In the future, artificial intelligence and machine learning will allow us to be happy. We’ll have everything we need before we need it, and all of our favorite products will be shipped without having to head to the store – or even leave the house at all. That’s the future Amazon is trying to sell – Google and Apple, too, in different ways. Do we have a choice in this future – do we even want to choose?
Over the past several years I’ve watched as features on smart devices like the iPhone’s Siri made speaking with a machine a magical affair. Once asking your phone to tell you the answer to any simple question became, in itself, expectedly simple, a subconscious agreement was made amongst the citizenship of this world.
We all agreed to expect that a libertarian view of the tech world was best. Specifically the laissez-faire capitalism bit of the Libertarian Party’s platform. We skipped over the part where we asked: should I really be letting this machine listen to me all the time? We went straight to the part where we decide which of these listening machines we want most.
It’s like Black Friday, where we look through advertisements to find the best deals – when in reality we don’t actually need anything that’ll be on sale. Alexa is very smart, and Amazon’s connected ecosystem is an amazing piece of our modern world.
But like Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Maybe smart assistants shouldn’t have been made into consumer products in the first place. Real independent artificial intelligence is well on the way, and we have little more than a cartoon dog-catchers net with which to keep what’s coming from destroying us all. As Elon Musk warned, AI is “summoning the demon” whether we like it or not.
I implore you to watch each company you buy from – make certain that whenever they sell you a smart product, they tell you the risks first. Make certain they’ve got just as much effort invested in keeping us all safe from unrestricted information gathering as they do in new customization options.
And please remember: if it’s connected to the internet and has a camera, there’s a chance someone else can see you. If it’s connected to the internet and has a microphone, there’s a chance someone you don’t know is listening. If it has GPS on, you’re probably being tracked.