HomePod, Alexa, and the end of freedom
Last week, Apple announced the latest version of HomePod, their flagship speaker product.
Naturally, I took a moment to browse its home page.
Wouldn’t you know, it has “immersive, high-fidelity audio,” complete with Dolby Atmos and beamforming tweeters. Not only that, but HomePod is “a powerful way to control your smart home.”
Did you say “smart”? Wow, color me impressed.
Please pay attention to the words they use, though.
“Profound sound,” they say. Profound means intelligent and mysterious. It also means occult. But keep scrolling down and you’ll notice something new that wasn’t there in the previous version. The new HomePod has a built-in sensor that can “detect and tell you the temperature and humidity of the room.”
As per their marketing spiel, you can now ask:
“Hey Siri, what’s the temperature in here?”
“It’s getting hot in here,” might’ve been a cool response, but the days of cool have come and gone at Cupertino. Apple, today, is anything but cool. As to what they are, think cartoon villain and you’ll be right on the money. More on that in just a sec.
For now, riddle me this:
Why would Apple add a temperature and humidity sensor in their home entertainment system?
Let’s connect a few dots, shall we?
There is something in the air.
Earlier this year, mainstream media started telling us that gas stove cooking is dangerous. They even floated the idea of a wholesale ban. Why? Ostensibly because gas stoves pollute the air in our homes.
Gas stoves are bad for us, all of a sudden. You know, the same way second-hand smoke is bad for us. After cooking with gas stoves for more than 2 centuries, and after smoking tobacco for over 80 centuries, I can’t help but wonder how humanity even made it to the 21st century. But I digress.
At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if they try to ban gas stoves, or outlaw indoor smoking. What they want is control. No wonder they are normalizing the need to monitor the air inside people’s homes.
Let me state the obvious here. Regulators, and their overlords, are not losing any sleep about the quality of the air we breathe. What they are salivating about is gaining a foothold in our private lives.
I’ve always wondered why driving a car without a seatbelt, or a motorcycle without a helmet, is such a crime. In retrospect, it’s blatantly clear. When the so-called authorities interfere with people’s personal risk assessments, the last thing on their mind is safety.
But why stop there?
If gas stoves are dangerous and if indoor smoking is dangerous, what else is dangerous? Oh yeah, the words we say can be dangerous. Last October, I wrote:
In 2021 Scotland passed a law which criminalizes vaguely defined “hate speech”. What is interesting about this law is that it pertains to what citizens say in their own home. As BBC points out, “Offences can now be committed even in private, an abandonment of an earlier ‘dwelling defence’ in race hate law.”
What we do in our homes is no longer our business.
Over the last couple of years citizens were fined and arrested for inviting more people than the allowed quota, to their homes. I’ve heard personal anecdotes of Canadian families smuggling relatives into their living room, like contraband.
Here’s what most people don’t understand.
When it comes to controlling prisoners, I mean law-abiding citizens, efficiency is important. How can the few control the many when they are vastly outnumbered? Physical enforcement does not scale. The only way to control billions of humans is with something that is not physical.
That’s where programs come in.
Programs are everywhere. They are immaterial, inexpensive, and offer massive scale.
What exactly are those programs? Let’s find out.
The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
– Morpheus, The Matrix
Half a century ago, if you wanted to use a computer you had to write a program. If your job was to use computers you were a computer programmer.
What a difference a few decades make.
Using a computer these days doesn’t require programming skills, or any skills for that matter. All you need to know is how to swipe your fingertip.
Convenient as that may be, users are not controlling their computers any more; they merely follow along predetermined pathways. In other words, they cannot venture out of the boundaries determined by those who write the programs.
Mind you, there is nothing new about programs, or programmers.
A century ago programmers determined and controlled what we heard on radio and watched on TV. It is no accident they are called TV programs.
It wasn’t as evident back in the day, but in the 21st century those programs are taking over our lives. Our smartphones, laptops, electric cars and “smart” home appliances, are doing things we don’t understand or control.
We are losing grip of our world.
But here is where it gets interesting.
At some point, those who commission these programs realized they cannot use the word program any more. As the masses were ceding more and more control of their lives to programs, the word itself was becoming increasingly literal and obvious. So, at the turn of the century they found a better word. A word that masks and obscures the scope of their ambition.
You rarely hear of the word program any more, or programmers for that matter.
Now, those who write programs are called developers.
Compared to programming, the word development sounds benevolent and beneficial. No sane human would want to be programmed, but they will stand in line for development even if they don’t have a clue what it entails.
So there you go.
When programmers want to talk about control they no longer have to spell things out. Instead, they can use words that sound harmless and, frankly, rather boring. Developed countries sounds less ominous than programmable countries, doesn’t it?
Carry on, nothing to see here.
But make no mistake. Development is the process of taming humans, their cultures, and their countries. Developed countries are programmable countries wherein every parameter of human life is measured, monitored, and micromanaged.
All those HomePods, Alexas, and Google Homes; all those home cameras, thermostats, and cat feeders, fall under the same category. They are ubiquitous and inexpensive plastic junk that insert programs into human life, under the pretext of mundane utility.
If you know anything about software then you know it thrives on scale, homogeneity, and efficiency. For “sustainable development” to come to fruition, every single country, every home, and every human, need to become computerized objects, monitored and controlled by programs.
Another word for control is authority. Again, there is nothing new here.
Think of communism, fascism, and pretty much anything ending in -ism, as subroutines of the same program. Their playbook is exactly the same as before, but they now have more computing power; they’ve got big data, machine learning, and behavioral science; which means they can cause more damage than ever before.
It’s important to understand something here.
The genius of programs lies in choice: the time-honored choice between freedom and convenience.
Freedom is hard. Ownership is hard. Responsibility is hard.
No wonder millions of our fellow humans traded their freedom for convenience. The utopia of zero ownership, zero responsibility and zero risk, is too compelling for most people.
Why worry about the real world when you can fly colorful dragons in the Metaverse? Why bother with the real world when sliding into illusion is pain-free and effortless?
Millions of humans are already on fast-track to a different world — call it the Matrix, the eight sphere, the Metaverse, or whatever else. That world is captivating and irresistible precisely because it is not real. It is an inverted world where nothing is objective; a world devoid of natural law; a world where nothing, including morals, is ever fixed or constant. Everything in that world is relative, malleable, and elastic.
“I'm a Barbie girl in the Barbie world,
Life in plastic, it's fantastic!”
Barbie Girl, Aqua
I mean, think about it. An entire generation was born into this illusion. Millions of students wear face diapers to go to school; they socialize in Zoom, Fortnite, and OnlyFans; and they are scared of germs and v1ruses.
For whatever cosmic reason, some of our fellow humans have bifurcated to a different evolutionary path. Those humans, and their guardians, have already decided. Painful as it is, we have to accept their choice.
All we can do is focus on our lives, and the programs that run our lives.
The stories we are taught, the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, all of those things are programs. They create meaning and inspire action. So, the low hanging fruit here is rather obvious. I think of it as table stakes:
Unsubscribe from Netflix, Spotify, Apple TV, and Apple Music.
Need entertainment? Get back to reading books. The older the book, the better. I’m reading Dostoevsky these days; Crime and Punishment is a page turner.
As for those HomePods, I challenge you to name one way they can make your life better.
“Hey Siri, play pop hits in the bedroom.”
Are you fucking kidding me?
“Easily send an announcement throughout the house,” says the HomePod website. This new feature is called Intercom and someone you know is already waving their credit card for it:
“Intercom to the living room, Has the game started?”
Don’t be that guy.
Don’t opt for easily anymore. Do the work. Live a life worth living.
Leave Apple’s Barbie world to someone else.
And please share this article with your friends and followers on social media. If you enjoy my work and get value from it, you can buy me a coffee or send me some sats.
The burning question on my mind is, did Alexa make it to the title of your publications based on the recent Alexa joke I sent you... If so she doesn’t scare me, like I said she can’t even turn herself on without me, so I live on freely, while she struggles to figure out how to plug herself in 😂 Happy Writing ✍🏼
Insightful and brilliant as usual! 🤩