I get that I’m a security guy, and thus am not supposed to like China stealing the personality traits of tens of millions of people through the use of a virally popular mobile app—especially mine. I get that.
Yes, I did a threat model of my own usage.
But I really like TikTok, and I want to talk about why.
First, I think I like it more because of COVID. How much I don’t know, but ultimately the reason I like the app is that it provides highly-creative short-form positivity. It’s like a massive cannon that shoots positivity.
That’s for my feed, of course—which is based on a whole lot of ML training. Other people’s feeds might be angry, or sad. But mine is full of amazing. Stuff like:
- Dance moves & dance-offs
- Military Homecomings
- Beat Boxing
- Cute Pets
- Great Dads Being Presented Adoption Papers
- Happy Couple Pranks
If you’re a TikTok user you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not, you should check it out.
This app—as I have it trained—is a phenomenal cure for the 2020’s.
It’s a marvel at multiple levels—culturally and technically. Culturally it’s taken off like nothing I can remember. This thing is big. Of course as tech permeates society every new big thing will get bigger, so that’s part of it. But still. This thing is massive.
Technologically and design-wise, just wow. This thing is unbelievably brilliant. For one, the way they’ve integrated music clips is pure genius. They’ve created this ecosystem where certain clips of songs become universally understood soundtracks to certain types of sweet and happy scenes, like reunions and proposals.
And the way different personalities can come through is quite powerful. People can produce a certain feel in their content, much like hanging out with someone in person. And that’s probably another COVID-related appeal.
But the main feature is how good the algorithm is at finding you new content. You can open the app and suddenly wake up hours later with a stomach ache and the sun in a vastly different position.
It’s that good.
Well there is the fact that it’s a
brain personality scanner for an entire generation of youth, powered by a Chinese company government who’s probably using it for this project. So that’s bad.
The other downsides are more common to any app that basically becomes a teenager’s life. I don’t have kids but I’m sure there are plenty of parents struggling with that right now. But to be fair, it’s hard time for parents and teenagers right now regardless.
Anyway, that’s it for now. I just wanted to admonish anyone who’s got a decently high Openness rating to experiment with this thing. If you’re paranoid about security, use a burner phone run through a VPN that links to Tor through a foreign nation. And fake all your clicks.
Nah, don’t do that. Maybe use a different phone and a non-identifying account if you’re seriously worried. I don’t have a tied identity and I don’t communicate with anyone on it, so I’m not concerned.
Again, know your threat model. Don’t use it if you’re a working spy with strange fetishes. Unless you’re a CI agent looking to write a book later.
- TikTok is a cultural and technical phenomenon.
- If you’re a curious person who cares about what humans are doing, you owe it to yourself to dabble a bit.
- The app is most likely harvesting immutable things from your personality and giving them to the Chinese military, so if you’re not into that maybe don’t. Just kidding, it should be fine. Probably.
- For an individual the actual risk is that you reveal something as a user, or your kids do, that can be used against them in a year or fifty from now. Like 23andMe data being turned into a biological weapon that can only target people like you, or you specifically, it’s technically possible in the future, but it shouldn’t stop you from being 37% more happy during COVID. That’s my risk analysis, not yours. YMMV.
Bottom line, you should try to find a way to check it out—safely—based on your risk tolerance.
There really is a there there.