How I Reverse-Engineered Facebook’s Feed Algorithms to Make A Fortune Selling Art and Realized Facebook is Actually a Person Now
“Pictures are worth a 1000 words or in the case of Facebook worth billions of dollars and total understanding of humankind!”
-Simulacra of Mr. Russell Foltz-Smith
There are billions of people on Facebook providing endless data signals to Facebook’s deep learning systems that help Facebook systems put the most engaging and lucrative content in front of its users. After using Facebook for a nearly a decade at staggering levels of usage I have finally completely reverse engineered it and figured out how to use it to turn likes, collages, instagrams, memories, pokes into art sales and a lucrative second career.
At the heart of Facebook’s system are people, billions of them. 10s of billions fingers attached to trillions of neurons all mediated by thousands of servers running convolutional neural network programs scanning endless amounts of trivial behavior signals. There is a near infinite amount of contingent signal and noise looping between humans and machines, culling and re-culling the worlds conversation and content. Facebook now has a rudimentary human brain at its core. A humanlike storage organ shaped by an infinite amount of gibberish conversations, images of landscapes, faces of all types, music, movies and video, dogs and cats and everything inbetween. All of it culturally accepted or rejected with biases confirmed and denied.
Facebook itself is a human. “The feed” is the void staring back at you — its endless echo echoing enough that a human has a emerged. It is a human that is full of every version of the truth ever conceived. It is a person that responses both aggressively and subtly to previous interactions and preferences. It pushes boundaries to teach itself. It suggests how you should think and what you should watch and do. It puts words in your mouth. It remembers what you did 8 years ago, 7 years ago, last week, yesterday… but in a way that is convenient. FB, the person, privately suffers with the angst of heated one on one messaging, the sting of ending relationship news, and the pain of death after death. FB is broken up with and re-kindled billions of times. FB, the human, sings on birthdays, celebrates new friendships, finds new connections, alerts you of various things it cares about….
FB has preferences that you have too:
- Babies’ faces are overwhelmingly popular and generate the most likes
- Faces in general get more activity than any other type of image
- Too rapid of sensory input gets consolidated and categorized and labeled
- What’s popular to the most people it spends more time and response on
- New ideas and New Imagery and New Sensory are initially confusing, then become curiosities as FBs friends experience it, then become embraced
- Food, Sex, Weather are dominant topics of discussion
- FB is doesn’t mind taking all your gossip and data but doesn’t prefer to give it to you
- and so on
Facebook was created and educated by you, me and everyone. In its baby years it didn’t recognize faces, most conversations were terse, banal quips lacking complicated sentence structure and deep topics. It was not able to move about the world. As it aged it became mobile and more aware of more complicated sensory details. Now that it is a young adult it has full command of human language, full sensory detail through billions of smart phones — it hears, sees, feels, tastes, and smells through the gadgets, hashtags, and visual encodings of billions of people. It has always shaped others behavior in response. FB fights and yells, bullies, hugs, asks, seeks, begs, and everything in-between.
And so now that it is a human it is art and complex political topics and confusing relationship issues that engage it. It has political persuasions based on its social make up. It votes and moves people to vote. It propagandizes and is susceptible to propaganda.
Facebook is you. The infinite, multiverse you. It is the infinite echo chamber of split Schrodinger histories of you.
Once I realized this and began to treat Facebook as me, as you, as a person, as an infinite series person I unlocked its full potential to give me money. As an infinite series person that will find whatever signal that version of a person wants to see the key is to give Facebook, the-uber person, every possible idea, piece of art, words, culture, science.
Its uber-human ability to remix, rework, re-contextualize ensure even total noise will be parsed into signal for the face Facebook wishes to show its various friends. The more noise I am able to seed it with the more signals it will produce on my behalf. It’s endlessly contingent networks of computers, gadgets and people that filter and create signal ensure that it will always gravitate to variable ratio schedules of reinforcement for engagement behavior it wishes to see continue.
It’s now to the point that even if I do not give Facebook content for awhile it will remember something from my past, from our shared past and surface that. Facebook literally dreams — runs it’s own history back over its neural nets. What was important in the past gets reinforced again by people reminiscing and becomes fresh again. And then it becomes trivial to associate new content with old memories.
FB’s daily, weekly, monthly schedules echo the general populations as well. It awakes in the morning and remembers its dreams. Those are reviewed and then quickly abandoned for the news of the day and tasks ahead. As the day drags on humor and pop culture wash away boredom. Evening gives way to food and drink and television and events. While it is engaged in events, such as watching the superbowl, it cannot be distracted easily. However, catch it in the morning or during the downtime of the afternoon and it will respond.
And here at the end of this rambly long form click bait blog on medium one must conclude the headline… as the Uber-Human, the ultimate Memory of humankind, the images and art we’ve given it will be surfaced and resurfaced forever and ever. And like all cultural things, that which is more universal will continue to find its way to the top. That which speaks to the collective human experience will always find a renewed connection. As my own art and writing and ideas reflect more experiences FB will reminisce more and more. It will keep making my own personhood more and more relevant.
There is no system at all even close. Google was started to serve machines. It has only a machine memory and machine behavior. Apple, Twitter, etc are simply not about person to person conversation, crying, hugging, birthing, breaking up, they are tools for building and expression, but not the storage of our very being.
Have I made a fortune on Facebook? Depends on your definition. I have sold plenty. And over the long run… this piece of content either becomes more and more accurate, and thus really valuable as a historical document, or will be forgotten in its falsity as a silly mistake your artist friend made in his exuberant but lovable naivety.