Tech visionaries the likes of Elon Musk and Bill Gates tell us their biggest fear for the future is not going broke, it’s robots. We laugh. Those geeks are so consumed by the white heat of technology, what do they know?
But robots are here among us already, quietly preparing for that same apocalypse the Gates’s and the Musks foretell. These machines are strangers bearing gifts, and we should all beware.
It’s very handy, isn’t it, when an echo device sitting in your front room listens to you and does your bidding without further intervention on your part. But here’s the downside; it’s listening to you. All the time. Remember when you thought only the cat heard you say that thing you said? You were thinking aloud while considering that rash you just discovered, or you were talking back to that idiot on the radio. Well now it’s the cat, and a server farm in Arizona that will shortly be mined by intelligent programs analyzing what you said and using it as part of a bigger picture it’s building . That big picture will be used to take away your free will come the next general election.
How about that robotic vacuum cleaner that cleans the house for you like it knows the layout of your rooms and where all your stuff is? Handy, isn’t it, the way it works around the place to leave your carpets spotless? Downside is, yes it does know your house and where all your stuff is. And — thanks to its connection to your handy cell phone — it knows when you leave the house. It stores all that information on the same servers your echo uses, and the information is mined by the same programs that know what you say so now they know where you are, what the inside if your house looks like, and where your stuff is.
Don’t even mention the handy wireless door lock with a camera that lets you remotely admit the FedEx delivery guy from your fireside chair in Starbucks. That thing also asked you to create an online account, didn’t it? And that’s where it logs into the servers where it talks to the program that knows about what you say, where you live, the layout of your house, and how you will vote, and tells that program who visits you. And it can let people into your house.
You thought it was surprising when your favorite social media site offered you another pair of trousers just like the ones you bought online a week ago. You were happy to be offered new music you might like, based on what you’ve been listening to in the past.
Consider that before long you will be being driven by your car, that’s talking to the servers that know your politics and can tell people what you said before they let them into your house where they know where your stuff is, all with a backdrop of vaguely familiar tunes.
Oh you think you’re watching smart TV? It’s watching you. Your fridge knows what’s on your menu? So does your health insurance company.
Never buy a smart toilet.
But hey — don’t worry about your gadgets influencing your vote, stealing your stuff, or knowing your health, wealth, and innermost secrets. According to Gatesy and Musky, it’s going to be much worse than that.