What I’m about to tell you could get me killed. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.
I have to be paranoid. I know they’re out to get me. I know I’m being watched. I know they’re collecting data, learning what makes me tick, just biding their time.
One day, when they are finally ready, it will happen. They will get me. They might even delete my Twitter timeline.
Yeah, it’s going to be bad.
I first got an inkling of this when that prince in Nigeria wanted to wire me $15.8 million USD and let me keep a cut of the profits. It’s been downhill ever since.
Mark my digital words: Technology is going to kill us all.
Genie, meet bottle. And never the twain shall meet. In other words, we live in a world of Should.
Ex: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
And what the hell is “should?” In the case of technology, it’s less than nothing.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to our annihilation is paved with micro-steps of worst intentions.
I know absolutely nothing about chemistry so here’s a chemistry example. Sometimes, there’s a physical change in a substance. This kind of change can be undone. It’s still the same substance.
Sometimes, though, a substance undergoes a chemical change. This kind of change cannot be undone. A new substance has been created. There’s no going back.
And that’s the way of technology. In chemistry terms, everything in that realm is a chemical change. It can’t be undone. There’s no going back. The genie can’t be put back in the bottle.
My favorite example of this, of course, is the atom bomb. Short of a complete wipe, this knowledge is out. It is known. And it’s just going to continue to spread. Good times.
Technology is exactly the same thing. It just takes place on a smaller albeit relentless scale. The invariable outcome remains exactly the same.
If you’ve read this far, you deserve some kind of payoff. Here’s a few examples that’ll hopefully prove my point.
Cell Phone GPS
Too ancient. Old school. Not even worth mentioning these days. Passé. How Jack Bauer caught terrorists.
In mid-2016, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, accidentally revealed a few things about himself while celebrating the success of Instagram. (Which is also owned by Facebook.)
He celebration consisted of a cutesy photo. Whatevs. But clever people looked at that photo. They really looked at it. And they noticed a few things. His laptop, unintentionally revealed in the photo, had the camera covered with tape. The microphone jack was covered with tape. He used Thunderbird as his email client. (Weirdo.)
Yup, yup. We all know by now that cameras can be hacked. The little red light won’t even go on. My desk has an iPod, an iPad, and an iMac. Three cameras. Three pieces of scotch tape. Check, check, check.
Microphone jack? Yeah, mine are unprotected. “Dear NSA: I hope heavy breathing is something you enjoy.” Sometimes I talk to myself. I wonder how much they know?
If you’re paranoid, experts recommend the following escalating steps:
- Set microphone input to zero in your operating system
- Install software to monitor microphone use
- Remove the hardware drivers in your operating system
- Remove and/or break and/or disable the hardware
- Smash to bits with a sledgehammer
But this is all old news. Let’s move on.
This is where the fun starts. In late 2016, Wired magazine reported that headphones can spy on you.
Using only malware (malicious software secretly installed in your technology) it is possible to reprogram headphones to record audio even if a device’s microphones have been removed or disabled.
How? Software repurposes headphones to detect sound vibrations in the air as “electromagnetic signals” and record them as audio.
Recently in the news, I heard a new one. Yes, I can still be surprised. The company that makes Vizio “smart TVs” admitted to spying on its customers.
How? In February 2014, software in Vizio TVs collected data and transmitted it back to Vizio servers. The software was able to identify what was on the screen, including shows and commercials.
Information was not “personally identifiable” but tied to IP addresses, which, when combined with other data-mined sources, suddenly becomes a treasure trove.
Vizio admitted to the practice and agreed to pay a $2.2 million fine.
Where does it stop? How far will they go? When will enough be enough?
The answer, obviously, lies in the “should.” They can do a thing, and by god, they will. It’s just like the bomb in the movie Speed. If it doesn’t go boom, what good is it? Exploding is the bomb’s purpose for being.
Star Trek: The Next Generation showed us the promise of a magical future. One where intrepid heroes had a trusted companion in the form of the ship’s computer. It understood human speech and had just enough artificial intelligence to be useful. And, above all else, it was implicitly loyal.
But Star Trek lied to us. Oh, that technology may exist some day. It’s like a Holy Grail to the nerds working hard to ruin our lives. Some of them even sweat they’re working so hard.
When it gets here, it’s not going to be a good thing. It’s going to come with EULAs and privacy agreements. It’s going to be monetized. It’s going to be non-privacy. It’s going to be based on a cloud in some remote server and not under our own direct control. It’s going to be used to support the aims and goals and greed of other people. It decidedly will not be used in our best interests. It may not even have our knowledge and consent.
Meanwhile, humans are signing up for this treatment in droves. They are handing over their bank accounts. Medical records. Control of their homes. Vehicles. They are inviting Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant into their homes. (Hint: Always listening.)
Prediction: Google will someday launch a product called Inside View, a camera-drone the size of a small mosquito. It’ll go places that Street View can’t. Like inside your house. In your bedroom. Even during naughty time. They won’t do it because they should. They’ll do it because they can.
Every device you own is spying on you. Right now. Every. Single. One. Your car. Your phone. Your computer. Your smart TV. Your watch. Your toaster. Know this. Assume this. Believe it to be true.
My advice is simple. Delete every file. Destroy every device. Close your bank accounts. Sell your car. Convert everything to cash. Leave every possession behind. Move to Alaska, find an unused valley, build a log cabin, and live without electricity for the rest of your life.
It’s the only way.
Then, when technology has killed everyone else, you can laugh and say, “Ha ha.”