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You Get What You Pay For

I bought a smart phone yesterday. I didn’t really want to – none of its added functionality really appeals to me as worth the extra charges – but my ancient dumbphone is on its last legs and the ‘new’ dumbphones were all of worse design than the one I bought in 2007. Society has sent a clear message: buy a smartphone, you cheap bastard. So I did. Ah well. Thus I am compelled to shell out an extra 30 bucks per month in perpetuity in order to keep pace with the world.

Technology is a difficult master. It moves along (note I refuse to say ‘forward’) and compels us to keep pace or be shunned. This happens in every sphere of life – military, social, agricultural, architectural, etc., etc. – and it is almost impossible to stop it. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I do think the human race, on the whole, is better off today than it was in previous eras, and the numbers bear this out on balance – but it does require human beings to acclimate to something we fundamentally despise: change.

The world always changes. Always. Sometimes by degrees, sometimes all at once, but it always happens. Those who succeed in the world (whether we’re talking humans or animals or plants or whatever) are the ones that adapt best to it. We humans are probably the all-time adaptability champs, or at least the current title holders. It’s funny, though, how much we like to complain about it.

private investigator with magnifierAnd so that brings me back to the smartphone. The smartphone is the poster boy for the New World Order, and people have been lining up to hop on board ever since the iPhone was trotted out. It represents an age of unparalleled interconnectivity, of convenience of access, of freely flowing information, of the world at your fingertips. We, as a society, love these things. We really, honestly do. If the smartphones were to all be packed away, the internet dismantled, and the world to be disconnected, we would be miserable.

So can we all please stop bitching about losing our privacy?

Much hand-wringing and a metric ton of wailing and teeth-gnashing has accompanied our new era of connection. We keep hearing about privacy being lost, freedoms curtailed, and so on and so forth. Wired’s Marcia Hoffman writes a column about how Apple’s newest gadgetry may compromise the 5th Amendment and, you know what, she’s probably right. The thing that bothers me, though, is what did everybody think would happen?

How can you be alarmed that corporations and governments are acquiring your personal information if you spend almost ALL OF YOUR TIME shooting it through space to be intercepted? Spy agencies spy on people – it’s why they’re called spy agencies. Corporations will do anything to make money – this should not be new. How can you be so alarmed when these entities (most of which predate the Information Age) have adapted themselves to capitalizing upon the Information Age? Shouldn’t it be OBVIOUS that the NSA can hack any site on the internet they want? I mean, if they couldn’t, would they be very good at their jobs?

The crazier thing to me is that we’re acting like this is a brand new phenomenon. Businesses and governments have been doing this stuff since FOREVER, folks. Ever since there’s been secrets whispered in alleys, there’s been people hanging out in alleys to hear secrets. The only thing that’s changed is the amount of stuff we’re saying to each other and making available to each other. It only follows that the listeners would also grow.

The idea of online privacy is a charming myth, like El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth. You can’t have it. There has never been a vehicle of communication that wasn’t compromised by people wanting to make money or secure power. Never. So, if you own a gadget that connects all of your information to the rest of the world at the touch of a button, it’s merely the cost of doing business to accept that somebody else could, if they so wish, acquire that information. Get over it. Move on. Technology works both ways, folks. It always has and it always will.

Or, you know, toss out the Internet. Melt down all the smartphones. No more Facebook for you. No more blogs. Because that is the only way you will get your mythical ‘privacy’ back (assuming you ever had it in the first place which, if you ever had a credit card before the internet, you didn’t).

Unfortunately, if it’s gotten to the point where I purchased a smartphone, I think the cat is pretty well out of the bag at this point.