Tech Cynic: Are they listening? Of course they are
Artificial Intelligence

Tech Cynic: Are they listening? Of course they are

Well, that's pretty much the full set. Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google have admitted that they or their contractors listen in to users' conversations and voice instructions.

I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked.

I was at a meeting last week in which a somewhat excitable man described the current crop of technology companies as being the equivalent of the high priests of older civilisations, specifically those civilisations that weren't too concerned about the sanctity of human life. Possibly this man was talking about the Mayans or similar civilisations, possibly he'd binge-watched Indiana Jones movies the night before, but regardless, the parallel was an interesting one.

The high priests of his story made sure that the sun rose each morning, the crops grew, the people prospered. All the priests required in exchange was power, money and blood. By contrast, today's technology companies promise to make sure we can talk to each other, do business, network, socialise, even procreate (via dating apps). All they want in exchange is power, money and our personal data. All of it.

Of course, without the high priests of old, the sun would still have risen, the crops would have grown, the people would have prospered (or not, but that's just plain old luck). Similarly, without Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Google, people today would still talk to each other, do business, network, socialise and procreate. We know this for sure because it was true for the millennia before these companies even existed.

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Alex Cruickshank

Alex Cruickshank has been writing about technology and business since 1994. He has lived in various far-flung places around the world and is now based in Berlin.  

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