Where’s Our Cut?

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You’ve probably seen people driving around in cars covered over – “wrapped” – with advertisements for some service or product and wondered how much the owner got paid to allow his car to be transformed into a mobile billboard.

But he is at least getting paid.

The non-wrapped cars are working, too – but their owners aren’t being compensated with even a coupon for the data being mined from them as they drive. Data about their preferences and habits, which is sold for money to interested parties – who in turn use the information to tailor and personalize the sales pitches they make to the same person who isn’t being cut in on the action.

Who is the action.


Some of this is opt-in and even laudable, or at  isn’t objectionable – because you still have the choice to say nope – or because you do get something besides a sales pitch.

For example, Amazon is offering in-car delivery, making it possible to order stuff from the car and have the stuff sent to the car, wherever it happens to be – because Amazon knows where it is via GPS locater technology – and has the stuff you bought put into the car even if you’re not in the car – because you’ve given Amazon the “keys” to your car (remote access to the trunk, etc.).

In California, fuel delivery service is available. Sign up for this and the fuel company you do business with knows when you’re running low – the car lets them know – and sends out a tank truck to top off yours. It’s a nice service for those who are willing to pay a little extra for the convenience – and who don’t mind that a corporation is keeping track of their fuel usage and knows where their car is at any given time. Probably other things, too.

But what if you do mind – and don’t want? And can’t say nope?

Then it’s a problem.

“Connectivity” is like a rip-tide that sweeps everything along with it. Many of us do mind and don’t want to be tracked (and audio/video recorded) by always-on GPS transponders in cell phones and microphones and cameras embedded in our laptops – but good luck finding a phone or laptop without these devices.

And good luck turning them off.

You can say nope – technically – by not having a smartphone or a laptop. But good luck working in the “connected” world without them.

Fate meet acccompli.

GM’s “Marketplace” system is among the latest examples of the connectivity rip tide.  It is already standard in a number of new GM vehicles and probably soon all of them. Like air bags and ASS and other things you may not want, you get Marketplace if you buy the car.

In the oleaginous lingo of modern tech-peddling, Marketplace “hosts” for “partners” such as Dunkin’ (no longer Donuts) and ExxonMobile, hoping to steer you their way.

It will work almost exactly like the cookies and pop-ups that plague our desktops and laptops only now we’ll be sales-pitched as we drive.

Of course, this isn’t “distracting” . . . because it’s profitable.

According to a report styled Best Practices for Direct Monetization of Connected Vehicles, the “potential” for making lots of money this way is “very high.”

Which, of course, explains the why.

It has become very hard to make a buck selling cars. Profit margins per sale are in the area of 2-3 percent and sometimes none at all. Electric cars and hybrids are “sold” at a loss.

Trucks and SUVs make up for some of this, but it is becoming harder to make trucks and SUVs because of the carbon dioxide “emissions” and fuel economy fatwas.

So the car companies have bought in to the idea of selling data culled from the vehicles they sell to you. You become the product and the  customer.

It is a “business” (in quotes to emphasis the shadiness of being forced to do business) that is estimated to be worth as much as $1 billion annually.

It will be worth even more when we can’t say nope.

This is already the case with the data mined by the Event Data Recorders (EDRs) which are standard equipment in all new cars and have been for years. The data mined includes seat belt usage (or not), speed of the vehicle, braking inputs – and so on. Though the car is yours as a legal technicality the courts have ruled the data can mined by the insurance mafia or the courts without your permission – to be used as evidence against you in civil/criminal proceedings.

In other words, they own the data.

Similarly, John Deere – which will sell you a tractor but retains “rights” to the software that controls it and the data they use to service it – and keep you from servicing it yourself.

It follows from this principle that data regarding our travel habits and personal activities/preferences are likewise the implicit property of the mafia and government – and the tech necessary to mine this is likewise already embedded in most cars built since the mid-1990s and all of them built since the mid-2000s or so.

One of the companies pushing to know more about us – and make a buck off us – is the Israeli tech company Otonomo, which is marketing a “data aggregation platform” that can track 500 distinct “data points” from vehicles. These “data points” can then be bundled – anonymously, Otonomo assures – and sold off to . . . interested parties.

These will inevitably include the insurance mafia as well as various government entities.

Both of them already champing at the bit to nix the “anonymous” element in order to tax-by-mile and surcharge according to each “unsafe event” – such as driving faster than the speed limit or accelerating/braking too “aggressively.”

Corporate interests want to know when – and where – you tend to stop for a snack or coffee; where you got your oil changed and bought tires. Did you go the gym today? Did you leave work early yesterday? (Your estranged wife’s lawyer wants to know.)

They’d all very much like to know everything about you. Hackers, too. And they don’t need to ask – or get – permission to data mine your car.

“We liken connected cars to a cellphone on wheels,” explains Otonomo’s chief marketing officer Lisa Joy Rosner. “On our phones, we share our data because we get so much out of it. You get apps that make the phone more . . . interesting.”

Ellipses and italics added.

Interesting indeed.

Most people will probably “sign up” eagerly – as they already do for the various data-mining/monitoring apps they freely download onto their phones. And of course, the phones themselves function exactly like the ankle bracelets applied to house-arrested small-time criminals, to keep track of their whereabouts.

The only distinction being the cell phone owner is still free to roam.

Huxley was far more the prophet than Orwell. Infantilize and addle them and you control them – without needing guns. Get them to peck at screens like a sea gull at the beach enraptured by a piece of tinfoil.

If they never look up, they’ll never notice the eyes upon them – and probably wouldn’t care if they did. Make your own way with their updates regularly.

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. From personal experience, the “market rate” for driving a car wrapped in an advertisement in Tulsa, OK a decade ago was $900 a month, with two conditions: Drive and park outdoors in the marketer’s area of choice, and be visible for at least 10 hours a day in that area. There were also bonuses involved if the vehicle exceeded the requirements for visibility.

    But like you said, this was PAID to the vehicle’s owner, not to some outside third party aggregator. And the owner had the choice to do this; it wasn’t foisted upon him without his knowledge. Although I wouldn’t object to having an extra $900 deposited in my bank account without being told why.

    The idea of anyone other than the vehicle owner having the right to the data shows how ignorant our nation’s lawmakers and court jesters really are.

    • Amen, Travis!

      And to be clear: They shyster “consent” by Terms & Conditions of use; when you click “ok” on the touchscreen – at each start-up – you’ve just agreed to by shystered.

  2. I see quite a few of those “ad-wrapped” vehicles locally, but I strongly suspect they are company vehicles. So no one got paid except whoever did the paint job or created the sign.

    • Zenit, in some cases the “company” is the gig of the driver as an “owner” (usually a franchisee) of his/her business…”Lose weight, how? Ask me…NOW” and so on. Supposedly it enables the ability to deduct the vehicle’s operating expenses since it’s being using for ‘business’.

  3. Important subject in this essay today. But Eric seems to have totally defaulted (along with all commentators so far) into the Cranky Old Coot mentality. Sure, most of us are just that. But we all know “change is hard.” Things aren’t like they were in 1960-70. The ability to capture personal data about actions, choices, preferences is unprecedented. It’s now easier and cheaper than ever. Formerly impossible or very expensive to obtain. What aggravates all of us is our lack of meaningful choice in the new stealth world of enforced “click here to accept/proceed” kinds of online contracts. Or much the same for a large purchase like a car, which then generates your data to them for their monetization. Google, Apple and others have grown rich.
    But times they are a’changing. The EU is increasingly demanding personal ownership of your own data. Multinational web based firms now deal with this little detail. Soon, due to what I see as demands for change here, the US will see the same basic rules. You can’t stop data on your actions from being captured easily or at all. But once laws are changed, who gets paid for that might change dramatically. In fact the first major firm to offer to “share” the boodle from data mining and users will be flooded with new customers. Suppose NewGoogle sends you monthly PayPal or direct payments for your share of their ad revenue or data sales? Or GM? Or anyone and everyone. Who wouldn’t desert firms who failed to share their sales proceeds about you? Or you could choose meaningfully to opt out. And more productive people will be paid more in the split because marketeers like good demographics. Welfare bum’s actions are of little value.

    Let’s not just gripe and moan. We should anticipate how individuals could earn money by selling their data to others via intermediaries that already collect it. Money for nothing! Some already do that in a fashion by becoming YouTuber celebs and get a cut of ad sales. Why not data? All it takes is a legal set up where you own your data, not them. If you find any current firms offering to do that (a few limited cases now) you might consider investing early. Old Google which refuses to share will be crushed by the more generous NewGoogle. “Share the wealth!” is always very politically popular. Don’t moan, anticipate the upside!

    • The issue comes with clever means to avoid disclosing that your ‘personal’ data is being gathered and disseminated. In many cases, even if you “opt out”, that’s disregarded.

    • Ok Clover, let’s hear that again…”We should anticipate how individuals could earn money by selling their data to others via intermediaries that already collect it. Money for nothing!” And even better yet…..”But Eric seems to have totally defaulted (along with all commentators so far) into the Cranky Old Coot mentality.” I suppose it never occurs to you that it takes an economy of people who actually work to produce ANYTHING of any usefulness. How does an economy function when everyone does absolutely nothing but “trade information”???
      Your suggestions sound like the worst parasitic existence possibly imaginable. I would like to see you even TRY to grow enough food to sustain yourself, build your own house, or better yet, manufacture your own transportation from raw materials. You sound like just another selfish ass-wipe who tells everyone he sees to “jump on the gravy train for the free ride”. You apparently don’t get ANY of the concepts here within these pages, or from the multitude of educated, hard-working sons-of-bitches that comprise the majority of the regular contributors here. You can go live in the EU, for all we care, because here you just encourage more of the parasitic, useless, socialistic, waste of human life that we abhor! I’ll be damned if I would ever participate in ANY behavior that would contribute to supporting a pantie-waste, free-loading tapeworm such as yourself!

      • My goodness! Eric’s column is headlined “Where’s Our Cut?” and my post suggests an answer to that question. If we “own” our the data we generate for data miners like Google, Facebook, etc. then if EU style rules are adopted then everyone generating data that is ALREADY being sold, we would get that “cut” Eric is asking about.
        You instead launch a personal attack on me going off the deep end about “free rides” and building one’s own home. Why getting paid (in the future, possibly) for something of yours that Big Data is already selling to others (and keeping all the proceeds) to you seem like socialism? So if I find oil on this “farm” of yours I don’t have to pay you royalty, just like Google isn’t paying you for your data?
        The data mining industry is already here. It hasn’t replaced making stuff. What is “parasitic” is Big Data’s selling your generated electronic activity to others and keeping all the proceeds. They are already getting billions in free rides. How do you think these companies make those billions? Selling ads based on your data, or selling it to other users.
        Why personally attack me for telling the guy with oil on his farm that he should be getting a cut of the oil sales proceeds? Why call me bad names for that? You really need to check your meds, fella. Or is hating here just part of your fun?

        • I already dislike your attitude for the simple fact that you troll comments rather than making a useful contribution beyond criticizing someone’s lack of participation in a parasitic system of freeloaders. Yes, I enjoy taking opposition with your offensive suggestion that we do as others do for money. You use Left-wing terms such as “hating” and needing my “meds” in an attempt to reduce my opposition to “violence”, or “mental illness”, which is a baseless diversion you have absolutely no evidence of, other than apparent disgust and disdain for your selfish attitudes and apparent idolatry of “free money”. If you had ever worked hard labor a single day of your life, you could still come away with 2 notions: 1: Hard work and manual labor is useful; and physically rewarding, or 2: Hard work is for stupid people and smart people make money off those that work hard. I bet you’re a #2 kinda guy, in more than one way.
          I put up a riddle that requires an I.Q. to fathom, and the best you can manage is to notice my deliberate usage of a homonym. Please, tell me you can do better than this pretentious attempt to feign self-defense for merely being called out as technocratic sympathizer and rent-seeker! You find the label of “parasite” unappealing? If so, don’t feign indignance or “injury” after personally criticizing the author of this article, and “all the commenters here”. When you beg for a verbal bitch-slapping, don’t cry “assault” and point the finger at the bearer of “offending verbiage”. Keep up your arrogant, self-righteous non sequiturs, and you find someone here who will say something a lot more offensive than I care to waste my time on with you. Your words remind me of the drivers that pull into moving traffic from a stop sign, only to berate the one poor sap who could not avoid a collision, all the while blaming him for “not letting you in”. If you can’t grok the parallel to this conversation, don’t even bother replying.

          • So, I guess I can drill on your farm and if I hit pay dirt, not pay you anything? Just like Big Data does with your information?

            I didn’t realize I’d be participating in your therapy session. You seem to live in a world of your own imagination. You have zero idea of me, my history or my basic views. But it is probably more fun for you to make things up to vent your many frustrations and dislikes.

            Don’t worry, be happy…

            • Again with the “mental illness” Ass-Hat? My therapy session? Ok, let’s start with your narcissistic use of projection, as well as evasive responses to simple a query as to whether or not you can grasp the basic concept of working for what you receive. I have no oil well to be robbed of, yet you keep postulating that I do, or may, as if the fear of being robbed of something I don’t have is even real.
              Your doctrine of “money for nothing” says more than the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica could hope to accomplish.
              You don’t even have the first clue of the violations of basic principles of liberty, when you utter such garbage. “Don’t worry, be happy”, really, how original, and telling as well.
              I, on the other will tell you nothing of my profession, life, or education, as your pathetic, autonomic responses are a waste of time.

                  • A man NEVER gets a chick for free-never! One way or another, a man pays; the only question is whether it’ll be up front (like a hooker), or on the back end. But a man NEVER gets a chick for free…

                    • Hi Brent,

                      Even that ain’t what it was. Musicians still get laid. But Motley Crue/Van Halen-style sybaritism is apparently as much a piece of history as David Lee Roth’s hair…

                    • MM, it’s not women I’d speak of, it’s anything, everything.

                      The company mechanic and I were heading back to the shop one day. We had to go through a tiny town, the county seat as such. We made the turn and there were a lot of vehicles on the lot and a lot of people….for that town.

                      He see’s the sign that says, “Free Lunches” and exclaims, Damn, we gotta stop and eat.

                      I gave him the old TANSTAAFL, which he didn’t get so I translated it.

                      Well, he says, that’s what the sign said to which I replied “That’s a lie I guarantee”. So we continued around the square and sure enough, there was the sign at the entrance of the parking lot that said “Free Lunch with a $10 “donation”.

                      He looked at me and said Well, you called it. And we drove on, both of us laughing.

                    • Just to interject a bit of humor but there’s a RiffTrax movie on.

                      These movies are done by the same guys who did Mystery Science Theatre 3000. And they are hilarious. Of course possibly I’m the only one who might sit and laugh his ass off without their narration….but still. It was camp back when it was made.

            • Hi Muggles,

              The core issue here, as I see it, isn’t the data mining per se – just as electric cars aren’t the issue, per se, with regard to Elon.

              The issue is being mined without consent – or even knowledge. Of being forced – effectively – to accept a diminishing circle of privacy as this invasive tech invades every corner of our lives, like it or not.

              We are all being carried along by this – and I don’t like it. I realize I’m in the apparent minority – but that doesn’t argue against the validity of my complaint.

              Corporations are potentially much worse than government because they operate outside even the minimal legal constraints that bind government. The suppression of speech by the tech oligopoly being a case in point.

              I love my Trans-Am for many reasons; among them the fact that no one knows I’m driving it – or how – or where – unless I tell them or take them along for the ride.

              I find the idea of being tracked/monitored/recorded loathsome beyond words.

              Civilization is impossible without privacy.

              What’s being created is a digital age Village in which everyone knows your business; in which you are constrained by the constant worry that one of your busybody neighbors might be watching – and has the power to punish you, if they don’t like you, or like what you are doing.

              Or not doing.

  4. In the film “Live and Let Die” Dr. Kananga says he plans to distribute $100,000,000 worth of heroine for free. Not only driving the competition out of their minds, but also, out of business. Then he will be sole provider of heroine to the whole country! See any similarities here? I’l bet we can all name a few!

    • “Heroine” is a female hero. Heroin is the drug. Monopolists can only succeed if they have total control over supply. Either legally (rare) or via force.

      • Lol, your the first to notice that I used that spelling, and I did so intentionally. Now can you tell me why I did? Also, It wasn’t the monopoly aspect that I was referring to, actually, but rather the method of manufacturing an “addiction”, regardless of the product. This wasn’t a comment, so much as it was a riddle, of sorts. And yes, the film is specifically chosen for that reason as well.

  5. Don’t have a smart phone, no GPS (except when I was driving for a living) and in over a million miles of driving (many while working) have never run out of gas. And no, I wasn’t a big rig driver. I don’t want government or any corporation in my life stealing information. We are being marketed to death and trying to keep up with the latest fads or things will keep you broke. I try to ignore every ad I see or hear. I am not in the market for 98% of the crap they market so why do I need the intrusion? I just want a car that is fairly simple and reliable and not a chore to drive. And no E/V either.

    • The radio was playing the song, Live and Let Die yesterday. I commented I always used to think of the movie but now I think of American Hustle, a great movie featuring the highest paid female actor in the world.

    • There are “throwaway” cell phones, which can be turned off (and many come with a detachable battery, ,so indeed, they can really be ‘off’) or “burner” phones, that can be used on a prepaid plan for emergencies, and don’t necessarily require you to divulge your identity.

  6. 20 years ago my friend was getting divorced and claimed he only worked part time in NYC to cut down alimony payments. somehow they got his EZ Pass records that showed he went into the city full time

    • Even if your friend had been successful in his assertion that he worked part time, there’s always IMPUTED income. What is imputed income? Basically, the judge and family court can say that, due to your education and experience, you should be making X dollars instead of Y dollars and base your payments on that. For example, say a guy retires as a VP making six figures and he goes to teach at college part time. The judge can say that, since you worked as a VP; since you earned six figures before; your CS and/or alimony payments will be based on the six figure salary.

      • he kinda knew he might not get away with it but he tried it anyway. in the supermarket they give you a discount card you show when you checkout. just from what you spend on food a year then can estimate your income

        • They could make that estimate just from receipts. No loyalty card needed. The only way to avoid that would be to pay cash.

          Speaking of loyalty cards, I read an article c. 2000 where some guy in CA sued a grocery store for negligence after he took a pratfall there. He lost the case when the store produced records showing all the liquor he had bought at a discount using his card. That was enough to convince the jury he was likely drunk at the time.

          • Showing evidence of liquor purchases wouldn’t have ‘proven’ anything, but if the matter went to trial, his attorney was incompetent to not get that ‘evidence’ squelched. Purchases of even copious quantities of alcohol doesn’t imply inebriation when the ‘pratfall’ took place (which WOULD tend to mitigate the store’s liability). However, had I been on that jury, I might have considered the possibility that the guy was drunk, had his liquor purchases at the store been admitted as evidence.

            I suspect that even w/o the liquor purchases that the plantiff’s case was weak and/or there was evidence that might have he staged the fall. Innuendo is not only very poor as ‘evidence’, it often backfires in court.

            • I agree. I never buy liquor or beer when I’ve been drinking+. I buy booze by the case simply because it’s a great way to save money. You don’t need to take it home and try to drink it all as fast as you can.

              I used to have a friend(deceased now)who was a wholesale liquor supplier. He’d make me great deals on a load of 50 cases of beer. It would sit in the barn and last however long it would last. I didn’t feel the need to drink more because I had a great deal. In the end, you not only save money on the product itself but the fuel it takes to get there and back. I work all day and am up for at least 12 hours before I even get off work. I’m not working now because we’ve had so much rain the pit is flooded so no hauling aggregate to fix roads and you can’t blade mud. I don’t mind since I need a break from all the mechanicing I’ve been doing on big equipment. I’m not as flexible as I once was but Anonymous would probably make me feel better almost immediately. If I weren’t married I’d probably be looking her in the face and finding out how many things we agreed on. She sounds like a person with a great head on her shoulders and a good work ethic. She might even like west Texas if I could talk her into it. Most people not of this part of Texas or most of Texas, are surprised to find everyone you meet speaks to you. And they don’t do it because they have to do it, it’s just part of being friendly.

  7. Unrelated, but watch out this week: Pokemon Go (because apparently that’s still a thing) is having some kind of “adventure week” which starts today; players receive rewards for walking around with the app active, up to 50 kilometers (about 31 miles) during the week. Be aware of even more people walking and biking on inappropriate roads for at least the next week. Some people have found cheeky workarounds like stuffing their phone in their sock and bouncing their foot up and down while sitting at their desk, but not everyone will be doing that.

    Unless you live in a place where no one remembers Pokemon Go, in which case lucky you.

    • I worked so much when it was introduced I never even knew what it was. I barely had time to sleep and eat was catch as catch-can. Made it sorta rough on me since I don’t eat fastfood. Just for shits and giggles, the wife and I bought a can of Dr. Pepper baked beans. They sucked and we threw most of the can away.

      • You didn’t miss much. Just a big hypey fad over a stupid game which you could only like if you were young enough to be into Pokemon in the first place. I do consider myself a member of that category, however I was also a stubborn member of the Dumbphone Mafia when Go came out so I couldn’t get it anyway. Now that I do have a ($35 Walmart) smartphone all I can think of is… why the frick would I bother, if I’m out and about I’m either too busy working or too busy enjoying driving to bother with virtual monster collection quest.

        • Glad to know you have better sense. Since I’m out and about in the rural parts of the county nearly daily(for work), I don’t “waste” much time doing so on my own dime but when I just need a spiritual recharge I get in the pickup and roam over the county just looking for whatever I might see and assess the crops and such. Driving down roads that nobody but those that need to travel will be on, I can ease along and drink a cold one and enjoy nature in fairly much any way it can be enjoyed. Since I often see every type of animal in these parts just working, I don’t feel the need to do so as back in the day I would get stressed from work and need to be with nature…..plus I can always walk out the door and cruise the pasture on foot and get a big relief just being one with nature. It’s been my “go to” thing for nearly all my life.

        • Shotgun, here’s a link for a new linux phone that’s been designed for privacy. It will be available the 3rd quarter this year. I’m definitely thinking about getting one since my Samsung 5 doesn’t charge from the port any longer. I have two batteries I change and charge on a specific charger just for that battery. It’s a PITA. https://itsfoss.com/librem-linux-phone/

          • Thanks, but I’m afraid it won’t work for me. The only reason I bought a smartphone is because a new job I got wanted me to have one (cheaper for them than sending everyone scan guns, and some tasks require actually legible images anyway), and it has to be either Android or iOS in order to run their apps.

            If it weren’t for that, I’d probably still be using the same flip phone.

  8. Anyone who isn’t gathering and selling user data is under tremendous pressure to start. Mostly because everyone on Sand Hill Rd thinks the same way, and the real Silicon Valley kings are the money guys. And when they tell your CEO he’s leaving money on the table, he follows orders. Since every company wants to be a high tech growth company, they all get in line too. Apple claims to be resisting the trend, but they play pretty fast and loose with the App Store rules. I’m certain the new Hollywood services will keep track of all sorts of things.

    Otonomo is an example of a micro-services architecture company. They have servers running their software. So if you want to get some user data, instead of purchasing software from Otonomo you subscribe to their service. They give you some glue code and an API to their servers. You send the user data to them, they spit out an answer. This way you don’t have to maintain their software, just make sure you have a good enough network connection. You pay them a monthly fee for that service. When they figure you’re dependent on them, they can jack up the price. Or switch to a per-transaction fee. Or anything they want. This is the new way to write software. Your developers just fold all these little pieces into an application, and software becomes Lego. It all works great right up until the network goes down, or the MSA performing a critical task breaks something, or goes tits-up and you have to scramble to find a replacement. And of course there’s the reality that once customer data is sent to someone else’s hardware, you’ve lost control over it.

    • That might not be enough; best bet would be to trace the antenna cable back to the “black box” and remove it, then ground the input.

      • About 15 years ago a GM tech told me to simply unplug the antenna. That may not be enough now although I suspect it is since so few people don’t want it. I’d guess you could remove the antenna but if the cable is still hooked up, who knows what it might receive and transmit.

        I have never had a vehicle with this equipment and won’t.

  9. Where is OUR cut, you say? Well, let’s see. As far as they are concerned, our wrists, our ankles, and our throats. Did I miss any?

  10. Am I the only one that finds it a more than a little ironic that an Israeli company would be making devices to track people and their habits? If only Hitler… Dare I say, “Anne Frank, call your office.”?

    And, since not long ago when people would sit mesmerized in front of the television we called it “The Idiot Box”, maybe we should start calling that device in our hand “The Idiot Phone”.

    • “The Idiot Box”

      I call it the fear box.

      Fear phone goes right along with that.

      And to make sure you’re never out of touch with something to be scared of you have the fear board with all the warning lights in your car.

      Be afraid people. Be very afraid.

      • “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, hence clamorous to be led to safety, with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken

      • Since the only way we could have high speed internet is wifi, I should have held steady and bought another computer but the wife wants a tv so I bought a smart one and get a great deal of free tv. I’m not, however, unaware as to the spying of smart tvs and sail fawns. If I’m watching my cell phone lying in bed and drop it, something I touch causes it to turn on the tv. I occasionally, and that’s rare, sync my phone with mirror screening to the tv.

        My main problem, knowing 10 years ago smart tv’s spied on people and recorded their voices, is getting the wife to STFU about certain subjects. She really doesn’t believe the phones and tvs are spy devices(Oh, you’re just paranoid). No shit, and considering what we’ve been through it would seem you’d finally be paranoid too.

  11. I’d say it’s coming down to scraping the bottom of the barrel for a buck. I had a restaurant (big retail/restaurant) keep badgering me to sign up for their email list (“you get a free meal on your birthday!!!” – yes, but you have to bring another adult with you who has to buy a meal at full price), so I did using my “crapmail” account (for web-purchases, etc. where all the spam and garbage goes), and although I did get the so-called “free” coupon on my birthday, I’ve not gotten one discount since; instead all I get is a shit-ton of mail from the parent corporation about why I need to buy their gift cards. “Free” money is what they want. The “something for nothing economy”.

    Car dealerships don’t sell cars, they sell a “contract” (those lease offers with an incredibly “low” price [fine print, for only 10,000 miles, 25¢/mile afterwards, a sort of automobile “credit-card”, when the lease is up and the car is like 20,000 miles over the allowed limit and the schlub owes an additional $5000 on the car to cover the overage, the salesman says, “oh we’ll just roll that into a new lease” and they do (although the payment isn’t so low anymore. When it comes to financing a car, they learned from the used car shysters: break even on the down payment and then get fat on the interest.) The “targeted” in-car advertising bit fits in perfectly with those planned car “subscription services” which play like a magazine; it’ll be like a magazine with one or two “articles” and a shit-ton of ads (but hey, the subscription will be for an “incredibly low price”, even though you don’t get to keep the car.)

    Back in 2015 I predicted there are 5 bubbles that were going to pop within a decade: they were “Big Retail” (exists due to cheap labor, cheap goods, government meddling in the economy, and they’re all run by morons), “Big Finance” (uncles push by the big banks to gives loans & credit cards to people who can’t afford to pay them back, wage garnishments can only do so much, bad credit? no credit? no job? no problem!!!), “Big Auto” (much of what Eric has written about here with fuel economy & safety fatwas, plus an industry willing to stop making cars in favor of SMVs [soccer mom vehicles, what I call the current crop of so-called SUVs aka Yuppie Shopping Carts], and now that orange man has OK’d year around E15 sales, how the hell do these corporations expect to meet the 55+mpg standard?), “Big College” (except for STEMM-fields [science, technology, engineering, math, & medicine] have dumped “education” in favor of “stupification”, lots of “feel good” degrees in whining and uselessness, student-debt [that many colleges are profiting from] due to year-around spring-break at Burj Al Arab prices [and just as tacky], etc.), and “Big Internet” (goog, faceplant, and other data-harvesting firms that people are slowly drifting away from.) It’s going to be interesting to watch them pop, but I worry about another “too big to fail” and fascist legislation so these things can guard their turf.

    • The feminists are gunning for engineering now.
      Here’s the problem, few girls are interested in it, fewer yet can do it, even fewer make it to the end of the degree program, and then only a fraction of those stay in it for a career. So their latest approach is to change the way things are taught. Less actual engineering and more feelings.

      Also E15 doesn’t matter. All government cycles are done using a specified fuel. traditionally that has been a gasoline with no ethanol at all. I believe power equipment has the option of testing with E10 now. I doubt the standards will ever require the auto makers to test with E15.

      • Brent,

        “doubt the standards will ever require the auto makers to test with E15.”


        “according to ASTM 5798 that specifies the allowable ethanol content in E85 as ranging from 51% to 83%.”

        What is the content of E15?

  12. “Today that concept ‘quality’ is absent from just about everything.”

    What’s even worse is that some products (especially smartphones) either have built-in expiration dates or updates that can simply “brick” them. Hence why “subscription” plans are becoming more and more popular. It’s a win-win for both the smartphone-addicted consumers and the corporations. The consumers don’t have to worry about purchasing or maintaining the items; while the corporation can keep us in perpetual debt.

    Of course, it’s also a lose-lose for the rest of us that prefer to use our own brains because we don’t get much of a say in the matter.

  13. Smartphone user in 2035: “Man! I love my new phone! It can order my food, text my friends, shop for me, hook me up with “the one”, orders gas for me, and even tells me when I should get some water. I tell ya, I wouldn’t know what to do without my–”

    *battery dies*

    Smartphone user: “Uh………”

  14. Of all the things you mention in the article, Eric, the one that pisses me off the worst is the John Deere “service data is proprietary” thing. What a load of manure, and it’s not even good for the crops! It started when cars got computers, and the manufacturer decided his microcode was proprietary. At least then, the fault codes were usually not, so at least SOME level of access was available for troubleshooting. Nowadays, there is so much in cars that OBD2 won’t tell you, a mechanic has to subscribe to a service and pay big bucks for a doodad to talk to the cars he gets in his shop. NIssan is Consult 2/3/456, VW is ErWIN, MoPar has their own (and the doodad probably still comes from Miller Specialty Tools)…it’s a nightmare. And don’t even try to get a modern chip key cut and programmed without another special factory-only doodad and subscription!

    • It doesn’t matter anyway. The sheep have been trained to cease free thinking and have their “Silly-CON” Valley overlords to do it for them. Most of them don’t even bother checking the fuel gauge anymore; let alone opening the hood.

  15. I don’t have and will never intend to own a ‘Smart Phone’.

    I do have a ‘Dumb Phone’ for emergencies as the phone companies ripped out all the payphones to ensure the transition to mobile phones. The cost went from $0.25 once every couple years for an emergency to $100 to maintain the use of the ’emergency’ Dumb Phone.
    I know this to be true as I worked for and retired from a major telecommunications company.

    We have progressed from the “pin drop” to the “drop” technology. And very few times did I have to request the other end to repeat and we had TRUE duplex communications. Yes,,, those were the Bad Old Times when quality was paramount. Today that concept ‘quality’ is absent from just about everything. Heck,,, they rarely use the word in their advertising. I threw away some tennis shoes I have had for gobs of year. Made in the Old USA. Recent purchases last for maybe six months. Made in India. We have become addicted to cheap.

    • Ken: Cheap is how the Corporations like it, quality items cost the consumer less over time. My $250 pair of USA made boots outlasts $100 overseas made pairs 4:1, and can be resoled to get another year or 2 out of them. Race to the bottom has benefited no one but the corporations, and by extension the government. There are still a few manufacturers that offer quality. However you have to do so much digging for them, the average consumer will never expend the effort find them.

      • The problem is inflation. People want the price in numerical dollars to remain the same. So how do you keep the price on the shelf the same or as close to the same as the dollar buys less?

        Under normal circumstances productivity increases and learning how to make the same thing for less gets passed on to customers. The dollar buys more tomorrow than it does today. But inflation allows bankers to rake that off for themselves.

        So how do you keep the price the same? Because when a pair of quality boots cost $100 those boot makers started losing buyers as they had to increase prices. Today their product is $250, but the competitors still have a shelf price of $100.

        Every manufacturer has to balance how they are going to lose customers. Do they lose them on product features and durability or do they lose them on price?

        This is another one of the many evils of central banking and Keynesian economics.


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