Later Than Predicted, Welcome to “1984”
I recently acquired an old Pillsbury Bake-off Cookbook. It is filled with casseroles of meat, cheese, and canned creamed soup to be baked by the middle class American housewife, recently recalled home after a stint building aircraft during World War II, and now engaged in providing timely dinners for husband Dan, children Dick and Jane, dog Spot, and cat Fluffy.
Smiling and content, neatly attired in her shirtwaist dress and apron, hair carefully curled, red lipstick in place, she checks the clock to make sure Dan’s cocktail is ready when he, wearing his gray suit, loosened tie and fedora, and having driven up in his large-finned car, arrives and relaxes while awaiting that fine dinner’s emergence from their spotless kitchen.
Things were not perfect in mid-century America. Mom needed an occasional valium to remain so calm and happy, back at home and in restrictive, lady-like clothing after the war. Dick and Jane, however, once chores and homework were finished, could run outside and play throughout the neighborhood, or even in their fort in the nearby woods, undisturbed until dinner time.
There were no computers or cell phones. Televisions appeared, with their small greenish screens, in mid-century. Back then, if the call on your rotary phone didn’t go through, a living operator would help connect you.
After the war years, women’s return home after relinquishing their jobs to returning Gi’s, the arrival of interstates and drive-to shopping centers, the decline of downtown community stores, the development of birth control pills and “free love” in the sixties, the Civil Rights movement and Roe vs. Wade, we find ourselves in a new world.
Our faces are buried in cell phones now. Our phones both know where we are and how to get where we want to go. If we look something up online, our computers, phones, and even newsfeeds bombard us with ads for same or similar items. We can order things for next day delivery without getting out of our pajamas. If we do venture out and have a car accident, we can be sure some passerby will film it, again on a phone, recording exactly what happened, all the time, everywhere.
We don’t need friends or human contact, as we have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. We have virtual friends who never smell bad, and whom can be “unfriended” without notice when they become annoying.
My phone, for sure, knows where I am. Not only am I still receiving ads for things I recently looked up, but local news for my present location is appearing on my phone.
Facial recognition technology, the next great advance, will allow us to use our faces as passwords to get into phones, bank accounts, and even pay for lunch. One could soon be easily identifiable everywhere, without one’s knowledge. The faces of half of the population of China are now on a government database, accessible to companies, security and police.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of good in this whirlwind of rapidly developing technology. There’s online banking and online shopping. There’s Alexa, and her musical playlist. There’s YouTube to teach you how to get happy, caulk your shower, repair your furniture, or even start a homestead. There’s GPS. What amazing convenience to write an address into your phone and have someone give you verbal directions that will take you right there.
What I don’t like is not having privacy. If I want to be alone, I want to be alone. If I look at a sofa online, I don’t want that information sold to multiple sofa companies so I see sofas every day on my email page.
I don’t want to see the subject of my last YouTube video on my news feed. That confirms it’s not a news feed at all, but rather a financial machine targeting my interests.
I don’t want Facebook to choose which of my “friends” or organizations’ posts appear on my timeline. I want to have a wide view and see posts from all sides. And I want to choose whom I see on my page, not have my choices made by those who are mining my data for money and political gain.
I want to be able to be anonymous. I want to be able to walk down the street and not have a curious local be able to take my picture and immediately find out my whole life story.
Technology, with its good and bad sides, can be downright creepy. Maybe we should all start wearing burkas when we go out. Men, too. After all, gender is fluid.