Who's Listening in?
Earlier today, I was working on my computer and listening to my favorite streaming classical station. With no warning and with no prompting from me, my cellphone began speaking to me—from my pocket.
The female voice of Google said, “here’s more from Wikipedia on the classical composer Frederic Delius.” I hastily retrieved my cellphone from my pocket, and for sure, there was a reference from Wikipedia to that composer.
I quickly checked the playlist of what I was listening to on my desktop. Sure enough, I had been listening to “By the River” by Delius. So, it seems my cellphone is taking note of what I listen to on my desktop computer. If it starts critiquing my taste in music, it’s banned from being in the same room.
But how creepy is that? This isn’t news, though. Most of us have seen documentaries or read articles on how our mobile devices are being used as listening tools to give vendors and advertisers a peek into our inner world. I occasionally check out the price of a used Porsche Boxster. Hint, hint to anyone wondering what to get me for Christmas. I like red with brown upholstery.
So, it’s no wonder I get automobile ads, but I don’t think a new F-150 is exactly what I had in mind. I say this to whoever is listening over at Ford. Do they come as convertibles?
I have, on rare occasions, censured my words when discussing various politicians. Actually, just one at the moment. Seriously, I don’t want some curious electronic ear listening for trigger words or phrases spoken in jest. Is this paranoia or just being wise?
I remember Popular Mechanics in the early 1960s would occasionally feature stories on what the world might look like in 1980 or even 2000. You’ve seen them too, with illustrations straight out of The Jetsons, if you remember that show.
I don’t think any futurist could have predicted what our cellphones can do, whether we want them to or not.
I am, on the other hand, reassured when I read the words, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” That’s from Proverbs.
And even better are St. Paul’s words: “ We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” And in the next sentence tells us, “… he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
In simple words, God’s holy spirit knows us intimately and prays for us when we don’t know what to pray about and when we can’t even figure out what’s going on with us. That kind of close inside knowledge I can happily live with.
The reason is that Google and the commercial interests that it represents don’t have our best interest at heart. They don’t even know what’s in our best interest, let alone care about it. I don’t expect them to know or care. That’s my job.
But it is reassuring beyond measure to know there is One who knows us more intimately than we know ourselves and is continuously on the look-out for us. I can live with that. More to the point, I wouldn’t want to live without it.