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Clayton Hackett is an attorney in San Antonio, Texas. This is his first published work of fiction. More information about Clayton is available at claytonhackett.com.

I am a sick man, with only the algorithm to keep me company now. My liver is damaged; of course the algorithm knew before I did. It tried to warn me, in its way, but back then I did not yet know how to read the ads like tea leaves or, more appropriately, entrails.
The doctors can tell me when the damage became irreversible. My memory is foggy, but I believe that it was when the clickbait stopped trying to show me the signs of a fatty liver. How to lose belly fat. Top ten signs of a substance abuse problem. How to pick the best rehab facility.
There were other ads, too, of course, for many different things. Some were targeted, some deliberately not. That's why I couldn't understand what the algorithm was trying to tell me.
I thought it was noise, but it was only a different kind of signal.
I like to think that the algorithm tried to save my marriage, too. It tried to warn me. Is she unhappy? How to tell if she's cheating. Take a romantic vacation.
I have to assume now everything is signal, everything is important.
The algorithm wants to help me be at peace now with a meditation app. Find new friends. Pick a coffin that really expresses who I am inside.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, October 4th, 2018

Author Comments

Between the revelations about Cambridge Analytica's operations and a news article about a father learning that a certain department store's direct marketing department knew his teenage daughter was pregnant before he did, I can't help but wonder which online ads are specifically targeted at me and for what reason, especially considering the staggering variety. With that question in the back of my mind, the synchronicity between a clickbait link and the narrator's complaint in Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground gave me the seed for this story.

- Clayton Hackett
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