Future Boy

Day 1:Β Start again: in Good News PT is back today. YAY.

The Next Chapter Bar

Today I am here to remind you that the Future is not as forgiving and understanding as some of you seem to believe.

In the last week, a significant number of people in my timeline have seen some form of bank fraud happen in their accounts. Is it a coincidence that the biggest breach of data ever took place shortly before this? I dunno, but it’s a sage reminder to check your online accounts, making sure you don’t hold excess cash in your main account. Any excess (if you are that lucky) should be stuffed elsewhere, regardless of whether it gets saved or not. Also? Two factor authentication as standard on any app handing your money.

I digress however, but only slightly. It’s time to reference the fact that tons of privately marked tweets were, it transpires, easily accessible to anyone on an Android phone. This isn’t really news at all, because the idea of Private Messaging and Encrypted apps should be ridiculous to anyone who still holds onto any belief that the Internet is some kind of mysterious place like it was back in the 1990’s, where Government never listens and big business cannot capitalise.

Privacy, in a public space, is the biggest issue everybody should be talking about.

When you step back and consider facts, a lot of stuff is pretty well looked after. There are some basic mistakes that shouldn’t be made as consumers: online banking passwords really ought not be the same as the ones you use for porn site access. ANYTHING with a nominal value to your existence on the Internet should have a secondary form of authentication, preferably NOT tied to a mobile device.

However, what is abundantly apparent in recent years is that certain companies don’t really care about the privacy of the data you share. When you forget that Big Brother doesn’t need to watch you if you are dumb enough to use services without thinking through the consequences, the police and other organisations won’t even need a warrant to hack your Facebook account if every message you spew forth is tinged with hate. It’s just there, shouting into the void.

Just because nobody replies to you, does not mean there’s nobody listening.

The most amazing thing of all, of course, is that all this data combined adds up to an amazing way to unconsciously propel lots of industries forward. Targeting the right people online; not smart enough to grasp their news is fabricated but capable of casting votes, is one high profile example of using freely available data to influence all our futures. Yet people complain their privacy has been invaded, despite the unavoidable truth that this is not totally the fault of those doing the exploiting.

Let’s take an example: let’s say you wanted to train a camera to more accurately distinguish how faces age over time, as part of wanting to employ face recognition software for law enforcement. Picking the same person with… a ten year age gap between two pictures would be a decent starting point, wouldn’t it…?

[FX: Removes Tinfoil Hat]Β Okay, so maybe not everything is a government conspiracy, but on the other hand if you people could just stop sharing every single thing about yourselves 24/7 then the AI would have a far harder time deciding what you really like, before serving it up to you on a lovely, buy now and save 21%Β platter. I know that’s not going to happen, and a lot of people are betting on the same being true, or else I wouldn’t have a ton of people trying to invite me to a bazillion new ‘gamer only’ or ‘writer only’ social networks, or using my ratings to condemn delivery drivers and private cabs to personal hell if they don’t turn up on time.

‘Leave a review’ they say. Response to my blog posts is largely non-existent. What future is there in the writing world if you’re required to have a 3.6 star rating or above on your Blog before anybody will even retweet you? Has anybody thought through these systems properly, or are we condemned to a future where a Black Mirror episode looks more like a documentary of how life in the future was perfectly represented from a fictional past?

When I was a kid, the Future was shiny suits and flying cars. Now it’s all data and peer pressure and living a life online that should never be there in the first place. If your privacy really matters, stop doing shit online. It is terribly easy, and takes no effort at all to achieve: get your dick picks out of my DM’s, stop posting your cleavage in order to make you feel good about yourself. It isn’t difficult. You are the arbiter of your own destiny.

The only person making you share everything is yourself.

Goodbye

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The first time I saw an Apple Computer was the 1980’s: the new vinyl cutting machine that my mother had bought to start a home business was run by a IIe, so that makes it 1984 by the Internet’s unerring reckoning. Ever since, there’s been one in our house or in my handbag. I took a tablet for both US trips as my laptop and it was perfect for purpose. Mostly, I’ve used the brand in the last decade out of a sense of misguided loyalty, because it is simply easier not to worry about alternatives when everything works just fine.

Except, in the past few years, I’ve begun to get uncomfortable. It began with the Watch, which I suppose was an inevitable evolution from the Phone but for me is too invasive for my liking. There is no avoiding the reduction in tech size, and as it becomes increasingly easy to pay for stuff by just wafting potentially unsecured electronics about? Security is a big concern. I’ve never sat well with the idea of ‘offsite backups’ for personal pictures, never used the Cloud to keep anything of importance, and now that’s being forced on me by iTunes my discomfort’s become irritation that needs treatment.

Yesterday’s new iPhone launch was effectively the proverbial straw.

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Facial recognition is something I have a problem with, for a lot of reasons, some of which are quite complex and psychological. Honestly, if I don’t want to look at myself in the morning and that’s the only way of accessing my phone? Fuck you, not happening.Β The automatic assumption that this is a) cool and b) desirable simply confirms the future as being dictated by a group of narcissistic wannabees staring at screen and not each other and frankly, I want no part of that. I’m going to find a new way of living without this version of tech: Fitbit are about to launch a watch/health tracker with a contactless chip embedded within. When this watch wears out I’ll upgrade to their service, link just one personal bank account to it and enter the Future that way.

The other, more concerning issue is pricing, and how people are clearly prepared to pay increasingly large amounts of money for a status symbol that’s driving the Planet to self destruction. Okay, so I’m a tad melodramatic but seriously, $1000 for a phone is stupid.Β Spend the money on something worthwhile, or maybe give that money to someone who has nothing and would be forced to steal your phone as a result. I know I’m not allowed to tell people how to live, but that’s a food budget across a month, possibly two, for a normal family. If all you see is your life and not the consequences to everyone else… I’ve been writing about causality this week, and it’s been like clouds parting and a giant shaft of sunlight shining on truth.

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I’ve gotta make sure I don’t start being an evangelical about all of this, but when I think about priorities and what matters in my life? All I need is a hard drive for music and a phone to play an occasional game on that takes pictures. Everything else is covered in other ways, under my control and not a software company’s, and that’s the way I think I’d like it to stay going forward. The future, at least for me, is no longer praying at this corporate altar.