When I checked my email a couple of days ago, I discovered a message that began, “Don’t mind on my English, I am from India.” I would have trashed it on the spot, but before I could get to the delete button I had already skimmed the next couple of sentences. Then I started to giggle, and slowed down to read the whole thing.
Apparently this enterprising soul had “thiefted all my personal data” by installing malware on my computer while I was visiting a porn site. S/he had all my work and social contacts, and what’s more… (wait for the horror of it all)… s/he had also hacked into my forward-facing webcam while I was on the porn site and captured a video of me masturbating! Unless I paid the ransom, my shameful secrets would be revealed to everyone I know.
Well, I’ve never visited a porn site; I don’t have a webcam; and the research I do on my computer is more likely to inspire snores than sweaty ardour. I’m not exactly trembling in my boots.
But I wonder… does this person actually make money? Are there really that many people visiting porn sites and whacking off in front of their computers…
Don’t answer that. On second thought, I don’t want to know.
But the whole thing got me thinking about all the “smart” devices that are monitoring us without our knowledge. Webcams can be remotely activated. Our cell phones can be hacked to secretly relay audio and/or video. And those are just the beginning.
The other day I noticed a red light blinking on our thermostat. On its screen was a polite reminder to change the furnace filter. Our fridge tells us when it’s time to change its water filter. My car monitors its tire pressure. But we drew the line at a septic pump that would monitor our waste output. There are some things I just don’t need to know; although apparently somebody does, or they wouldn’t have bothered making the thing.
And the smarter my devices become, the dumber I get. (I prefer to blame the devices for this, not advancing age.)
Before I had a smartphone, I used to know my friends’ phone numbers by heart. Now they’re all at my fingertips; and I’m lucky if I remember my own.
Same with special dates. I had them all in my head, and every time I went to the store I’d check my mental list of upcoming birthdays and anniversaries and buy the appropriate cards. Now my smartphone’s calendar reminds me two weeks in advance, and I still forget to buy the damn cards.
Smart devices are teaching us to be helpless. It’s only a matter of time before we’re slumped drooling in antigravity chairs while robots ferry our bloated carcasses from bed to dinner table to toilet and back again. Our fridges will order groceries; our toilet seats will monitor our health; and if we’re plugged into virtual reality we can experience any adventure we desire without even leaving the house.
And when all human contact has been eliminated and our only intimate relationships are with computers, that enterprising soul in India will really make a killing.
Or maybe s/he’ll be too busy watching porn and getting frisky with Rosy Palm and her five daughters…