Who do you think would buy you a better birthday present – your best friend or your Facebook account? Sure, your best friend has a credit card and opposable thumbs, which you assume puts them in the lead. But chances are their gift would pale in comparison to the gift from Facebook.
Don’t believe it? It’s true. Researchers at Cambridge University have recently developed a computer model that has the ability to look through a person’s Facebook “likes” – those products, movies and restaurants, etc. that they give a thumbs up – and predict their personality more accurately than that person’s friends and family members.
The researchers ran the data of 70,520 Facebook users through the computer system that linked “likes” to five basic personality traits: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, neuroticism and openness. While friends, family and co-workers see us in a limited number of situations, Facebook is able to gather far more information about us from which to predict our overall personality. Also, computer programs are able to make consistent, systematic judgments, whereas humans tend to be biased in their thinking.
Man vs. Machine
By looking at just ten “likes,” the computer program beat a co-worker who was asked to fill out a questionnaire about the study participant. After analyzing 70 “likes,” the machine knew more than the participant’s friend. Using 150 “likes,” the machine even beat out a family member.
What does this mean for all of us tech- and social media-crazed individuals? Well, it means that in the very near future we may no longer ask our friends or family for advice over a glass of pale ale or pinot grigio, but instead turn to technology to help us make important life decisions. In this sense, we are perhaps only a few years away from the kind of human-computer interactions depicted in the 2013 movie “Her,” which is about a man who falls in love with a computer system that speaks to him in a female voice.
Of course these data-mining programs will also pose a potential risk to our privacy. In order to reap more benefits than detriments in this scenario, consumers, tech developers and policy makers will all have to support privacy-protecting laws that will give users full control over their digital footprints.
Featured image courtesy of : FB Savvy
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