Lately I have been wondering. Wondering about what the world knows about me. Wondering what I know about myself. Wondering, even, about what I know of others. No matter how you look at it, there is information about you and your life out there that you offer voluntarily and information that is collected without your knowledge.
One example is this. If your vehicle knows to sound a warning if you swerve outside a lane on a country road or interstate, information about your travels is being recorded. Another example is this. If your iPhone tells you how much traffic there is on the way to your nail appointment on the Saturday you have it scheduled, even though you did not ask for that information, someone, or something, knows about you. And there is still again, this. It may not be divine serendipity when you were “just thinking of buying a kitchen widget” and you suddenly see an article on Facebook about kitchen widgets.
We live in the information age. Not the age of information which ushers in the availability of useful and helpful knowledge on any topic to, anyone and everyone, but the age where anything that can predict the habits and future acts of every individual in the West is collected and used to manipulate those individuals. There is little coincidence and we are being led, like sheep, into the slaughterhouse of commercialism, materialism, and capital gains.
That is the preschool version of what is going on. My fear, without sounding terribly paranoid, is that the information that is being collected is being used to manipulate groups of people and individuals, not only in what they purchase, but in what they believe, think, and do. Whether you believe Trump colluded with the Russian government in the last election is meaningless. What people are missing is the fact that the Russian government was able, so easily, to attempt a manipulation of an election in the first place.
Last week I was going over this theory with my father and I was telling a story about how invasive I believed all the Google Home Minis in my house were. I told him they were always listening and that it seemed plausible that they could either record conversations or at least provide information with those that had the technology to hear such things. In an effort to explain the concept while we sat on his front porch, I said, “you know dad, like if you were in a room and spoke the words, ‘okay Google, what is the weather today’ and it would talk about the weather”.
Before he could respond, a voice from my phone started explaining what the weather was going to be like in the area for the next few days.
As a child I read comic books and was always fascinated by the spyware that was advertised in the back sections. Also as a child I was told I could not place tape recorders in other rooms of the house to drop in on conversations other people were having when they thought no one was listening. And whether you know it or not, and regardless if it sounds paranoid or not, like sheep, we place these devices in our homes and in our pockets, and information, at the least, and potentially conversations, are being recorded. We offer every interest and whim to the collective internet, we provide pictures to face recognition systems through social media, and we allow our every move to be stored in our cell phones.
My father asked who would want to know all of this information in the first place. That is an important question. No one has the time to listen to, or go over all the data and audio stored by these devices. I do not believe there are groups of people who actively listen in for keywords or pick out points of interest from our GPS systems. I do know that the technology exists for software that would allow computers the ability to sift and cull information that groups of people might want to know about other groups or individuals.
This is not a conspiracy theory. This is simply a statement of facts. This is an admonishment not to confuse the will of Mark Zuckerburg with the will of the Creator. A warning that what you might believe was sent from the Creator might be a message from Jeff Bezos. The circumstance that you believe might have been put into play by the Divine, might just have been a situation manufactured by Google Analytics.
My advice is simple. It does not require an underground bunker or a hat formed from a roll of aluminum foil. It is not a pitch for a movement or secret organization. It is only this. Do not be easily swayed. Keep your best thoughts for yourself. Keep your well wishes for others between you and them. All of the wonder you experience in the world, all the joys you are tempted to immediately throw onto social media, and the troubles and worries you are tempted share with what you consider the world, might better be sorted one more time in your mind before they are given birth into the collective cesspool of information stored somewhere for others to manipulate.
Not to keep information away from those who might use it for their means, but to let positive thoughts gain momentum in your life. I have long been an advocate of keeping secrets with God. Advising doing good things and telling no one. Even Jesus, who lived long before there was such technology in the world, asked a question similar to, “what reward is there for you if you share your good deeds with everyone”. He went as far as to advise we not let our left hand know what our right hand was doing.
And to the point that all of this might seem paranoid or delusional, I would quote Jesus again in saying, “be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves”. Life is good. Life is more than technology. Technology, whether used for good or bad, is a part of our world and lives today. It is a world that we, as humans, have collectively created. It stands to reason, that if there are studies that show the best temperature to keep a store to promote purchases, or that there are classes taught on the psychology of a buyer in order to manipulate what and how much she or he buys, that we should be aware of how what we do is being used to encourage us to act in ways known or unknown.
In as much as it all matters a great deal, it also matters little. Trust your heart and soul to the Creator of your heart and soul. Be kind to others for the sake of kindness and not for the sake of your news feed. Take what others offer with a grain of salt and seek answers for your life on your own. And, in the words of Bob Dylan, “if you want somebody you can trust, trust yourself“.
Telling you that you are on your own may not be popular, and it may not be comforting in any real way, but I might offer this, you are on your own and I am on my own… we can be own our own together. Just do not be on your own with a million other people that might not have your best interests in mind. Love is real. Search Engine Optimization is not. Kindness is real. “Suggested for You” pages are not. Smiles are real. While Facebook might do a good job of recording smiles, Facebook is not real. You are real. What you think of yourself, either good or bad, is not real. Enjoy your day and help the world along to what it was meant to be.