, David. Paradise Lost. Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Library Editions, 1972. Print.
Patel, Raj. Stuffed and Starved, the Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn: Melville House P, 2008. Print.
Salinger, J. D. Franny and Zooey. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961. Print.
Sterling, Bruce. Shaping Things. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2012
Teyssot, Georges. A Topology of Everyday Constellations. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2013. Print.