Thursday, December 13, 2012

This grid makes me itch!

OK, that does it.  Who do I talk to about getting off the grid?

 Oh wait.  No action needed.  Now that I’ve written the phrase, “getting off the grid,” someone will contact me!  Men in Black tapping on my windows with smart phones and flashy thingies in their hands ready to scan me, diagnose my disgruntlement, prescribe and deliver just the right thing to make me feel all better.
Most certainly I’ll be seeing ads alongside my Facebook newsfeed touting log cabins, the joys of solitude, composting, and raising worms for pleasure and profit. 

That’s right.  Before long now we won’t have to say much of anything to prompt the newest savvy search engines hovering in “the cloud” overhead to send down a lightning bolt of customized ads catering to our every divergent thought. 

Here’s the deepest darkest news:  If Verizon has its way, your TV’s about to become a two-way mirror.  

That’s right; soon what has been a joyously stress-free passive experience, an evening transfixed in front of the flat screen complete with bad posture and dribble spots on the fronts of our shirts, will be transformed into a self-conscious job interview with Big Brother:  As we gaze in, the plasma will peer back out at us.  Sizing us up.  Playing that game.  You remember the game that used to be innocent whereby you sit in the mall and make up lives and professions for the people you see.   

Technology exists now that enables our TVs to look back at us and say, for example, “butcher,” then send you an ad for an apron with that chart showing shoulders and rump roasts and loins.  You know the one.   

Oh yes.  Verizon, jointly with Comcast, Time-Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, has applied to patent technology that will enable TVs to see directly through into people's homes in order to sell them stuff.  It’s listed under “Dangerous Ideas” on Big Think. 

Get this:  Verizon wants to create a "detection zone" around your TV.  In that zone, sensors built into the TV would catch "ambient actions" taking place in the room and use that information to display relevant advertising on the screen.   

Oh.  My.  God.  If that isn’t the creepiest idea ever to slither its way into the baskets of the snake charmers.  It makes MarkZuckerberg look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. 

FYI – under the watchful eye of your service provider your unguarded behavior is defined in the patent application as “a wide range of activities, from eating to arguing to playing with a pet.”   

If that’s not a hacker’s field day!  You know you’re going to wind up in a video set to music on YouTube, struggling with your Schnauzer over that last bit of strudel. 

The area around the Plath TV encompasses an array cat toys in various stages of mutilation and dismemberment.  It might actually be interesting to see what the commercial response would be to such a crime scene.  Would they alert authorities, or send me my own CSI amateur mystery detective crime-solving kit? 

And what might happen if two people are observed to be “snuggling together” with the TV on?  Included in the patent application is an example of how the technology would work in such a situation:  Ads could appear on screen showing a romantic getaway, a commercial for flowers, [or] a commercial for a contraceptive.  They actually said that.  Like it’s a good idea.  Something people might be glad about.  

In the same vein, Google’s trying to discover our “unmet needs for information” via GPS chips and “other sensors” built into our mobile devices.  Google Now already offers unsolicited directions, weather forecasts, flight updates, and other information when it thinks you need them.   

Contextual data can provide clues about a person and his situation, allowing Google to guess what that person wants.  “We’ve often said the perfect search engine will provide you with exactly what you need to know at exactly the right moment…without your even having to ask for it,” says Jon Wiley, electronic stalker, er, User Experience Designer for Google.  

Ha ha ha!  Thanks Jon!   

Psst!  Rather than getmyself off the grid, I want to get the grid off me!