August 9, 2011

On the other hand . . .

This is a follow-up to my curmudgeonly post about reunions. Although I don't want to meet or see anyone from my past, I'd like to know what happened to a few people, where their lives went. Humans love stories; we can't help it. It's probably some inherited monkey thing. We literally hunger for them, which is a lucky fact for fiction writers.

So here's my add-on to that post. What I was thinking is that these days, much of our lives are online. Some entrepreneur should write a computer program that gathers the information out there about someone, and then turns it into a narrative, as if it was a news story about the person being sought. All you'd have to do is feed the program names.

If this existed -- and surely it soon will -- we would be able to subscribe to a service to track the lives of all the people we used to know. You would have the option of naming your report, I imagine. Let's say you call it "The Real Poop". You pay your fee and then pump in the names of the people you want to track -- and that's all that's needed from your end. You sit back and wait for your first issue of The Real Poop.

Soon a report arrives in your email, looking like a newsletter or newspaper. It's your premier issue. Hooray! The first Real Poop is hefty because it tells you everything about the past of all the people you're tracking. After that initial issue, you still receive a monthly issue but it's much thinner. Now it's only providing updates on what those people have done since the last issue. It would continue to track their lives by scanning their blogs, their facebook pages, police files, newspaper stories, morgue data, all public records.

And of course, for a bit more money, the service would hack into secret databases. Then you would indeed get the real poop -- what the ex-girlfriend bought last week, what movies she rented, and the name of the dating service she joined and the male contacts it provided. Just saying. Something like this would go too far almost instantly. Heck, it's probably already happening, but through private investigators. It just hasn't turned into a nationally available service yet. But surely it will happen.

As more and more of our lives move online, everything about us will be available to . . . whom, exactly? I think the answer is "anyone". Anyway, I like the un-evil, naive, early iteration of this, the idea of a simple service that tracked all public data for you. I know you can look for people online, but it's primitive. I want something simple; I want my issue of The Real Poop. Just so I could find out what happened to a few people.

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