I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking this has something to do with the zombie apocalypse, or robots or Skynet, but it doesn’t. Well, not exactly, although it’s possible (probable) Skynet is somehow involved. I’ve made my feelings about robots known, and I still think they’re far more likely than zombies to be responsible for the end of humanity. It’s astounding to me that we can watch so many science fiction movies and series about how we’ll be wiped out by artificially intelligent beings, and we march on as if we knew nothing. “Oh yeah, remember when the Cylons wiped out all the colonies? That was a blast, wasn’t it?” “Hey, did you see what happened to Oscar Isaac in Ex Machina? Never mind that; we should totally build ourselves some sexy times androids!” We probably deserve whatever we get.
In reality though, the robots themselves aren’t what scare me most — it’s the smaller things that are already happening, quietly creeping into our daily lives without most people noticing. Remember this scene in Minority Report?
In the movie, Tom Cruise’s character is assailed by targeted personalized ads (albeit, aimed at the wrong target) that follow as he walks. That right there is my personal nightmare, and it signals the beginning of the end. Just like the things you’re already getting in your email every single day of your life, the ones that make you rue the day you gave Old Navy your email address for a goddamned 20% off coupon, personalized ads have invaded every platform. If you’re old enough to remember, or every once in a while you bring in your parents’ mail, you may have thought the loads of junk mail were the height of (paper) waste and advertising, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Facebook hoaxes aside, the social media site’s advertising has somehow gotten more insidious and barely a day goes by I’m not convinced they’ve figured out a way to spy on me. HOW DO THEY KNOW I was just looking at accent chairs online? When I go into Target now, refrigerated aisles light up when I step into one. You might think it’s just an energy-saving thing, but this is where the Minority Report stuff starts, and I swear, the day something inanimate starts talking to me… Oh, wait. The fucking self-checkout register talks to me when I do something “wrong” or when it wants to tell me what to do. Did you get that? When IT wants to tell ME what to do. At Toys “R” Us and Target, there are now toys that talk on their own as you walk by, and the first time it happened I nearly dropped dead of a heart attack right then and there. The gas station pumps are talking now, too. The end of the quiet was the first signal end times are already upon us; next up, Big Brother and all his cohorts know where you are and everything about you. It’s overwhelming, and all I want to do is not go out into the madness — just stay inside.
Apple’s got my fingerprint, don’t ask me how that happened. I didn’t even mean to do it, it was just one of those moments of weakness and utter laziness when I thought, “I’ll just do it in case I need to get into my phone and I’m too goddamned tired to type in my four digit security code, BECAUSE SOMETIMES FOUR FINGER MOVEMENTS IS JUST MORE THAN I CAN HANDLE. What are they doing with my fingerprint, exactly? Why do they always want me to enable my location services? “Give this app access to your photos!” it says. “Check in at blah blah blah (don’t think I’m telling you where I was, I’m not that stupid).” Why does my phone want to know so much about where I am and what I’m doing?
The thing is, we’re building the robots, but they’re not even running around yet. Maybe we won’t get to that stage — when they’re physical beings — where the robocops go wrong, or the Chappie mind-controlled bots are uploaded with a virus that makes them go crazy on humankind. We won’t have to worry about the ethics of treating androids like slaves, or get to the point where they revolt and shoot us down. We’re more apt to be subconsciously influenced by our own laziness or greed, to just give up our privacy in the name of sharing that one photo…then forgetting to turn the access off. We will not need Skynet to take us down; we will eat away at ourselves with our own technology.
We’ll sit behind our computer screens, alone in our homes while the world outside goes mad. We will cut off from others and judge each other from ergonomic chairs on high. We will throw up our hands as the streets devolve into chaos. Authorities, politicians and religious leaders will grow increasingly wild with their unfettered power, as we the people keep ourselves “safe” by staying inside — ordering our movies, our books, our video games our food, our clothing, our…everything, with the touch of a button. We will cry for our sisters and brothers as we watch them die over smartphone screens; we will call out for change over live chats, and share video and pictures through clouds. We will become so desensitized to what’s outside our own door, ensconced in the virtual reality of our own making and then, when we’re finally gone…
technology will probably take care of itself.