Remember the future

Yesterday, I bought my first robot.

Also yesterday, my Link (cellphone to you) upgraded itself to Android 4.4.2, though I had to manually invoke the “Android RunTime” upgrade.

Today I read about Google buying Boston Dynamics, a company that makes a robot that runs like a cheetah faster than a man, and while I couldn’t quite see the lounge chair on my porch with the satellite view in Google Maps, I can see the front door of a friend’s house. And my Link can guide me from my remote Oregon hilltop to a deli in San Francisco if I ask it to.

At one time, getting lost was the adventure.

They are are floating Google cameras down the Grand Canyon, and two thousand cars  photograph the streets of Hyderabad, India every day. When I was in India the first time, it was on the other side of the world. Now I can drive the streets from my easy chair.

Everything. Is. Being. Digitized.

This column started to be about how we might expect to see a flood, with frozen ground covered by snow, if warm, wet Pacific storms head our way for Christmas as they often do. But something happened on the way to the laptop. A friend recalled the flood of 1964, which we both remembered, then we both realized at about the same time that was a half century ago.

I learned to read from Asimov, Heinlein, Philip K. Dick, Delaney and the others. They took me to worlds where anything that could be imagined could be true, a place better than where I lived. I wrote a paper in sixth grade that described such a place.

I live there, now. Its job done, my vacuum cleaner just put itself away.

Broadband Bandits

Great journalism has finally uncovered evidence that a lack of competition for Internet access has led to price gouging by AT&T, Verizon, Qwest (dba Century Link?) Comcast (xfinity? Really, Comcast?) and the rest of the oligopolists.

This came from the New York Times? Chicago Tribune? Boston Globe? Fox News?

Please. U.S. Media was neutered a decade ago. The story was published by… the British Broadcasting  Corporation. Read it here.

But the report on which the story was based is homegrown, and was produced by the New America Foundation. See the report here. While you still can, before those who control your access to your radio waves and monitor your information requests for profit, and the NSA, prevent you from doing so.

And, apparently, while charging you more than three times for slower Internet than what  those in other nations pay for the privilege. 

No, I am not joking.

By the way, Verizon reported a third-quarter (that’s three months) profit of $2.2 billion in October. AT&T, the second-largest American carrier after Verizon, reported profit of $3.8 billion in the third quarter, up from $3.6 billion  a year ago.

We need to stop the damage these monsters are doing to our America, with the aid of their paid flacks in Washington D.C.

Rep. Greg Walden, have you scurried yet to set up your golden parachute to the telecoms or pharmaceutical industries, or some lobbying firm they hire? Or is it just “understood” wink, wink, nod, nod, that they owe you sooo much?

Turn it off, Part II

I have renamed my “cell phone.” It is now my “Link.” Not just because it links me to the world via communication and information. But also because it is one link in the chain that binds me to their intent.

Cell phones, Internet. Visa Cards. All this noise about the NSA and cell phones: Does anyone really believe, once they have spent four minutes thinking about it, that the NSA has not compromised your (easily revoked) VISA card, your Master’sCard? In exchange for the ability of card companies to condition you into spending more than your limits, or missing payments, so they can charge rates that once were considered usury?

Is anyone so naive to think that VISA, MasterCard, AMEX and the rest don’t slurp your data? And share what they learn with the NSA, and their corporate “partners” (i.e., those willing to purchase the info)? Read the fine print.

Have you ever bought a gift card? Have you received one that represents a corporate “refund” (talking about you, T-Mobile)? Did you know your “money” on that card can evaporate? Read the fine print. And then realize that a percentage of those cards never get redeemed.

Where did that money go?

When in hell did banks take ownership of our money? Our transactions? And how do they get to rent it back to us at discounted value? It’s too late to do anything about it, because they own too many political waterboys like Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, and many others, but it’s good to think about once in a while. Next time you buy something, ask if there’s a cash discount equal to the highest rate your retailer pays for you to use the credit card.

If only for an hour, turn it off. Use cash for your next transaction, at least while you can. They won’t know where you are for that period of time. Until they get the cameras up, or satellites start recognizing cars and addresses… oh, crap. Drones. Too late.

It won’t be long  before there is no “money.”  It’s good for you, it’ll help you keep track of all your expenses. And it’s good for them, they won’t have to pay to print all those $5, $10, $20 and $100 bills. Or keep track of them.

Or lose track of you.

Turn it off.


Okay, I drank way, way too much ice tea last night, and am cruising into this lovely Sunday morning on far too little sleep. But still…

Public garbage cans in London have screens that display advertisements.

Those same garbage cans can recognize smart phones of people walking by.

And if the garbage can sees you going into a different coffee shop than usual, it can flash a “loyalty” message as you walk by.

Who told Ridley Scott and Terry Gilliam they were in charge?

In the past, I loved the future. My first favorite books were science fiction: Assimov, Heinlein, Bradbury, then on to Phillip K. Dick , William Gibson and Samuel R. Delany. There was something liberating about the future, not quite chaotic, not anarchistic, nor autarchistic, but a place… unbound, I guess.

Perhaps the only thing unbound was my imagination. I’ve heard that before. There was, of course, the threat of Orwell, but 1984 came and went and big brother had not arrived.

But now, maybe it has: The NSA. Black boxes under your dashboard record every stop and go, in your car or on your computer. Your cell phone broadcasts a constant stream of who you are, where you are, what you are doing and when. Drones. Verizon. Xfinity. CenturyLink. AT&T.

Yes, I fear corporate snooping more than government snooping, primarily because corporations are better at it and they own our lawmakers. But it doesn’t matter who is perched on my shoulder. Laws protecting privacy are in serious need of review. Because what we feel and what we do can be modified by those who anticipate our behavior through study of the habits of people just like us.

We are losing control not only of our freedom, but of what we think. And it may already be too late.