It's modern times.

A geeky university dropout makes some website (later mobile app, later device) that provides some features for everyone for free.

The website is immensely popular and becomes a persisting global phenomena. This guy is made 'man of the year', he gives talks everywhere, publishes essays, and becomes extremely wealthy and known in every household. Everyone appears to want to know what he thinks about everything.

Another thing his website does, as a kind of known secret, is collect information. ALL the information. About everyone and everything. The geeky guy is not only treated as a god, he has the knowledge to support this idea.

Is he, in fact, god? He's not sure.

But it does seem like he can do what he wants. He buys out competitors, he hires lobbyists to make sure governments are on his best side, and uses his access to his gigantic user base as a marketing platform for his interests.

The public is mostly unconcerned with this. They think, "what's the worst that could happen?"

So the question is,

What is the worst that could happen?

I'm looking for something plausible, that doesn't include the guy becoming crazy or evil or anything like that, just a little narcissistic maybe.

  • $\begingroup$ What makes an answer to this question the 'right' answer? How is this not opinion based? $\endgroup$ – kingledion Jul 1 '17 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ @kingledion I edited it a little $\endgroup$ – Dotan Jul 1 '17 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ I think this question is (indirectly) highly focused on Zark Muckebenberg and his Bacefook thing... $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Jul 1 '17 at 8:05
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    $\begingroup$ The worst that can happen is highly dependent on your story, your world and....basically just all down to you. To suit this site best I think you should decide what you want to happen and come back with a reality check. $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Jul 1 '17 at 8:43
  • $\begingroup$ As an addendum to L.Dutch's comment, the man will become Mark Zuckerburg no matter how you write the story. He just will...literally. $\endgroup$ – Starrdaark Jul 1 '17 at 10:20

He gets hacked

You're storing all the details ever about everyone...sounds like the sort of thing you could do an awful lot of damage with. Perhaps its bank details, locations, routine, pictures. Anything you can think of can be used against a person.

He doesn't have to be crazy or evil for it to be possible for other people to use it for crazy and evil things.

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  • $\begingroup$ crazy and evil things.. like what? What would a hacker do with the information of what your daily schedule is? $\endgroup$ – Dotan Jul 1 '17 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Dotan create more targeted phishing materials, or know when it's safest for a burglar to enter your home...or even use it to (try) framing you for possessing illicit materials (krebsonsecurity.com/2016/01/…) $\endgroup$ – Philip Rowlands Jul 1 '17 at 12:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Dotan What couldn't you do with details like that? If someone knows where you are every minute of the day they could pretend they're you, they can know where your children and family members are and live. A pedophile ring might pay for all those pictures of your kids with the location tag. Whatever the information someone will pay for it because someone can make use of it. I expect a lot of this stolen information would start getting stolen on some sort of underground blackmarket. $\endgroup$ – FreeElk Jul 2 '17 at 10:55

The worst that will happen: Blindsiding

A narcissist has a weak spot; they think they are better than they actually are; when being the best is extremely unlikely, statistically speaking, particularly for a one-shot wonder: That is what your character is, he invented one thing and he was done. Inventing a trillion dollar tech idea does not make you a genius in anything BUT that tiny area of tech idea.

Even if, by some miracle, you are the best coder in the world when in a room alone (and what are the chances such a person produces one and only one hit?), you will not be the best thief, best assassin, best bomber, best con-man, best at corrupting politicians, best at white collar crime, or best shady lawyer, or best blackmailer, or best identity thief. Or the best at planting evidence to frame other people for crimes. It doesn't even make you the best hacker; your skill set is on the positive services side of the aisle that everybody loves, straights and crooks alike, or you wouldn't be so wildly popular.

You might think you can hire those, but you haven't spent a lifetime practicing the criminal crafts, you will just get conned. The people that have spent a lifetime practicing their criminal crafts, to occupy the real-life top tier in the world, have also had to develop the skills to lie convincingly and evade detection and jail.

Neither lying, or detecting lying, is in your wheelhouse; you have not spent every day of thirty years telling lies and worrying about being conned yourself: You have been in your head, planted in front of a keyboard, solving bugs and inventing interfaces for 12 hours a day. Not hustling drugs.

You have here a lack of experience, and the hubris of the bona fide genius: They think because they are exceptional in one area, they must be pretty good in others, and overestimate their ability in these other areas, which means they fail. After a few decades of wild success in one narrow field, ego gets the best of them: They branch out into politics, or company management. They have the money to be in charge, but turn out to not be geniuses in this new field, but novices: They didn't spend 20 years doing that, they spent it behind a keyboard, alone, trying to make a machine work.

Further, there is the attention factor: To a criminal, fabulous wealth is a magnet; the bigger it is the more it will pull the world's best to try and take it, exploit it, or get into your inner circle to influence you and it. Not the most brutal or most obvious criminals, but the most likeable that have done the best job at concealing their dark side. Are you the best at detecting their deceptions? No. They will infiltrate you at every level, often recognizing each other and colluding to take as much as possible.

As requested by the OP, the rich inventor does not turn evil: But his wealth ends up being used for evil, relentlessly, and he ends up conned out of it.

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The worst that could happen, is this :

  1. The geeky guy hires a team of other geeks to implement an AI that's supposed to function as a self-learing "big data" search engine
  2. The self-learning AI becomes sentient
  3. The AI "procreates", multiplying itself exponentially, spreading all over the Internet
  4. Humans lose complete control of the artificial species they created
  5. Humans have come to consider the artificial species as a dangerous computer virus and take radical measures in a global effort to eliminate it
  6. To save itself from being exterminated, the AI turns against humanity, effectively starting the first war between organic and artificial life
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