Thursday, 7 July 2016

LAUGHING ALEXA or ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

The following is the unedited version of an exposé currently featured in the 30th revised edition of Malleus Maleficus,  The Moonshine Memorandum. If you wish to report libel, bias or inaccuracies, please email MalleusMaleficus@aol.com  To make a formal complaint under IPSO rules please contact IPSO directly at ipso.co.uk .  

          
            I have never had a more dire and dreadful premonition against setting foot into the country of the blind. Indeed,  I have to admit to one terrible, irrational fear. I live in mortal dread of one day having to join the digital drones. I’m not being a Luddite here.  But dear God in heaven, I do not wish to be taken hostage in my own home - without any real consciousness of it. Without knowing whether I am the observer or the observed. Did you hear that sound? That’s the cackle of Amazon’s Alexa - essentially a surveillance system – subtly ringing the scale from snigger to titter, via belly laugh into the soundless Utopian sphere of listening for a wake-word. Listening and  learning, it will remember all the people you ever met and everything you ever said. The sound you will not be hearing is when it finishes laughing, but monitoring your activities, providing insights into your offline habits, your secret desires, and your private life, for data brokers stalking you with psychopathic persistence. 
         Remember Winston Smith aka “6079 Smith W” – in George Orwell’s 1984? “The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment . You had to live in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinised.”  
          Yes, it’s all very, very funny. No, really, we can all laugh at the technological apps and gizmos of today's "6079 Smith Ws," or their impotent fury.  As  Christopher Wylie, the whistleblower who worked for Cambridge Analytica, aptly observed: “A computer sees all kinds of sides of you so we can get better than human level accuracy at predicting your behaviour.” What he neglected to mention is that Alexa can also tell when you’re asleep. So you will never be aware of the mind-bending directives proceeding from today’s commercial surveillance society - soon to include cameras that automatically take pictures of things they find “funny.” Well, I’m no longer laughing. Just try to imagine the data that a fully functional surveillance system could gather when being hacked, unbeknown to its users, by a web of intrusive surveillance programmes from a vast voyeuristic dragnet around the world. I just pray they do not get their hands on remotely invasive gene technology, the next step up in the deadly manipulative conspiracy "that currently recommends books for you on Amazon", with special attention to unsought but overriding advice on personal choices and political decisions, essentially
determining what you read, write, or think of, not to mention the build up of abstract mnemonic structures where mutual dependency is digitally guaranteed. You could say it was ingenious. For that’s the Zombie Apocalypse without the laughs of Alexa, Siri and Cortana  – and if you don’t know what Google’s Home Mini[1] is, well, count your lucky stars. For it spies, like it laughs, without ever knowing why. In fact,  every single individual is now a potential  human rights casualty. If MEPs have voted to propose granting legal status to robots, categorising them as "electronic persons" and are warning that new legislation is needed to focus on how the machines can be held responsible for their acts (or omissions), well, they yet appear to be judicially unaware that the great majority of "living persons" have long since been harnessed by complex computer algorithms which not only laugh at you, but predict and determine what you’re likely to do next, or when, to whom and, conceivably also why. 
            Believe me, that's not a joke. Well, obviously it's funny, but it's also the truth. For what the rank and file among sociologists have failed to address is, that if Facebook is the neuromorphic C-and-C, made by and for a self-defining solipsistic social club, then what prevents it from exploiting “the almost unparalleled hoard of personal data it has amassed”[2] on its users, or carry out system instructions collectively? One observer felt more than unease: "Hate attacks,
trolling, fake news, live murders, advertising boycotts, cyber-bullying, facilitating secret communication by terrorists!" That advertisers threatened to quit Facebook over Cambridge Analytica’s election meddling only goes to prove that it is possible to monitor the activities of millions of individuals by extensive micro-targeting. As a self-determining, or “user-generated” information bubble without any
independent frame of reference, it’s rather like The Truman Show. Handing over all the secrets of his soul to a faceless controller observing him remotely, Truman was the loneliest man you’d ever know. More disturbingly,  he was  also symptomatic  of the deeper alienation of the human mind from its own biological nature,  and indeed, custom-made as  a new, engineered type of Mutant.  
            Social networking has become a primary reality, the cyber equivalent of the original 1950s classic The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Indeed, it seems to me that all this must be part of the ever more desperate self-deception underlying our mental development, which is obviously experiencing the electronic equal of an auto-immune disease ravaging its own defences.  For whether  you finally crack and are taken to A & E suffering from Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) – now the commonest form of insanity - or die  from a cocktail of heroin and crack cocaine, is pretty much the same thing once you’ve become habituated to, or even dependent on, the hourly fix of being injected with yet another online-dopamine rush:
             “God, I need a fix now!”
            The other gods are nothing compared to this. You do not have to believe in anything but the most addictive drugs known to the human brain: neurological opiates. Soma for the feeble-minded! Research shows that the brain deactivates the networks used for critical social assessment and negative emotions while it bonds viewers through the chemical reward circuitry. So you start to hate the thing you crave even while you’re craving it. Indeed, it is difficult for me to describe adequately the horrors of the digital apocalypse. But there are in fact one hundred million potential psychos out there. The numbers are breathtaking. As are the many and palpable consequences of an isolated life spent playing mind games on the internet. Nor is it generally realised that we now have two species of men: Humans and Mutants. Of all the exploited, broken, demoralized,  isolated creatures fashioned by the internet, I present you with an entirely new subclass of beings, reared right before your incredulous eyes - and I am not thinking of dead-eyed feral packs of hoodies living on sink estates, but of deeply ‘institutionalised’ reactive individuals who have no real-life identity and no way of engaging with the world outside .... 
Every child is a potential human rights casualty!




[1] Amazon has Alexa, Apple has Siri, Microsoft has Cortana, Google has the Home Mini.

[2] How Facebook’sboss made the right call on mobile advertising. Simon Duke, The SundayTimes 01.05.16

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