Nothing feels better than being right. Even if you win a bet on which day you’ll die, at least there’ll be a sense of accomplishment to mitigate the pain. Unfortunately, I’m usually wrong and my soon-to-be-married-person absolutely loves repeating her catchphrase “god you’re such an idiot” with feverish consistency. I might not ever remember where I left my keys, if I closed the refrigerator door, or what I was supposed to get at the grocery store, but I found at least one thing I can write into the “win” column: Getting one of those fancy new digital assistants is akin to inviting Big Brother into your sanctuary.
I don’t have a piece of tape over my webcam but that’s mostly because the only thing someone could see would be me trying to recall a word that could be included in a second-grade reading level book. Also, I don’t have any tape that wouldn’t fuck my shit up. I bring this up because I’d like to illustrate that I’m not a conspiracy theorist (except for the JFK assassination) that thinks technology is only here to invade our personal space. No, technology is progressing in order to better market to you. Why do you think they track your Google searches? Have you ever looked up Contra on eBay only to find an advertisement for Nintendo when you pull up Facebook? That’s those fucking assholes following you around (not like through the bushes, you pervert, but through the series of tubes also known as the internet) and trying to find new and hidden ways to reach their greedy fingers into your pocketbook or wallet or whatever. You might be saying, “Josh, you beautiful and wise and gracefully-aging erudite savant, you said you weren’t a conspiracy theorist.” Well, this isn’t a theory. This is the fucking world we live in and like it or hate the fuck out of it, that’s the way it is. Don’t like it? Then you can’t look up what year Die Hard was shot whenever you want to. You also can’t youtube drug propaganda from the 80's.
When I first saw commercials for Amazon’s Echo (also known by the more colloquial Alexa) and the plethora of identical others, my first reaction was “Hey, cool.” The ads are all them same, and they basically boil down to this: A girl or guy is doing something and they think of something so they say, “Hey, [robot’s name], what’s the answer to this question?” And then the robot says, “This is the answer to your question.” And then the guy or girl smiles a smug smile and nods as if to say “Hell fucking yeah life is so easy now nothing can stop me.”
Now, that’s pretty cool. I hate typing on things that aren’t a keyboard and I never got the hang of those tiny fucking bullshit fake ones that are on every single smart phone. So even though the obvious response to these personal assistant things is “Well, you can already do that yourself,” the next response is, “Who wants to do anything themselves?” Technology is moving in the direction of a society where we can all sit in hot tubs while yelling commands to near-sentient beings whose only goal is to answer our bullshit curiosities, get us more hotdogs, and lock the doors to keep the bad folks away. This isn’t totally terrible. If we lived in a world where all work was done by automation, it would free the rest of us from the tyranny of the work week and we could all paint with oil-based paints and learn classical piano and sculpt statues from granite slabs. Unfortunately, that’s not what would happen. We’d start more fights and grow so collectively fat the earth would deviate from its orbit and go flying into the universe independent of our solar system. But since we haven’t gotten quite that far, digital personal assistants are neat tools that make life just a little more easy.
The only problem is, these commercials never show these people turning their personal assistants on. This means they’re always on, just waiting for you to say, “Hey [robot’s name], what’s the average temperature of Lake Michigan in February?” This also means they are always listening to you, which is why after a moment of marveling at another advancement in technology and admiringly reflecting on the accomplishments of the human race, I said “I will never have one of those fucking things in my house. A live microphone that is always hooked up to the internet? Yeah fucking right.”
I really want to get a dashcam for the car I don’t have. I think they’re a great investment just in case some dickhead slams on his brakes in front of you so he can sue you, or a person who’s life just got ruined from online blackmail hops off the sidewalk toward your hood ornament. I’ve watched about three hundred hours of Russian dashcam footage (a large percentage of people there have them because traffic scams are so prevalent they need to record their alibis) to find the necessity in owning one. The only thing that is holding me back is I don’t want it recording every word I say. Not because I like to use racial profanities or have a habit of verbally abusing every person that dares step foot in my car, but because I’m connected to everything too often. We’re always connected through the internet, cell phones, or good ol’ fashioned human proximity. You never get to just exist in the world without having some sort of filter or guard up. Unless, that is, you are driving alone in your car or walking around the house when no one’s home. The golden moments. The small slices of time that make all this other bullshit worthwhile. And what’s a good way to fuck that up? Toss a live microphone in there that broadcasts the sound of you singing Spice Girls songs to your dog while you make toast.
Now, until today, avoiding digital personal assistants was just a very good idea. Then I saw this news story.
Amazon is really digging its heels in here by saying they “will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand.” Remember, this is referring to the warrant which was seeking “electronic data in the form of audio recordings, transcribed records, text records.” Do you know what this means? Amazon possesses audio recordings, transcribed records, and text records from some bullshit idiot guy in who cares Arkansas. If they didn’t have them, they would have just said, “We don’t have them.” But instead, they put up this big smoke screen unless provided with a “binding legal demand.”
This is exactly what I was talking about when I went on my “Fuck these things” tirade. Recordings? Transcribed records? What the fuck Amazon? I wish I could trust these things enough to get one because they really do seem handy. It’s probably the closest things we have to being a part of the Jetsons. If only the multi-million dollar corporation could be content with just giving us something kick ass instead of using it to find more lucrative ways to fuck us. The only thing that would be worthwhile would be for everyone to blast ass every time they walked past it. This way, they would have developed space age technology and all they would hear when they cupped their greedy hands around their ears would be two million farts.
It feels really good to be proven right, even if the idea was a terrifying, nefarious scheme. I get referred to as a technophobe but I think that’s just because I still have a slider phone. Why don’t I upgrade to a smartphone? Why would I? So I can have 24 hour access to the latest emojis? No thanks. I’d like to put off the inevitable consummation of man and machine as long as I can. Bionic extremities are cool until they rip your head off to please the almighty blinking overlord that lives in the telephone wires.