Editorial: Futureworld

Sometimes you just don’t want all that personalization and helpful advice from Amazon.com and its much-written-about collaborative filters and stuff. Sometimes you just don’t want to be greeted by an electronic clerk at the Gap of 2054 and asked whether you want more tank tops like you bought last time you were there. (Guess you had to see the movie “Minority Report” to completely understand that.)

I was searching the Web for a DVD I had read about concerning the attacks on the World Trade Center. Unable to remember the exact title, I went to Amazon and typed in “September 11.” The search came back with “Remember September 11, 2001.” Not the DVD I was looking for, but while on that page I noticed Amazon’s “Great Buy” button suggesting that I “buy ‘Remember September 11, 2001’ with ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ VHS Tape today!” I asked myself: Would Amazon really link a video about Sept. 11 with a so-so remake of an old Rat Pack movie just because the word “11” is in both titles?

Unsure of the answer, I continued my search and finally found the video I wanted, “WTC: First 24 Hours,” which gave me the suggested buy of “The World Trade Center – A Modern Marvel.” Yes, a logical tie-in there, but when I clicked on “Modern Marvel,” Amazon then offered “Madonna’s Drowned World Tour 2001.” Oh, well. Maybe Amazon will have refined its search system in a few years. Say, 2054?

“Minority Report,” meanwhile, presents a world filled with what advertising might look like someday – complete with interactivity and personalization run amok. American Express, Burger King, Lexus, Pepsi, USA Today and 10 other companies paid $25 million to have their products appear as video billboards and in background shots. But in director Steven Spielberg’s world, interactive advertising has moved from the computer screen to the real world. Advertisements address characters by name, thanks to omnipresent retinal scans that are matched into some all-knowing global database seemingly accessible by the police and marketers alike. One ad identifies Tom Cruise’s character by name as he runs from the police, saying, “It looks like you need an escape, and Blue can take you there.” Another blares, “John Anderton, you look like you could use a Guinness!” Sounds like someone is trying to tell us that privacy will be a thing of the past in the not-to-distant future.

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