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The Rich See a Different Internet Than the Poor: Scientific American

Stashed in: Wealth!, Teh Internets, Curation, Awesome, For Conrad, You are the product., Consumer Trends, Personalization

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Imagine an Internet where unseen hands curate your entire experience. Where third parties predetermine the news, products and prices you see—even the people you meet. A world where you think you are making choices, but in reality, your options are narrowed and refined until you are left with merely the illusion of control.

This is not far from what is happening today. Thanks to technology that enables Google, Facebook and others to gather information about us and use it to tailor the user experience to our own personal tastes, habits and income, the Internet has become a different place for the rich and for the poor. Most of us have become unwitting actors in an unfolding drama about the tale of two Internets. There is yours and mine, theirs and ours.

Here's how it works. Advertising currently drives the vast majority of the Internet industry by volume of revenue. Silicon Valley is excellent at founding and funding companies that give you free apps and then collect and sell your data when you use them. For most of the Internet's short history, the primary goal of this data collection was classic product marketing: for example, advertisers might want to show me Nikes and my wife Manolo Blahniks. But increasingly, data collection is leapfrogging well beyond strict advertising and enabling insurance, medical and other companies to benefit from analyzing your personal, highly detailed “Big Data” record without your knowledge. Based on this analysis, these companies then make decisions about you—including whether you are even worth marketing to at all.

As a result, 99 percent of us live on the wrong side of a one-way mirror, in which the other 1 percent manipulates our experiences.

But how it's different from real life? 

Even in real life, people's mentality is formed based on the surroundings they live in. If one grew up in the family of Stanford scientists, the possibility of  getting in Stanford is much higher than for a person growing up in a family of car mechanic. 

Problem here is not that the first person will have to do less work than the last. The problem is that the path is much more clear. 

Internet is just a reflection of the real life. Good thing it's much more democratic for people, who are willing to look. Quora and Coursera are now open for people with internet access. So the possibility of poor people actually finding their path is much higher than it was before.

Sergey, true, it is just like real life.

In theory everything is available to all; in practice, money will buy a much better experience.

By the way, data collection doesn't have to be a bad thing.

It really could be used to deliver more personalization and customization.

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