editorial, inspiration, special interest

The invisible prisons that bind us all

This is not the world the baby boomers grew up in, this is not the world of generation X. It is the world of the millennial. A world far different from anything before it, something more impactful than the industrial revolution. It is an era of technology, and consumerism, where the two shall intertwine and never be the same.

We are being controlled. We are losing our freedoms. Many of us do so willingly without thought of consequence or realizing the ramifications of our new found “freedoms”.

What do I speak of, I speak of the smart phones in our pockets, the contracts we sign to have these devices of convenience. Take the iPhone 5s it is a computing device that is far more powerful than the desktop equivalent 10 years ago. It has the processing power to accomplish so many tasks, and we use it to help the world keep tabs on us. The obvious Foursquare and Facebook checking to Twitter updates. These convenient sites all track what we are doing, what we like and how often we do it.

social media on mobile phone

I stop to look down at my phone. Google is telling me the distance and time it will take to get home from where I am. I opted into this convenience. It will also tell me of any traffic jams or unexpected changes. It also means that in addition to Google knowing where I live, it knows my weekly schedule, and places I frequent most. These are conveniences. At what cost?

The average smart phone plan comes with a 2 year contract and will cost someone between $70 – $150 a month to maintain. Pay phones are almost gone, the newspaper is dieing. Businesses that have been around hundreds of years are disappearing. All in the name of technological advancement. Not all of it is bad but there are the things we neglect.

Have you ever shopped on Amazon? They know you better than you do. They hold your items in their cart forever, or until you delete them. Amazon will look at your purchasing history and what you recently viewed to come up with recommendations on what else you may like. This convenience is our cage. Amazon is not the only one to do this, hundreds of other retailers do too and we stand no chance against it. Industries are quickly coming up with ways to part us with our money faster than we can earn it.

Target, Warby Parker, Cabela’s, and many other retailers are using that portable computer in your pocket against you. By offering free WiFi in their store they are able to target where you are in the store based upon the signals your phone is sending. This allows them to track where you spend the most time in store, as well as what products you look at and buy. This is just the beginning, there will come a time when this information will prompt timely notifications either via your phone or in store display. All to let you know hey that item you love in the electronics department is on sale. And we will accept this because we think the store is doing us a favor. The worst part is we can’t opt out of this invasion of privacy.

Jump to social media, Facebook allows users to check in their location share memories with friends and families, and companies they happen to like. Let’s assume for a moment that you don’t carry a smart phone on you and you don’t have a Facebook, or Twitter account. This still doesn’t stop your friends, family, or strangers on the street from capturing you in a photo then sharing it online. All of this without our consent simply because we live in an era of convenience. Let’s look at Google Glass, Google’s wearable smart glasses. Always on and always able to capture everything around them. They see what you see and can record whenever. They are not that prevalent yet but will gain momentum in time.

Let’s go back to the online shopping for a moment, there are any number of techniques to try and funnel you the user to achieve a certain goal a company has in mind. It can be clicking on a button, buying an item, or handing over your email address. Websites, applications, and most all digital media is engineered to get you to buy. These are called DarkPatterns in the industry. Using psychology for evil. It is as simple as having a check box pre-checked saying yes sign me up for your email newsletters.

As if this were not enough retailers have also learned to tap into our moral sensibilities, using psychology against us. It’s as simple as buying an item where a percentage of the sales will also be donated. Because now am I not only someone who like to buy bracelets but I am also someone who likes to buy American made bracelets to support working Americans. That donation you gave is also a massive tax write off for the company selling it. It makes us feel good inside, I didn’t just buy I donated. Our actions aren’t what we do it is what we buy. And buy we will. I know this because I used to be one of the people that engineered these experiences.

Imagine every smart device, glasses, watches, bracelets, phones, game systems, all linked and connected to the internet, recording every moment of our lives. Imagine this technology being monitored by an insidious outsider. Maybe, it is our government, maybe it is a private corporation wanting more money, maybe it is a terrorist hacker scheming from a far. Regardless, of the intentions, we are spiraling faster and faster towards a time of invisible prisons.

Nikola Tesla invented a system in the early 1900s that would have provided the world with wireless electricity. He destroyed it. He understood the world was not ready for such a gift, it would be used against us as a weapon. He destroyed every possible way it could be recreated. We do not have such a luxury.

Plans to print guns have already been leaked on the internet, and our lives are now quickly being chronicled and stored in databases across the world. But, there is no cosmic off switch. Is there?

I leave this up to you the reader. Figure out what needs to happen, and save us before we can no longer save ourselves. If the NSA can monitor us and was only caught thanks to one whistle blower who else is monitoring us that we don’t know about? Why am I telling you all this so you can save us dear reader , save us from ourselves. Think for yourself, question authority.

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