Editor’s note: The following comes from a longtime journalist who specializes in writing for major media outlets and private companies about robots, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Would you allow a government official into your bedroom on your honeymoon? Or let your mother-in-law hear and record every conversation that takes place in your home or car – especially disagreements with your husband or wife? Would you let a stranger sit in on your children’s playdates so that he could better understand how to entice them with candy or a doll?
Guess what? If you bring your phone with you everywhere, or engage with a whole-house robo helper such as Alexa or Echo or Siri or Google, you’re opening up every aspect of your life to government officials, snooping (possibly criminal) hackers, and advertisers targeting you, your spouse and your children.
The following is not a screed against technology. But it is a plea to consider what we’re giving up when we hand over privacy, wholesale, to people whom we can neither see nor hear… people whose motives we cannot fathom.
The widened lanes of communication, and the conveniences that Smart Phones, wireless communities, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have fomented are indeed helpful to some extent. They allow, for example, for remote working, which allows people to spend more time with their families and less time commuting. In areas such as the energy business, the field of predictive analytics, born of Big Data and the Industrial Internet, helps mitigate the danger of sending humans to oil rigs at sea.
And on a personal level, of course, the conveniences are innumerable: Grandparents living far away can “see” their grandchildren more often than they could in years past, thanks to technology such as FaceTime and Skype.
People save money: As you walk by a restaurant, a lunch coupon suddenly appears on your phone.
And they can save time: Someday soon, the Internet of Things might tell your coffee maker and alarm clock to go off before its normal time, because bad weather is coming and your son’s school bus will arrive 15 minutes early to avoid the fog.
But there’s a corollary we must think about. (Two corollaries, actually, one being the long-term effects of Electromagnetic Fields on our health, and especially on our brains. But so far, few studies have been funded to examine this.)
We must acknowledge that we’re gaining all this convenience at the expense of our privacy.
When you ask Siri or Echo or Alexa or Google (and others of their ilk) something, it’s great to get an immediate answer… but the corollary is that Siri and Echo and Alexa and Google are listening to every conversation you’re having with your spouse, every fight you’re having with your kids, and every bit of heavy breathing that might be taking place in the dark.