Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Jared is Watching You

It was lunchtime and, having been too disorganized to pack a lunch (again), I took a short walk to the nearest place that could provide me with a meal that was both cheap and quick.  For me, that's Subway.  You know the place.  It's the one that says you can "eat fresh" by consuming preserved meats.  Yeah.  I'm not crazy about it, but it's a sandwich and I don't have a lot of time or money, so it works.  After the sandwich artist had made my lunch I grabbed a bottle of Diet Coke and stood at the register.  The friendly lady stopped as she was ringing me up and reminded me that I had a Subway card in my wallet (don't judge me).  It was nice of her to remember, and hey, I'll save a few bucks someday, so, you know.

I walked back to the workshop, carrying my bag of meat, bread, and veg, and sat myself back down at my desk.  I was on break, so I put work out of my mind for a moment, logged into Twitter, and prepared to read the wit and wisdom of the world wide interweb.

The tweet that stood at the top of my timeline caught my eye.  It was "sponsored."  That is, it was an ad.  I usually ignore these, but I was struck by the coincidence   It was from Subway.  The tweet said that I could enter to win a trip to Italy if I gave them free advertising by tweeting a picture of my sandwich and my Diet Coke.

Think about that.  It might be random chance that I got an ad from Subway just as I came back from Subway after using my customer loyalty card.  It might be just one of those things that they asked for a picture of a sub as it was sitting right in front of me.  But to ask for the sub along with the brand of soft drink that I had just purchased?  That is what you call creepy.

George Orwell's dystopic vision of the future just barely missed.  Yes, the government can and does keep citizens under surveillance, but it is big business who is really paying attention.  Not so they can oppress us.  So that they can better serve us.  I am reminded of "I, Mudd," the Star Trek episode in which androids plan to do the same thing.
NORMAN: We shall serve them. Their kind will be eager to accept our service. Soon they will become completely dependent upon us. 
ALICE 99: Their aggressive and acquisitive instincts will be under our control. 
NORMAN: We shall take care of them. 
SPOCK: Eminently practical. 
KIRK: The whole galaxy controlled by your kind? 
NORMAN: Yes, Captain. And we shall serve them and you will be happy, and controlled.
And we let the androids in.  We joined the social media sites that mine us for information.  We accepted the loyalty cards that sold our privacy for a cup of coffee or a burger.  And we could do something about it, but we won't.  Because we are happy.  And controlled.

Orwell was not our prophet.  It was Walt Kelly's Pogo.  "We have met the enemy and he is us."

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