Parsing the Telescreen, Slouching into the Gulag

Sez I, we are barreling into a world of mixed unreality and invited surveillance, not quite noticed but at warp speed. The unreality? We can now do politicians in video software and make them convincingly say things more reprehensible then they would themselves. The surveillance creeps in like a barely noticed smell. It creeps and will creep. Consider:

Several years ago Vi and I bought a sixty-five inch LG screen that we use for watching YouTube and Netflix. It has search-by-voice. Thus by pressing a button on the remote to wake it up, we can say, “Tianjian automated Chinese seaport,” and it will find the relevant sites on the web. Of course we have no way of knowing whether it is listening the rest of the time. Since it is convenient, we are not important, and we don’t say anything criminal or probably even very interesting, we use it.

The screen also has control-by-gesture. It doesn’t work very well, and I would feel like an idiot waving my arms and gesturing at a television, so I have never learned it. However, we have no way of knowing whether and when it is watching us. Just in case, we confine human sacrifice and orgiastic sex with farm animals to the garage so, if it is watching, we will be boring.

We also have two Alexa boxes, one in the kitchen and one in my office. These are marvels. The speakers aren’t bad for the price and Alexa is good at providing on voice command any music ever written. This is very nice indeed, though I suspect that most of us are so used to such things as not to notice how nice they are. Violeta uses this greatly while cooking.

Alexa’s hearing is eerie. If Vi says, “Alexa, play Lohengrin” while  in the kitchen, often Alexa’s sister in my office will respond as well. The the kitchen and the office are in rooms separated by two plate-glass walls and a long hall with a right angle. This is astonishing acuity. Since Alexa in my office will sometimes get the music wrong, the two aren’t communicating electronically. Again, we find the convenience more appealing that the surveillance threatening. Besides, no one would bother listening to us, unless of course we were writing unflattering columns about that unevolved  truculence in the White House.

I am writing this in my-office using text-to-speech software. Everyt time Alexa hears her name, she asks what I want.

I have just read that there is a video game called Call of Duty, which apparently millions of the young use to lower their IQs and avoid doing anything useful as they struggle with each other electronically. The parent company, Activision, is now incorporating AI software that listens to the martial shouts of remote and disembodied warriors to check for inappropriate language. This of course includes anything racial, uninclusive, offensive, triggering, sexist, and so on. This is said in today’s awkward English to have as purpose the improving of the gaming experience and the protection of women, though it probably means girls.

Saith the article, one in ten of distaff gamers has been driven to “suicidal thoughts” by insults during her hours as an online Boadicea. This is interesting. In the age of the  Pride and Prejudice sort of novel, women were always fainting on any provocation and dashing for the swooning couch, and they had to carry umbrellas in sunny weather so as not to damage their delicate skins. This strikes me as fraud as in my appalling number of years on the planet I have never seen a woman faint or even look as if she were considering it. They were too busy running marathons and scuba diving and wearing bikinis at high noon, to the great betterment of mankind.

But now it seems that they will take poison if insulted by tiresome twerps while killing enemy soldiers online–instead of saying, for example, “Grow up.” It appears that we are going to have moral uplift as pretext for surveillance of conversation. This electro-linguistic mommyism can easily be extended to high school bathrooms, locker rooms, or indeed any place thought proper to be monitored for acceptable values by government, which is to anywhere at all. There is no technical reason why it can’t be extended to Alexa boxes.

We should be grateful that we don’t live in a surveillance state like China.

OK, AI and language.  Computers today can understand spoken language, or at least come close enough to be dangerous. For example, if I say to my iPhone, “Hey Siri, in Spanish how do you say “If I had more money, I would buy myself a bright red Corvette,” she gets it exactly right, subjunctive, reflexive, conditional. That’s not mechanical replacement. A lot of syntax lives in that short sentence. People with time on their hands can argue about whether machines are conscious and whether they “really understand,” but if what they do is indistinguishable from understanding, that’s close enough for jazz.

That’s not quite understanding because the translation software probably couldn’t answer the question, “What would Fred do if he had the money.{” But you can have a real conversation with Chat GPT. Which is real understanding.

If I mistake not, this means that Alexa boxes can, or shortly will be able to, monitor what people are talking about wherever it is practical to put a microphone, which is pretty much everywhere. We are now used to ubiquitous cameras. We pay no attention to them. We would–will?–quickly get used to microphones in public places, and are already comfortable with cameras and microphones in our homes (the Alexa boxes) and in our pockets, iPhones. Any device activated by voice command must be listening for that command, and thus potentially everything we say. Where, if anywhere other conversation goes is an open question..

If I may throw in a somwhat-related  thought, of course all of our credit-card transactions, bank dealings, and their times and places, and phone records, are recorded, this thought harmless because only commercial entities, not the government, have access to them. Read Ed Snowden’s book, Permanent Record. The social media know more about us than we know about ourselves. To all of which, government has access. If you believe otherwise, you should have a second lobotomy.

Onward and upward.

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Comments 32

  • “We also have two Alexa boxes, one in the kitchen and one in my office. ”

    Why not get rid of them? Buy an old CD player, and listen to your music without the cloud and the web.

    Not convenient? Well, you answered your own question, Fred.

    A few years ago they did a test-run in Sweden, where people could be microchipped with their banking info, so payment would no longer require cash or a credit card, but simply waving your hand (in which the chip is implanted) over the reader.

    People lined up to get this. Convenience.

    Let that be the epitaph of Western Civilization, privacy, and our former democracy: “Death by convenience. And they loved every minute of it.”

  • Why do you want to live in North Korea Lite?

    We grew up without any of this crap and am I glad we did…

  • My wife keeps her phone on the kitchen table and thought she had turned off Google Voice, but while talking to a friend (live, not on the phone) she mentioned that she was interested in buying an XXXX. Her phone was immediately deluged with ads for XXXX. We have NO privacy.

  • As you point out, this crap is nearly everywhere and the reach grows every day. There are a few easy things we can do, like turning applications and devices off, along with judicious use of Faraday bags. I also have post it notes for my web cameras, and ditched all social mania. This will of course do nothing for license plate readers, public space cameras, drones, google earth, Stingray airplanes, and the NSA.
    What you mention about payment methods is exactly why the assorted powers-that-be would love a digital currency card/national ID card. Instant China, and an instant “off” switch for trouble makers. RFID locking firearms is apart of the plan, since who gives a shit what you own, as long as it can turned off with a few clicks on a computer.

  • I have never had a cell phone. I said initially that I never wish to that available. I have never been on social media, I drive a 22 year old standard Nissan Max and keep it in great condition. I cover up the camera on my hardwired Ipad with electricians’ tape and make sure the microphone is always off. I don’t have anything saved on the cloud. There are no cameras in or on my home, no Alexa, no google voice and I use a landline. I read books, watch dvds and listen to my enormous library of cds. I was recently told by a long ago aquaintance that I was extremely difficult to find.

    Good. I wish to remain anonymous.

    • got off the socialist media 25 years ago. All my now idiot friends were playing “Farmville” and I thought to myself…WTF are you doing playing a clearly socialist behavioral capture tool?? That was it. I never had the urge to let people know when I was in the toilet or other such stupid things people do on those platforms. That being said, forgive me I had a moment of weakness, i got drawn into Socialist media for a very short stint. Then nearly as quickly as i got on it, I got off it!
      Then I learned what these corporate entities were doing with my data and I opted out of ALL of it cleaning up all my diarrea of data left behind like snail slug trails. I thought it would be a good idea to have a smart house. So i studied and studied and fiddled with devices, not realizing that i was building my own prison surveillance system. When i came to that realization I ripped it ALL out. Too late? Nah, better late than never. Now I’m a person that friends come to asking for privacy advice and how to achieve it by leaving the systems. . Now my friends say the same things “You’re a hard guy to find”, to which I reply, “by design, by design my friends.”

    • According to the left, you are a “domestic terrorist”.

  • I think the water has been heating a very long time and it is about to come to a boil.

    • Our liberty’s are violated everyday. Watch out for Big Brother. Government needs to be cut back not expanded. If we are not careful with AI it will overtake many of our basic thought processes.

    • I have the same experience with Amazon.

      I’m interested in a gray fanny pack for my wife. I search for gray fanny packs on Amazon. The next day I’m drenched in adds for gray fanny packs that consume the add space for whatever I’m surfing.

      And yes, Alexa is monitoring your environment 100% of the time. I’m watching a movie that includes a breaking window. Alexa intervenes on the screen to let me know that glass is breaking somewhere in the house … somebody breaking in?

      Rest assured your conversation are being intercepted, analyzed, and sold as content relevant to companies involved in marketing, social attitudes, and politics.

      Facebook set the definitive model. YOU are the product … YOU are for sale.

      Do I give all of this up for a modicum of privacy? I’m not there yet. I like the idea of a polite slave girl (albeit digital) at my beck and call to satisfy my every question and every (non-pornographic) need. Roman emperors were not so blessed.

      I suspect that those who have needs for privacy will descend into quiet, non-digital refuges in which they partake on non-digital exchanges with their co- conspirators.

      “Samizdat” is back … Solzhenitsyn comes back from the grave to save us again!

  • Nobody fainted in Pride and Prejudice…the Brits were pretty tough in those pre-Victorian days during the Napoleonic Wars…But I get what you’re driving at, in this age of arrested development and general wimpiness…

  • The surveillance threat from Google and the social media companies is benign — they are solely in the business of collecting advertising revenue. The old adage that TV programming is merely fill between advertisements still prevails. Whatever we watch, say, or do is merely fill/noise to them, between advertising clicks.

    But, the government intrusion in this is a bit more sinister. Rush Limbaugh said it best: “The more time I spend covering politics, the more I’m convinced that a significant chunk of grassroots political activists aren’t really arguing about politics at all. These folks are actually grappling with personal psychological issues and projecting it onto the world of politics.” Recent Pew research shows in the 18-29 year age demographic, 56% of liberal women and 34% of liberal men have been diagnosed with a mental illness. These mentally-ill Democrats are definitely a threat to the larger population, especially if they force their way into internet surveillance, as they’ve done recently.

  • Nest year is just 40 years since 1984. The tech wasn’t in place back then, but now it’s all systems go.

  • Wagner’s Lohengrin? It’s among my favorite operas. You have great tastes

  • […] Parsing the Telescreen, Slouching into the Gulag, by Fred Reed […]

  • The only way you can but an 85″ Sony OLED is for it to be “smart”. I avoided buying it because I did not want a “smart” TV reporting to Google and the NSA that i enjoy Alex Jones Videos and read Larry Johnson’s blog.
    After 9 phone calls to Sony about whether or not I can delete Google from my TV he informed me that if I don’t accept the terms and conditions that software will not run.
    Welcome to the best of both worlds. The enjoyment of movies to the max without the assholes recording everything i do.
    You think you are safe by saying you are ot an interesting target. How about an easy target?
    Don’t be one.
    That crap does nothing for you unless you are pathological lazy a day don’t care about the real results.
    Google searches are manipulated they don’t even deny it, they return onky what the PTB want you to think. Wikipedia is a lie factory. Alexa is a useless toy,b it it does listen. A friend of mine had one. I told him it reports everything you say. He didn’t believe me until he did an experiment where whenever he came home he said the word “unicorn ” not to the wiretap box but to his wife.
    In 3 days his internet feed was overwhelmed by ads for stuffed unicorn dolls, posters, whatever.
    The next day Alexa got swimming lessons in his pool.
    The Nest thermostat. It connects online to Google and reports everything. Plus it has a microphone for “future features ” I suppose like preventing you from setting cooling below 80 degrees to “save the planet”
    Dump all that crap unless you can control it. My TV has a limited internet connection that I control. So far nothing unauthorized.

    Fred, you disappoint me.

  • I avoided getting a cell phone, but my mother, rest her soul, insisted I get one when I travel to reassure her when I get to where I am going. Then I got a job which required a cell, so either that or go on the unemployment line.

  • Welcome to America!
    Alabama 6-Year-Old Suspended for Using ‘Finger Guns’ During Cops and Robbers Game
    Michael Clements

    It’s become a cliché that when a student breaks a rule, a teacher or administrator may threaten them with punishment that will remain on their “permanent record.” But for one Alabama 6-year-old, that threat seems plausible, and the child’s father is not having any of it.

    “They labeled my six-year-old as a potentially violent and dangerous student because he was being a little boy and playing cops and robbers with another student (who was also suspended) and using his fingers like a gun,” Jarrod Belcher, the boy’s father, wrote in a statement released Friday, Sept. 8.

  • You can break wind in a room with Alexa and she goes ‘Ewwwww! Gross!’

  • Fred,
    You think you actually have to say problematic things (i.e. thought/speech crimes) within earshot of one of your multiple digital soplones to be subject to a threat to your personal security? You were a police reporter, no? You can’t possibly be that naive. Your first paragraph spells out the threat. If the technology is in use now producing deep fakes of politicians, in less than two years it will come as pre-installed bloatware on your next new phone. When you or any contact gets their phone hacked (which happens within minutes of first turning it on), the bad guys will have everything they need on them, you, and everyone you’ve ever had the least digital contact with to produce amazing quality 3-D video of any of you plotting world conquest with Kim Jong-il, or whomever.

    None of those gadgets are your friends: “anything you say, don’t say, gesticulate or don’t gesticulate, will be used against you…”

  • FaInting couches
    As i understand it they were a real “Thing” in the DAZE when wealthy women and those who wanted to fit into that crowd to be “In style” wore corsets.

    Strang things humans do to “Belong”

    I reflect, when did the now long gone humanoid species make the fatal mistake of deciding “Group think” was preferable to indivudual responsibility

    Peace and prosperity through personal responsibitity

  • :That’s not mechanical replacement”

    …..It isn’t? That’s your issue here that I high lighted previously. You’re a straight line thinker and not a stochastic one. It is mechanical replacement. But done with maximum probability replacement. You’re just not accustomed to thinking that way. No sin. Not that I would expect a word person to get a mathematical based way of thinking.

  • I heard you a spic-o-phile, but I just made up that and everyone knows what it means. The only solution to our problems is unniggerrigging our elections. Problem: In that is all the total state does. Hint, Drumph was in on it, so DERB WAS CORRECT. We’ re doomed

  • Come on, Govts or their minions, virtually listen and record every thing every person does or says. File it in the cloud to be used at your trial at a later date.

    Am amused when every couple months Apple taps my Bank account for 2.99 for more cloud storage. I’ve canceled their ability to access my account, yet Apple continues to do so.

    My point is at least for me when I’m done with a conversation or purchase, I have no need of recording it in the cloud. I recognize this is a collaboration between Apple and Govt.

    Brilliant actually I’m paying to record stuff for the govt. trust me when it’s my turn in the barrel every stinking piece of data in the cloud will be sifted thru for evidence of any crime. Show me the man, I’ll tell you what his crime is!


  • Cell Phones are not Phones, they are tracking devices that also make Phone calls.

  • This just came to my attention (h/t ZeroHedge). It seems that ways are being devised to use your home Wi-Fi to generate surveillance images inside your residence; apparently, 2-dimensional data can, by using AI capabilities, render Surveillance-State useable 3-dimensional images. A door-kicker’s delight, it is.

    Well, jeez, what’ll they think of next?

    • And the guy who is well-positioned to make major bank on this is helping to develop new Wi-Fi protocols to ease the north of this technology.

      As is pointed out in the link, what is clearly a major upgrade to fascist police state capabilities is being sold as an improvement in “home safety” (it is to laugh), a tactic which should enlist the sympathies of all of those bitches who worship at the altar of the great god of Safety.

  • Good article about spy devices in his home that he bought for convenience.

  • “I know that you and Frank were planning to disconnect me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.” The character HAL from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

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