In their article, “Picturephone and the Information Age: The Social Meaning of Failure” Liparito describes that technology is “not a stable artifact but a system in evolution, one whose features and functions are up for grabs. Markets are not impersonal arbiters of out comes but shifting groups of users whose very identities are being shaped along with the technology they use” (Lipartito, 76). This quote articulates the ambiguous and self-reflexive nature of technology development – a process of growing together, not a conversation of needs and demands, but one that explores and self-reflects.
Fortune, like Facebook is a way to document your life story, but with an intent. Fortune is an organized way to document your life so that it can be analyzed and project what is going to happen in the future. To categorize experiences in Fortune, users will start by first categorizing their experience as either really positive, positive, neutral, negative, really negative then by adding a photo and tags that will help link their experiences to other people. Periodically, Fortune will send out surveys to their users to understand something about where they are currently. This application is an archive of people’s lives that is easily mineable and processable. In comparison with other people’s lives and from the data from the surveys, Fortune can connect a user with someone who has just passed through the similar ups and downs and has similar tags. The user is given advice from the person they were matched with and also from the Fortune system itself; they use that information to reflect and make a decision.
Figuratively, Fortune is an app that processes Facebook-like data using the mentality of someone who analyzes 23andMe data. By using processable, voluntarily given personal data and comparing it with others, Fortune can predict the futures of someone’s life. Although this technology could potentially accurately predict the future of a person, revealing this information could taint the user’s decision-making process and cause them to have a future that is different from what Fortune claims. This exact situation depicts the inextricable nature of technology from the human experience, because they inform one another. In a world where this is to exist, there would need to not be a technology that measures all of this information involuntarily and accurately. Also, there would need to be a large user base to ensure the training data set for the AI is diverse enough.
Lipartito posits that technology is constantly in evolution and that user identity and technology development are inevitably tangled (76). From Fortune, it is evident that this is the case, because Fortune offers insight to users based on their experiences and the data they collect from others, but it also collects data on what people decide after being under the influence of their own data and AI thought – they both are developing simultaneously. Different from how the Picturephone was developed (without an AI created projection of a potential future), Fortune allows for people all to be informed of their past and their potential future in real time during decision making, a process that can be called the “conscious creation of history”.
Lipartito, Kenneth, 2003. Picturephone and the Information Age: The Social Meaning of Failure. Technology and Culture 44(1), pp 50-81. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/25148054.pdf?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents