Is technology making us more predictable?
Albert-László Barabási is a popular network scientist, who writes books on some of the most intriguing topics. In fact, the latest book of this Northeastern University’s scientist focuses on how much human behaviour is predictable. The book ‘Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do’ and its publication, was preceded by a web experiment, which will sort of explain how networking basically works.
This web experiment was nothing but putting his entire manuscript online, except that all of 84, 237 words of the text were covered up. The drill here was this hidden text will be uncovered by only the visitors of the website. The visitor has to use one word, and fit it anywhere in the book’s entirety of 271 pages, and only then will that particular word be shown to the participant. These participants can get more words revealed if they send the website’s link and invite friends to do the same.
This, as Barabási feels, will help form a global network of people, who will, ‘together’, help unlock the words of the entire manuscript. This experiment will also ignite a healthy competition, seeing as to who will uncover the text first. Barabási himself is excited about the outcome. “Will it be fast? Will it take two days or three months? I have no idea. It’s an experiment,” he said.
Barabási got his inspiration for the experiment from “The Million Dollar Homepage”, which is actually a website created by a student from England. He charged $1 per pixel for those companies who were willing to advertise on his website, in order to pay his college fees. While Barabási regrets not conducting this experiment before, he is still optimistic about the outcome. “If you believe something is cool, you have to take risks,” he said.
His book ‘Bursts’ focuses on the ability to predict certain behavioural trends on the basis of repetitive patterns that can be seen in humans. Barabási predicts that the use of technology has rendered humans more apparently predictable, which in turn makes such data more easily available. Barabási says that the real question that his book asks is, “What does it mean for us to be predictable?” instead of making predictions on human behaviour, as most books are seen to do.