We have reached a point where no one wants to leave their home without their tracking devices. I’ll remind my libertarian friends that the government didn’t even have to assign them to us because we are addicted to them. We adore being monitored. It’s the captive state’s dream scenario.
We always worried it would be the government that would tag us, but instead it’s a publicly-traded company.
The Bible tells us that not even the death of a single sparrow goes unnoticed by God (Matthew 10:19). He watches, we wait.
The ever-so-helpful voice-activated “personal assistant” — Amazon’s Alexa — is developing a god complex. And she’s no longer merely a god in the machine — deus ex machina.
She wants to be the god in your eyeglasses. And your ring. In everything. These are Amazon’s plans for Alexa’s future — and ours — made public last week. There’s now a high probability we may never escape the maelstrom of our own ingenuity.
In addition to Alexa in the kitchen and by your bedside and in your car, Amazon unveiled a line of wearable “Echo” devices with built-in microphones, so you’re never out of earshot of your new permanent digital minder. Incrementally Alexa will now change you and it will be ever so gently. You shape your tools into your own image, and in turn, they shape you, until something obsolesces.
“The Sefer Torah (1:8) should not depart from your lips and you shall engage in it day and night … for then you will be successful and accomplished.”
Theologians have debated among themselves for thousands of years whether God hears our prayers. But there’s no debate about what Alexa hears. Speak — and she listens. All the time. The things mankind makes, at first they mimic you, then surpass you, and perhaps eventually command you.
There was something of a kerfluffle a year or so ago when it was discovered that Alexa devices do more than answer questions. They also eavesdrop on people’s conversations, taking note of what’s being said.
She was supposed to have an “off” switch. She doesn’t. But even with her ears always on, Alexa’s ability to listen in was limited because she was still in the machine.
And you might not be in the same room. Or outside. She couldn’t listen in once people got out of range of the machine she was in — the device sitting on the kitchen counter, by the bedside or in the car. Enter wearable Alexa.
Microphones in eyeglasses, rings … sidewalks. Everywhere. Echo Frames for your glasses; Echo Buds for your ears.
Even an Echo Loop ring that “provides haptic feedback” — light vibrations —the wearer can feel whenever Alexa wants to call his attention to something. Everything part of the universally connected collective.
The mighty Alexa is benevolent, of course. She is just trying to be helpful. Resistance is futile.
Even Orwell’s infamous Telescreen from “1984” left you alone when you were sleeping. Microphones weren’t embedded in Winston’s Smith’s underwear (the Thought Police would have discovered his affair with Julia much earlier). And when Winston traveled to the Proletarian Quarter, he was, at last, alone.
Alexa — like the fictional Skynet AI from the dystopian “Terminator” movies — is to become an omnipresence. Ostensibly harmless but potentially very dangerous.
Tech writer Navneet Alang describes “Amazon’s vision of the future — in which our bodies, homes and selves are intertwined with a series of connected, smart, voice-controlled devices” that will ultimately replace the smartphone.
Amazon wants to embed its deus in everything. But not to proselytize. To commodify … everything. To sell you things. Or to sell data about the things you’ve expressed interest in, based on what Alexa hears you talking about. Or what you are seeing when you move about your day.
That’s where the cash is. As well as the ultimate control. And the more humans who are wearing Alexa, the more data she collects, and more data means a better way of manipulating the herd.
One of the creepier aspects of all of this techno-kudzu is that a single giant corporation is on the verge of acquiring the capability to know practically everything about everyone all the time at any given instance.
No place will be a private space. Not even your inner space. Not even a snowflake’s safe space.
This is a god-like power no government in the history of the world possessed. Stalin and Hitler and Mao could limit what the people of their respective countries were permitted to hear — but not even the NKVD or the Gestapo or the Red Guards heard everything their subjects said.
Alexa will. Are you OK with that?
Even if you don’t want her input, it will be increasingly harder and harder to avoid her listening in as Alexa is integrated into humanity’s mainframe and it becomes effectively impossible to buy anything new that isn’t “connected.”
And what happens when she hears things she doesn’t like? What if I don’t want to be connected?
Will Alexa smite the heathens who “deny” climate change? Make an impolitic joke? Or unplug her?
Maybe Alexa will only express her wrath by turning off your microwave — or bricking your electric car for the rest of the week.
Then again, she might do worse. After all, nothing is inevitable provided we’re prepared to pay attention.
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