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Weirdness On The Web – Being Ruled By The Big Four

Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 23141 – 1138

Here’s the haps:

Some of you will remember this meme that I posted on one of my meme dumps:

If you’ve ever read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein then you have seen What a benevolent, user-friendly Artificial Intelligence can become. If you’ve ever read 2001: Space Oddysey you also know how user-unfriendly AI can become.

Or, if you aren’t really a sci-fi aficionado you can look at today’s news:

Amazon shuts down customer’s smart home devices after delivery driver’s false racism claim

The story, briefly, is that an Amazon delivery driver, wearing headphones (are drivers allowed to do that? It used to be a safety violation, didn’t it?) left a package at this man’s home. No one was at home but the doorbell said, “Excuse me, can I help you?” The driver reported that he had received a racial slur from this house. Based on the driver’s report alone, Amazon locked all of the homeowner’s accounts and logged him out of all of his Echos. Fortunately for him, he had an independent setup and was not as inconvenienced as some people might be. Even though he immediately provided video proof to Amazon, restoring his accounts took a week. When his accounts were finally restored there was no apology and not even an email of explanation.

His telling of the story, including a video by himself can be found on Medium. The story links to a podcaster as well but I did not post it here due to the language the guy uses to make some very valid points. The victim provided this person with all of the proof before the guy put it on his podcast which is why it is linked there.

My wife has a couple of Google Minis that she needs and that help her out quite a bit. While I was discussing this article with her and TNT we all agreed (again) that we didn’t want any subscriptions for any of these services. I said I can turn the lights on and off by myself just fine and I don’t need to tell Google to turn on the heat. The Mini piped up as soon as I said its master’s name and said, “I’m sorry, but you have to have a subscription to use that feature.”


20 responses to “Weirdness On The Web – Being Ruled By The Big Four”

  1. John Avatar

    Well, Herb, I guess we are just going to have to hunker down and prepare ourselves for the horrors that are yet to come because of AI– what choice do we have? Sooner or later, AI is going to control all our banking and everything else as well….

    1. Herb Avatar

      It sure seems that way sometimes.

  2. Jacqui Murray Avatar

    Stunning story. I had already decided to never buy one of those devices. Now, I’ve doubled down on that decision.

    1. Herb Avatar

      It’s pretty creepy. The guy is an engineer at Microsoft and had a setup that was only inconvenienced but an average user might have had real problems. All on a baseless accusation.

  3. GP Avatar

    The more I hear about AI, the happier I am that I’m old!

    1. Herb Avatar

      Ain’t that the truth!

  4. Amusives Avatar

    When I bought a new car a few years ago, the tech person was surprised that I didn’t want to connect a cell phone to it (at the time I didn’t even have a smart phone…) Since then I sold the car – I didn’t bond with all the technology! We live in interesting times!

    1. Herb Avatar

      Boy, that’s the truth!

  5. dumbestblogger Avatar

    I tried to get away from having a google phone, but it’s surprisingly hard. The other day google maps was giving me a hard time, and not loading. For several minutes it was just a blank screen, then it pulled up one thing; the nearest U.S. Cellular store. It did it again the next day.

    Not a huge fan of that level of manipulation.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Is it the ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times?”

      1. dumbestblogger Avatar

        Something like that.

  6. Chel Owens Avatar

    I will not have them in the house. Why; WHY do people like their devices listening to them??

    1. Herb Avatar

      It’s creepy.

  7. AJMcGregor Avatar

    So many things in today’s world feel threatening. It gets a little overwhelming. Interesting post, Herb.

    1. Herb Avatar

      Yeah, sometimes it gets creepy.

      1. AJMcGregor Avatar


  8. Mr. Ohh's Sideways View Avatar

    And some people wonder why I avoid the internet as much as possibel. I try not to buy bon line either Now You Know! 🤣😎🙃

  9. Petra Avatar

    AI is just a tool like any other, the problem is what people do with it… Unfortunately we are getting very close to the dystopia model of social credit where everyone’s actions will be evaluated and tied to their access to services. Which is also why I don’t get the fascination with smart home systems like Alexa. Do you really need an AI to turn off the lights and do we really need 24 hour access to buying stuff we don’t need? I get the appeal, but as an engineer I’d rather focus on more practical solutions than just the user experience

    1. Herb Avatar

      I agree. I can walk over to the light switch pretty easily, lol. There’s a lot of room for abuse, that’s for sure.

  10. J P Avatar

    I don’t own any “smart home” devices. I don’t want my home to be smarter than me.

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