Is it possible for advertising to evolve without human intervention? Today I was having a great coffee break discussion with Domino Joyce and James Gilbert about student classes and evolution experiments. We moved on to whether it is possible to evolve Twitter clickbait? Why would you even want to? Well it might make for an interesting student project to understand the conditions controlling evolution in populations. Here’s the idea
Set up a dedicated Twitter account
Create a script to tweet headlines and links scraped from any celebrity press or tabloids with sensationalist sounding soundbites.
Harvest all tweets from a list of tweetbait accounts. Create a tweetbait corpus.
Use the corpus to create synthetic tweets “evotweets” and allow to these evolve as described.
Tweet 90% standard clickbait and 10% evotweets.
- The reason for 90% normal tweets is that otherwise people associate the account with nothing relevant when clicked through and stop following or clicking. But 90% junk will hopefully keep them going.
- Use stats of clicks on evotweets to determine evotweet frequencies in the next generation
- Implement recombination and possibly mutation on evotweets as they “breed” the next generation.
- Track evolution and adaptation.
- Do the numbers of clicks/subscriber change with time? Is this adaptation?
- Will Kardashian sweep to fixation? Is this population size dependant?
- Will surrealism or reality of tweet language dominate?
This could be a fun UG student project surely?
How big/varied does the starting corpus have to be? What is the optimum tweet length? Optimum rate of recombination for tweets? Does grammar matter or is it just the collection of words?
Problems. We need a way to get it mainstream with a lot of followers. That could be bought I guess. Need good click stats from Twitter. Some parts of the evolutionary model are still obscure to me. Need not to generate something that will destroy society as we know it.
Autonomous Evolving Advertising
The most frightening outcome of this, and a threat to human sanity, is autonomous evolving advertising, ie advertising that evolves and improves to occupy more of our consciousness and activity.
It wasn’t possible before the social internet age. Now though there is big business in individual and demographic specific advertising as a look at Google will tell you. The other thing that has changed is advertising population size and ‘success’ data feedback. There are a LOT of people on Twitter and Facebook and doing Google searches. They click stuff. Data is recorded. Is it possible that algorithms could be developed that evolve advertising to maximise clicks, or maximise ultimate sales? I’m guessing the advertising-bot wouldn’t care what you bought just if you did from its creator’s store. The advertising could evolve to be purchase agnostic “you look terrible, an embarrassment to your mother, go buy something to fix it at StoreX” Advertising bots would be amoral, how mean and manipulative could they become? Would advert-bots also have to evolve to avoid regulatory bodies? Is this like predator-prey coevolution?
I don’t like this future, though it would generate a lot of careers for evolutionary biologists!
 Clickbait if you don’t know is a posting whose goal is to get you to click on a hyperlink to a different page, no matter what. e.g. “10 celebrities as you’ve never seen them before” “Find out if Katy Perry is your soulmate” “Ronaldo: my underwear dilemma”