Big Sister Has a Name

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Big Brother turns out to be Big Sister – and her name is Alexa.

Her outsized image isn’t plastered to every telephone pole and billboard, all-seeing eyes watching your every move. But her ears are always open – and increasingly, everywhere.

In the kitchens.

In TVs.

In a large and growing number of new cars, including almost all Audis, several Toyota/Lexus models, most new Cadillacs and Chevys, Lincolns, Chryslers and the just-redesigned 2022 Acura MDX I’m test driving this week.

You can’t see her, but she can hear you.

Like so many things electronic, in-car Alexa is marketed as a convenience. You can ask her about the weather, how many feet in a meter – almost anything – and without taking your hands off the wheel.

But she’s also something else.

Just as your smartphone conveniently lets you snap cute pictures and send them to friends – and then sends data about where and when you took that cute picture and quite possibly that cute picture itself to Google or Apple – so also Alexa, the disembodied voice of Amazon –  conveniently answers your questions while taking note of what you asked.

And not just that.

We are assured that what we ask Alexa is anonymized – and that what Alexa hears us say is dependent upon our giving her permission to listen.

Such assurances should be taken with the same confidence a woman might accept a cocktail from Bill Cosby.

In the first place, Alexa is always listening. Ostensibly, for the “wake” word – her name – which is the auditory prompt that starts the conversation with her. But if she is listening for her name at all times then she can certainly hear everything else; it is simply that the saying of her name makes you aware that she is listening.

The microphones are always on.

The East German Stasi was, at least, regarded with suspicion. But asleep-at-the-wheel Americans want their cars – their lives – to be bugged.

Supposedly, nothing is being recorded – that is to say, your words are merely transmitted to what is styled the “cloud,” a puffy-sounding euphemism for the ethereally connected data-mining AI Hive Mind that every connected device – car, phone or home appliance – is connected to. And nothing is supposedly transmitted to the cloud until you actually, specifically ask Alexa a question. This being necessary since the answers are not contained in a vast electronic encyclopedia within the car’s dashboard, somewhere.

The AI Hive Mind transmits the answer back and your Alexa – one of millions – speaks it.

But to believe what was transmitted isn’t also being recorded is to believe there’s nothing else in that cocktail Bill Cosby just served you.

People who have let Alexa move into their homes know all about it.

Though they never specifically asked Alexa about the best hairball remedy for their cat, suddenly ads for hairball remedies are popping up on their phones and pitches not-so-randomly appearing in their emails. Alexa, it turns out, was listening to their kitchen table conversation – all of it – and now some shystery company knows you’re interested in hairball remedies.

That sort of thing is innocuous, though there is a smarmy element of commodifying  conversation to it. Of making every opening of the mouth – even in private (or so you thought) – an opportunity to make a sales pitch. It takes what is called suggestive selling to a whole new level of relentless intrusiveness and pushiness. Data mining is openly acknowledged to be the new revenue stream associated with the selling of new cars; which is becoming the re-selling of you – using your car.

But there is a not-innocuous aspect to this as well and it ought to be both obvious as well as alarming.

If Alexa is listening to your product preferences she can also hear your other preferences. Your political preferences, for instance.

If she can be programmed to listen for her name, she can be programmed to listen for any other word – which could be any trigger word the Big Tech companies decide they’re interested in hearing about.

Just say the word.

Wrongthinkful words, for instance. Like election fraud.

An off-color joke that you thought was said in private. Words questioning something you’re not supposed to question.

Best not to say anything at all. Or at least, nothing that might be considered . . . questionable. By the corporation-government tag team that you brought into your home.

Into your garage.

This is hardly paranoid, given the nature of the technology – what we know it can do – and given the actions of the Big Tech combines, which we already know are very interested not only in knowing what people text and Tweet and “like” but also acting upon it when they do not like what is texted, Tweeted and posted.

What actions will they take when they hear what they don’t like that you’re saying? To imagine that such a tool will not be used is to imagine you’re safe taking a nap around Bill Cosby.

And if you believe what you say is anonymous, Bill Cosby’s got a rum and Coke for you.

Keep in mind that the value of the data mined is that it’s individualized and specific; that is not a demographic archetype – some random guy or gal – but you. No just sex and age but you.

Everything about you.

Your phone/computer is suddenly blowing up with ads for hairball remedies because you searched for them and the companies hoping to sell you their remedies know you are interested in them.

Alexa takes this to the next level because it’s not what you typed but everything you say, whenever you are within range of her always-perked-up ears.

And if you think the AI behind Alexa isn’t probably already biometrically capable of recognizing and recording your specific voice or that they are working on that, have another one of Bill Cosby’s rum and Cokes.

But you might regret it tomorrow morning.

. . .

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  1. Perhaps you haven’t ever visited Facebook. People WANT every body else to know what they’re doing. It exaggerates their ego for them.

      • I do have Beware the Dogs sign, but to get my point across I make just let them out. Can I be sued if my dog bites someone on my own property? These people are clearly not invited.

        • You could be sued for anything…whether it would be successful is something else.

          We have always had dogs, and although they have never bitten a human, we have had other animals come onto our property and not make it back out. That didn’t seem to cause us any legal issues, but once our dogs got out and were accused of killing some feral cats at the neighbor’s house, so that was a different story.

          IANAL, but if you have posted warnings, and your dogs are on your property, seems like a fairly good chance you would prevail.

        • Usually that’s a claim against your homeowner’s insurance. If you don’t have a policy, then yes they absolutely can sue you, and there’s a good chance they would win.

            • Trespassing is a fairly minor infraction at any level. in most places, If your property is not posted per local legal requirements, it isn’t even a crime. Which I find offensive. But hey, if you can burn a city down and call it “peaceful protest”, what do I know?

    • I’ll have my garden hose ready… or maybe I’ll just answer the door naked except for my ripped cammo shorts and a huge .45 on my hip.

      • That will make quite an impression. 😂 I bet you wouldn’t have to say a word. They would scurry away on their own.

      • What are the shorts for?
        One might also step out the door and shoot at that pesky groundhog that’s undermining your foundation, and is only visible to you, just as the vaccine census agents show up. POOF! They’re gone.

    • College age people with lanyards and clipboards, for now. Saw a few of them going door to door on the main road through my town yesterday. A county which, purportedly, has a 60% or so vaxxed rate. No trespassing signs, no soliciting signs, the less said the better, for now.

        • Yeah, I’ve actually looked into these things and they will come, irrespective of signage. If they do, you need to get names and call the po-lice. That’s how trespassing charges work, in the world we live in. Shenanigans will be on you. Don’t offer up anything else.

          • How about I just not answer the door? That seems pretty simple. I am not sharing my medical information. The Census Bureau cane by a few times, too. They also got nowhere.

              • Do you believe the cops will even respond? I am in pretty red territory, but knowing my luck they will give me a warning for bothering them. The police and the coed college students with clipboards all have the same employer. I am distrustful of both.

                I will get in less trouble putting my obnoxious sign up and keeping my mouth shut. 😊

                • I’m kinda in let’s find out mode. It’s been a thing on this board about private property. Seems like an appropriate test case. Maybe I’m trippin’. Maybe I’ll learn something.

                  • It is an interesting experiment and should be tested.

                    I will let you know what happens if my dogs bite one of them. 😉

          • Sheriff, not police. The Sheriff is elected, by you, and is not beholden to City or State government. Blue States and Cities may not qualify. And call the Sheriff’s office, not 911.

            • Hold up, I am confused on the libertarian criteria:
              1. Dislike the military
              2. Dislike the police
              3. Okay to like your Sheriff’s Dept.

              Is that right? 😉

              • Hi RG,

                I believe I may be able to shed some light …

                The military and the police (department) are enforcement tools of the government much more so than an elected sheriff, who is at least obliged to submit himself to a vote. Far from curative as regards the inherent moral problem (from a libertarian point of view) of any type of “enforcement” of laws that lack identifiable victims or harms caused to others that can be attributed to the action that is illegal (examples – of which there are too many to count – include seatbelt “violations,” arbitrary criminalization of the possession/sale/use of some “drugs,” decrees regarding what one may “lawfully” do on one’s one alleged property, etc.) the elected sheriff is much to be preferred over an appointed five-star Obergruppenfuhrer und general der Polizei.

                And the military? Americans once upon a time feared standing armies in peacetime. We now have a perpetually standing army and (hardly a surprise) perpetual war.

                The military is also the greatest tax-sucker of all, far more so than even the gibs-muh-dat legions.

                I don’t thank them for this “service.”

                • I don’t thank them for defending the Empire either. BTW, your response used to be self-evident to much of America…thank you for the reminder.

              • Well if you want to go the libertarian route, chase them away at gunpoint. Maybe even fire a couple of shots in a perfectly safe direction.

            • Dear Raider Girl,

              Have you ever read any of the stuff from the late great Will Grigg?


              One of his most memorable bits was something like, For the Love of God, Never Call the Police!

              After reading his stuff, how anyone (of any political persuasion, except Marxist bastard et al) can see a distinction between any enforcement arm vs. another, I don’t know.

    • My first thoughts on the door to door plan is that it will fail. (I mean, gov’t fails at everything, right?) At least, I hope so. The harder the push to have everyone jabbed, the more people are starting to question why it is so important to those striving for that goal. At least, that is what I am hearing from people I talk to. But then I guess I do live in an area where people are more “vaccine hesitant” or whatever today’s term is.

        • Indeed, even paying people to take a jab. Anytime any salesman pushes any product this hard, I’m not buying.

      • Hi La Gordita,

        Indeed. The desperation is becoming more and more obvious – and with it (I expect) more dangerous/aggressive actions by the interested parties.

      • Hi La Gordita,

        I wish the people I knew (other than close family) were more vaccine hesitant. Got into a discussion with my hairdresser the other day who was very vaccine hesitant last time I spoke to her, but when I met her this time her, her mother, most of her siblings, and daughters were all vaccinated. She said the only one who was the hold out was another sibling who kept telling them they had no idea what they had injected into their bodies and there were a tons of studies showing the jabs didn’t work out as they expected. I turned to her and said “I like this other sibling of yours.” She asked if I was still not getting “vaccinated”. I replied only if the Brown Shirts come for me. I think it went over her head.

        • If the brown shirts come, they will have to get me in a condition where I will take a jab, at which point in time it will no longer matter if I do or not. I’d rather check out now than wait around to see how the vax is going to kill me.

        • RG,
          Some people I work with say there’s no way they are getting it. Others, I suspect, only got it because their Orange Idol was pimping it so hard.
          As far as my family is concerned, I think the ones in the 60+ age group all got it. I am not sure about the younger ones. My brother said he isn’t getting it because he’s not stupid. I haven’t asked the others lately because I was so disheartened by all of the older ones jumping on that bandwagon just so they could go to the store without a mask.
          My reply was that I have been doing that all along. I have only been “tossed” from one store so far ( well, told I would have to mask up to remain in the store, so I left).

          • Morning, La Gordita!

            My sister is coming to visit from CA in about a week; she is willing to wear the disgusting Face Diaper as the price of being allowed to fly. I am hoping she is unwilling to receive the Holy Needling as the price of being allowed to visit our mom in the prison for the elderly. My sister knows I will not tolerate any form of Sickness Kabuki. This includes seeing her performing it. Not in my presence. Certainly not in my house. I love her, but I cannot adequately express the hate I feel for this business.

            • The only time I ever really considered the masks at all was in the beginning of all this mess, when everyone was constantly being whipped up into a hysterical state of mind. Then, because of all the uncertainty I wasn’t so adamantly opposed to it…but, I was also stuck at home with nowhere to go for a bit so it didn’t really matter. Then, before I really had to make a decision I started seeing it as utterly ridiculous, and decided not to wear it and not to worry about it….
              My thoughts are that there is very little you can do in life that has no risk. To pretend otherwise is stupid and the quest to eliminate all risk tends to have unintended consequences.

          • Re “just so they can go into a store without a mask” – so many people are willing to trade their earthly future, health, and life just so they don’t have to do the hard thing, i.e., defend their liberty (and bodily integrity). It is not hard to walk into a store without covering one’s face – you just have to be willing to engage if necessary or risk (gasp!) a bit of an uncomfortable feeling in the presence of the cult. But it is worth it in terms of the dividends it pays in one’s self-respect and the knowledge of setting a good example.

            Good for you – perfect response. I remember someone once saying, “the secret to success is to act ‘as if’ one is already successful.” So I make it a practice to always act as if. It has served me well, esp. mentally.

            • Anon,
              When I go to the store with my mom and there are signs up about masks being required, she asks if I brought one. I say “they don’t really mean it” and then I walk in and it becomes evident that they didn’t really mean it.

  2. ‘Big Brother turns out to be Big Sister’– EP

    Basic question: why are Alexa and Siri and Cortana female?

    At least for some folks, the answer lies in the fraught minefield of gender politics:

    ‘If men are often the ones building digital assistants, and those assistants are modeled after women, “I think that probably reflects what some men think about women — that they’re not fully human beings,” Kathleen Richardson said.’

    Oh my, Katey … that’s rather sharp-elbowed. I reckon we’re not a match.

    Yet, human females in broadcasting reportedly generate more complaints than male colleagues for offenses such as vocal fry, upspeak, and (intolerable to me) ‘yankee quack’ accents.

    The last time I heard the accent of my native South over the air was a speech by Sidney Powell, in the latter days of Orange Man Bad. And she’s a non-person now.

    Oh well, thank goodness we ain’t Japanese. Women there (both real life and digital) are obliged to speak in falsetto, like little baby dolls. It’s enough to drive a gaijin to drink — Mizuwari wo Kudasai!

    • Back in the old days, when women definitely had more strict gender restrictions, men originally operated telephone switchboards. In short time, it was found that women were generally more pleasant to deal with over the telephone than men.

      And to your statement that female broadcasters get more complaints, I’d offer up the Office Space analogy…. “Corporate accounts payable Mina speaking. Just a moment”. “Corporate accounts payable Mina speaking. Just a moment”. “Corporate accounts payable Mina speaking. Just a moment”.

      Short term to the phone caller, Mina isn’t annoying. But if you sit at the desk near her, she will annoy the snot out of you. And since females tend to be more sing-song-ish with their vocalizations and men tend to be more monotone with their voices, it only stands to reason that certain women’s vocal ticks would annoy someone who has developed an annoyance to hearing them.

      My boss currently has that thing that young females and liberal males do where the end their sentences with a raised pitch and couch as it if it was almost a question and not a statement. It just doesn’t sound good on an older feller than myself with a very deep voice.

  3. Sadly, I know some otherwise intelligent people who let this electronic demon into their homes.

    She, you know, makes it easy to turn down the thermostat so you don’t have to use your hand. :p

    • I just had a new HVAC system put in last week. When offered a new thermostat, I wanted something requiring me to use my hand. That’s what I got. It’s easier and more intuitive to use than the old one, and it has a BACKLIT LCD display! It’s plenty enough for me, TYVM…

      • Yeah, Marky, I’d just as soon have the old-school version with the mercury switch. But the backlit display can be nice in the dark.

        • As long as the thermostat doesn’t phone home or phone the meter, I’m good. Mine doesn’t. My old one was LCD also, but it wasn’t backlit. Plus, to change its functions, I had to remove the cover, then switch to the function I want. With this one, I just use a button to change functions and/or temp. It has bigger digits; it’s easier to use (when does that ever happen with technology?!); and it has a back lit display. I’m very happy with it.

          • I meant to say phone my smart meter. I must say that, since I got my smart meter, my bills have gone DOWN 20%-25%!

            • “Smart meter”… I’ll be glad when I’m out of the city. I’ll have nothing to do with an electrical grid ever again.

              My bills have greatly decreased since I decentralized my climate control (window type ACs and swamp cooler, rather than my blood-sucking “heat pump”). No “smart” appliances needed.

              • I bought too much home myself for a single person. I ended up cutting off 1/2 the home and run window AC and space heaters. My winter bill dropped nearly 2/3 after ditching the furnace and summer bill over 1/2 going window AC. Only keeping the areas I use comfortable versus living like Al Gore, the less I pay and the happier I am.

        • Worked a grain dryer at a grain elevator, the leveling augur at the top of the dryer used a mercury switch to turn off the augur when the grain dryer filled full with wet grains or sunflowers.

          The dryer fed the grain down two sides about a foot wide and twelve feet high with a good twenty feet of length to the columns. Galvanized sheet metal formed a peak and the top of the dryer held extra wet grain to where the leveling augur was positioned, about a half a foot from the top of the sides.

          An augur at the bottom of the dryer would remove dried grain and feed it back to one of the legs, a belt with cups, to a bin ready to hold the dried grain.

          You would always send too much grain into the bottom of the leg and plug it sometimes. Some things just go wrong when they shouldn’t.

          You were removing grain all of the time from the bin with the wet barley, sunflowers, it gravity fed the grain through a chute into the dryer columns and the leveling augur moved the grain all the way to the front of the dryer.

          A thousand gallon propane tank held the propane with lines to three burners with hefty fans to move hot air. Used about 20,000 gallons of propane that harvest.

          The mercury switch did a lot of work.

      • So much of the latest and greatest tech is completely unnecessary, if even useful. You really need your cell phone connected to all your appliances so you can control them when you aren’t there? For Gods sake, I recently bought a new Phillips Sonicare tooth brush, which I highly recommend, and one of the models had a cell phone connection. For what I have no idea, since it didn’t interest me in the least. Other than to double the price.

    • I remember a report recently where those smart thermostats in Texas of all places were automatically being turned up outside of the home and then people could not turn them back down. The first thing i would do in a home with those in it is replace the meter with something off the grid. My guess is kind of like the internal combustion engine its only a matter of time before uncle makes anything but a smart thermostat illegal.

      • Around here they’re pushing “energy audits” and you can get a couple of “smart” thermostats for free. Thanks but no thanks, I have forum zones with old timey manual clock thermostats that I’m perfectly capable of programming. I will never allow any appliance that is connected to the internet into my house; don’t need the fridge to tell me when I’m getting low on beer, I can see that all by myself 😆

  4. You can unplug Alexa, she won’t be listening to a word you say and the conversation is over.

    I suppose you could disconnect/disable Alexa in your car, but it might not start then either. You don’t need that digital junk, your phone will do it all, superfluous gadget that is basically useless to you. Don’t need no stinkin’ Alexa.

    Buy a car with a radio and purchase a fm feed to the radio from your phone.

    Google is listening all of the time too. I just say shut up and quit listening, but you know Google is always listening. Just don’t talk or unplug your Google Home device, it is over then.

    Alexa can hear you from the second floor in the house. I was working a bathroom remodel at my son’s house. I swore loudly, cursed a minor mistake, Alexa heard every word.

    “That’s not a very nice way to ask,” replied Alexa.

    Sounds like they want to know more about you than thought. har

    • Funny, the ’63 Dart I had back in the early 80s, when I needed to get back and forth to school, and then carry my clearing gear for doing janitorial work in the dead of night, didn’t come with Alexa…it had a $49 “KRACO” stereo with two Jensen “Tri-Ax” speakers I got at a garage sale for ten bucks! Somehow, I managed to make my appointed rounds at the time.

    • The technology today is dirt-cheap, as is a built-in, dedicated cell phone, that simply “uploads”, especially when cell network demand is who’s to say that per “Gubmint Fatwa”, such a listening device won’t be installed ANYWAY?

  5. ‘Wrongthinkful words, for instance. Like election fraud.’ — EP

    Indeed. A Benford’s Law analysis of California’s 2020 presidential election results — similar to one for Michigan that appeared last November and then got wiped from the web — has turned up.

    Benford’s Law says that contrary to one’s intuition, the leading (first) digits of many sets of numbers are not equally distributed, but rather have more low digits (ones through threes) and fewer high digits (fours to nines) than a simple one-ninth equal probability of occurrence for each digit.

    The IRS has used Benford’s Law to analyze complex tax returns to identify candidates for audit.

    John Smith (pseudonym?) presents such an analysis for California. Using precinct-level data, in-person vote totals for Trump and Biden conform well to Benford’s Law. Vote-by-Mail (VBM) totals do NOT.

    In fact, Biden’s VBM totals show the same pattern the IRS looks for: a too-equal distribution of leading digits — which a naive fraudster or coder, unaware of Benford’s Law, would generate using a random number table.

    Another chart toward the bottom of the article shows a dramatic change toward a higher ratio of votes for Biden in large precincts with over 2,000 votes. Again, that’s consistent with how a fraud would be pulled off: you tamper with large precincts because that’s where your interventions get the most bang for the buck.

    The patterns revealed in this article look really abnormal and damning. But the author doesn’t address a key question: why tamper with VBM votes in California, where Biden presumably was a lock even without fraud?

    One hypothesis: VBM fraud was national in scale, bumping VBM results in all states — again, in a naive attempt to produce a consistent pattern of a ‘Biden wave’ everywhere.

    Whatever the case, never again let the Lügenpresse claim that allegations of vote fraud are ‘baseless’ (one of their mindless formulaic invocations). This analysis borders on a smoking gun, calling for a deeper audit. Ask the IRS what they would do, if leading digits in a tax return showed such gross internal discrepancies as revealed here.

    • Although it’d seem intuitive that if the Democrats nominated Binky the Clown to run for POTUS, he’d carry Cali(porn)ia handily, as a denizen of the once “Golden” State, I can offer several reasons:

      1) Insurance – perhaps their own internal polling indicated that OM had a SLIM chance, so better to make it NONE.
      2) Coat-tails – even if the POTUS/VP ticket is assured, there were still 53 congressional seats (now down to 52, thanks to folks EXITING the once-Golden State), not all were a “shoo-in”. Not to mention that all 80 Assembly seats and some of the 40 State Senate seats were up for grabs, as well as a number of ballot initiatives. So yes, still incentive to “fudge”.
      3) Lastly, a big thing being pushed is the “Popular Vote” Compact, of which CA is a signatory. The idea is that a State pledges to make its electors follow the NATIONAL vote tally, rather than the will of its voters. Never mind that in many cases this was done w/o actually amending that’s state’s constitution, and, of course, the US Constitution forbids “compacts” between states w/o approval of the Congress. Thus far, it’s only been states that typically vote Democrat anyway, so it’s been largely moot. But what could have been worse to sell it than, say, having Biden win the Electoral College, but LOSE the popular vote? Or, had Trump won both (which I believe he did), have him chortling the states that had signed the compact, “Hey, where are MY electoral votes, since you said that the overall national tally overrides the will of YOUR electorate?”. Hence a reason to do it in CA, even if that’s tantamount to running up the score.

  6. Apologies for the cross-posting, but I believe this is relevant here:

    “While public agencies are not perfect, at least they would not have profit-making as their top priority,” [Chi Chi Wu of the National Consumer Law Center] told the House Committee on Financial Services during her testimony. “They would be responsive to public pressure and government oversight. They could also be charged with developing credit scoring models to reduce the yawning racial and economic inequality in this country.”

    Under the guise of consumer protection, this will easily morph into a de facto social credit system. Utter an unapproved opinion within earshot of Alexa and watch your score plummet.

  7. In a normal, well functioning free market this sort of thing wouldn’t be a problem. At one time it wasn’t. Then came Napster, the DMCA, section 320 and the camel’s nose was followed by a hump or two. No investor in their right mind would back a social media startup that didn’t have a section about how they will police their “users” and work with copyright holders to remove copyrighted or illegal content. This basically codified spying on users in law.

    Alexa et al are a problem for sure, but so is the “me too” nature of today’s ossified tech companies. No one has had a good idea in years. In-Q-Tel invests heavily in startup companies that seem like they might have some crossover uses: highlights some that we know about. I’m certain they’ve backed Google in the early days, and the DHS uses Amazon cloud for many of their “activities.”

    I’m not normally a tinfoil hat type, but when the Sand Hill Rd boys see In-Q-Tel as one of the investors, they back up the truck. What’s in your 401(k)? And startup founders understand far too well that the market isn’t in users, it’s in advertisers and investors. Advertisers (well, ad agencies) want metadata to justify their ad spend. “Investors” want metadata to fight terrorists. Founders who play ball get rewarded. Founders who don’t troll GitHub.

  8. The local radio station I listen to has been giving those things away for “free” something like every hour on the hour for weeks now. It’s so blatant.

  9. My extended family is somewhat skeptical of “big sister”, but they fall back on the excuse” they already know what you’re doing so it doesn’t matter”. They want the convenience and such.

    My response is always that they may very well know much of what I’m doing but I’m not putting the fu@king wire tap in my house and car for them.

  10. Ol’ Ted Kaczynski may have had a point –“the technophiles are taking us all on an utterly reckless ride” and and that technology “will eventually acquire something approaching complete control over human behavior”. (source: TK’s manifesto, requoted in an OpEd that I just closed, sorry).

    • Hi Mike,

      Ol’ Ted had a point…

      I was talking with someone about this business earlier today; the problem – for those of us who do not wish to be party to it – is that all of us are carried along by the wishes of those who do. Most people want smartphones; ergo, it is very difficult to not have a smartphone. Most people want appliances with overwrought electronics – computers and displays. Ergo, it is very difficult to find an appliance without these things.

      Another prophet with regard to technology was Frank Herbert, author of the Dune series. He projected a future war of humans against AI – which the humans won.

      I wonder, will we?

      • Which the humans won at tremendous cost. His son wrote a novel about the Butlerian Jihad, and though he wouldn’t make a pimple on his father’s cheek as a writer, high or low, it was supposedly written from Frank’s outline.
        I was enlightened to the evils of Alexa very shortly after it was introduced. She is indeed always listening, and everything she hears goes into the Amazon cloud, as does Amazon’s services rendered to the state. Which are quite profitable. Do you suppose Amazon would withhold any information from its most valued single customer? “Would you like a drink?” says William Cosby.

        • The fact that Amazon stores and processes all of Alexa’s data within the same cloud outsourced and contracted for use by government itself should be a gigantic YUUUUUUUUUGE neon-red flag right there! Now, since backdoors are a thing, one would be a fool to believe that all that data, tracked by IP and geolocation, will be “anonymized”.

          That and Alexa is very creepy! My brother has one and it just feels wrong to have such a demon minding the house, akin to also having an Illuminous False Prophet Shrine within the living room to worship at within submissive silence. And I’m really geeky regarding technology while, at the same time, knowing that there are some places where tech should NEVER be involved (elections and behind the wheel, as two immediate examples). But there is such as thing as Palantir, as in the Lord Of The Rings and the technology company, where you can see others while it stares right back at you.

      • “Most people want appliances with overwrought electronics – computers and displays. Ergo, it is very difficult to find an appliance without these things.”

        Difficult but not impossible. Most people don’t look past the showroom floor of home depot or lowes and those only seem to cary the ones with the most and latest gizmos and gadgets. However when one looks deeper you can find products that are still made for the most part in the old style and sometimes they are even cheaper. I was able to get a maytag washing machine that not only still uses an agitator, but it’s controls are simple dials and none of that push button computer stuff.

        Also, for the appliances that fo have the fancy tech, one has to hook up said devices to the wifi for them to begin the spying process. If they aren’t hooked up they just become an expensive device that have features that are currently not in use. Kind of like my wife’s refrigerator that is wifi capable but i never hooked it up. True, she looses some features, but at least i don’t have the fridge spying on me every time i speak or open it up.

        • I will keep my 2005 model R-134a Whirlpool rear-condenser model until it lives no more. No woke appliances for us!

          BTW, you can still get refrigerators that do not connect to the AC mains either! Natural gas or propane fuelled. Big ones too, not just RV-sized. Seems there is a market for them, Amish and related groups mainly, but it does make one wonder what else is out there on the unconventional appliance market.

        • Many such devices will automatically hook up to your WIFI if it isn’t secure. I have a pair of hearing aids that hook up blue tooth to my laptop, and so to my audio/video equipment, which is quite nice. But if I disconnect it, it may turn around and reconnect without any action on my part. The only way to ensure it doesn’t is to remove the hearing aids from the blue tooth device list.

      • Get a “Roper” washer and dryer set for $450. Simple rotary dials, just like what my mother would have used when I was a rug rat. They still wash and dry clothes adequately.

      • Hi Eric,
        I’ve always felt that “Terminator” and its sequel “T2” were borderline documentaries (except for the time travel aspect). Skynet looms closer every day. I read somewhere that the military is working on or already has autonomous drones – what could possibly go wrong? 😖

  11. My family makes fun of me for my flip phone…and has often tried to persuade me that I “need” a smartphone”. We don’t have alexa although someone in our home may have had some sort of google home device at one point – checking now to make sure it’s deactivated… “Convenience” isn’t really a virtue – it is the struggle that makes things worth having.

    I tell my family I need a smartphone like I need a three-armed sweater.

    • Band of the flip phones. It has saved me a Ton of money over the decade(s?). I wonder sometimes how much people pay for smartphones and the service over a ten or twenty year period, is it enough to buy a new car?

      I imagine a three armed sweater would have the extra sleeve hanging off the back, the better to yank.

      Insert audio of The Wicked Witch saying, “The better to yank you with, my pretty! Muahahaha!” here X.

      I always think of HAL in the film, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ whenever I see or hear mention of Alexia. She creeps me out.

      • I tell my family that their best computer is and will always be their brain. Never rely on technology for anything – it will not only let you down, it will eventually own you.

    • I’d like to know where you can get a cell phone without GPS tracking. I spent at least a month looking for one, and settled for the dumbest smart phone I could find, and turned everything off except for telephone and texting ability. I’m sure that isn’t much protection, but its all I know to do. It does spend a great deal of its time in a faraday cage, aka metal candy box.

      • I don’t “allow” my phone to have internet access (turned off the feature), so I assume(d) that was enough…but should know never to trust any provider of any information carrying technology.

      • RE: GPS tracking.

        If you dial 911, and it connects to the 911 in your area, doesn’t that mean it has GPS tracking?

        • Which is the excuse given for requiring cell phones to have GPS. To identify the location the 911 call came from.

      • JK,

        Cell phones without GPS ARE ILLEGAL! That’s right; they’re illegal. I had an old Motorola Star Tac flip phone that I misplaced and then found years later. I took it in to be reactivated, and the guy said he couldn’t do it; he said it was illegal, because it doesn’t have GPS on it.

    • Is it possible to have it both ways? I have a tiny $10 LG touchscreen TracFone that is Android-free like a flip-fone but offers only the features I want like a “smart” fone. I can text if I want, play MP3 files, do measurement conversions, and other basic yet useful functions. It offers what I need without the crap apps I never needed with the benefit of a touchscreen. And while it has WiFi capability I never use it (that and the apps are too old on it to really connect to the ‘net anyway).

      At the end of 2020 TracFone was wanting me to “upgrade” to a “smart” fone because the 3G cel network was being discontinued. I guess many others are holding out because my fone still works.

      • I’m with you, Mark. I have what is probably an even older dumbphone. Had mine for 7 years now. They are speaking of phasing out 3G here, too, at which time I’ll be forced to buy a twonky or go without a cell of any kind.

        I’ve thought, perhaps, a Linux based unit so I can truly control its content and updates, but we’ll see.

        • When they phased out 2G (I think it was) my flip phone was a hold out, too. They sent me a free replacement phone in the mail.

          I might go back to a landline if the only option in the future is a sthmart phone.


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