Let’s talk about “dash” buttons

So, it has been brought to my attention that Amazon is now marketing these dash buttons. They are little branded buttons that are hard-wired to order a certain product from Amazon. The idea is that you sprinkle them around the house in convenient locations, and when you realize you’re out of some essential item such as dish detergent or toilet paper (or Doritos™, Gatorade™, or Ice breakers™ mints, or whatever other trivialities you can’t live without), you press the button and Amazon immediately ships you another one, ensuring you never have to have to live for even a single second without your precious Burt’s Bees™ lipbalm, or contemplate just how empty and meaningless your life has become.

Of course Amazon makes these little beauties free, and why wouldn’t they? They are bypassing your Superego, and wiring a button directly between your Id and those tasty, tasty Doritos™. Once you have that button there, you’re never, ever going to stop pressing it. Forget price comparison, forget avoiding impulse buys…those puppies are guaranteed delivery in under two hours with Amazon Prime Now™!

When I first heard about this, my reaction was something like:

I mean, this is it, right? The end of humanity? This is where we slowly sink into the abyss? Full on Idiocracy?

I mentioned this to a few friends and neighbors, like, “Hey, aren’t we all horrified by this? Isn’t this the worst of American consumerism on display??” and actually…everybody disagreed with me. They thought this was a great idea, and in fact, one co-worker has already installed several in his house.

So…am I off base, here? Is this not the worst thing ever, and actually just a convenient way to get products you need with minimum effort? Can I look forward a whole wall of these buttons and I just do my shopping by pressing whichever ones I’m in need of?

I mean, I guess being able to order any product on earth from the Internet in our pockets was just too much effort for some people? I don’t know. What do you think?

(Horrifying concept via Keffy)

Drone Delivery

What a ridiculous, delicious, science fictional time we live in.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you may not have heard of “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles“, also known as “UAVs” or “drones”. Basically they are little flying planes or helicopters, piloted remotely (or not at all). Some of them, such as the Predator drone, are capable of carrying out Hellfire missile strikes for the Air Force, while others, such as the Global Hawk, fly completely autonomously.

Like anything these days, technology continues to get cheaper, smarter, and smaller. You can pick up a self-stabilizing R/C helicopter at your local Toys R Us for under $20. For a little more money, you can get your very own camera-equipped spy copter.

Naturally, if I can get a spy-drone delivered to my door for less than $90, you can bet that all manner of nosy neighbors, Orwellian secret government agencies, paparazzi-style news magazines, creepy old men, and your favorite social networks will all shortly be monitoring your every coming and going. In fact, it would be foolish to think they’re not doing it right now.

Sounds awesome! But what’s in it for me?

Delivery of your hearts desire, anywhere in the world, within 30 minutes, that’s what.

Let’s start with the “Burrito Bomber“, the “world’s first airborne Mexican food delivery system”.

It works like this:

  • You connect to the Burrito Bomber web-app and order a burrito. Your smartphone sends your current location to our server, which generates a waypoint file compatible with the drone’s autopilot.
  • We upload the waypoint file to the drone and load your burrito in to our custom made Burrito Delivery Tube.
  • The drone flies to your location and releases the Burrito Delivery Tube. The burrito parachutes down to you, the drone flies itself home, and you enjoy your carne asada.

You can see a video of the Burrito Bomber in action here.

Burritos not really your thing? How about the TacoCopter, already in operation in the San Francisco Bay area. ALREADY IN OPERATION people.

Amazon has already announced the “Prime Air” program, wherein a drone would air-drop you a package in 30 minutes or less.

 

Is there any doubt this is going to happen? Of course not, it’s too convenient. Too awesome. Too inevitable.

The FAA is currently scrambling to lay down regulations for commercial drone usage, with a congressionally mandated deadline of September, 2015. But regardless of the deadline, this is coming, sooner or later. As a species, we have shown time and time again, that we will give up freedom for the illusion of safety, privacy for convenience, and personal and intimate details for a really good search engine.

I will happily give up the last shreds of my privacy, the last hope of a peaceful, empty sky, the last quiet moment of oneness of nature, for a still-warm, queso covered burrito, air-dropped to my location in the middle of a remote forest.

Any product, in my hand, 30 minutes? Make it so, congress.

Is This Thing On now available for Kindle

For those of you who use a Kindle, my blog is now available through the Kindle Store, in a version specifically formatted for the Kindle.

I will point out that subscribing there will cost you $0.99 a month, and reading it here on the regular Internet will cost you nothing. But who am I to stand between you and your preferred format?

I will also point out that, while I do receive a small portion of that $0.99, Amazon receives the lion’s share. So if you’re really insistent on paying for free content, I’d much rather you used that big “donate” button over there on the sidebar.

But again, if you really, really like having my blog delivered to your Kindle doorstep, and that’s worth $0.99 a month to you, then by all means.

-The Management

Librarians tried to save society, and failed

The other day I had a thought that so completely stunned me, that I just stood there with the shower water running down my face: librarians were so ahead of their time!

Librarians have been stalwart defenders of our information privacy before we even knew what information privacy or data mining was. Even in this digital age, libraries don’t keep records of what books you’ve checked out. This is not just poor record keeping, but a conscious effort to ensure people cannot use our own information against us. 70 years ago, librarians were already envisioning the case where someone could use the fact that you checked out a copy of Mein Kampf to blacklist you from getting a job.

Nowadays, companies like Google and Facebook keep track of every move we make online, correlating it, cross-referencing it, and (of course) selling it. If you search for a product, Amazon immediately sends you an email about similar products. Then it sends an email to your friends, who might also like products that you like. If you buy peanut butter, Yahoo puts you in touch with singles who have jelly. If you fart, Steve Ballmer bursts through your window with a can of deodorizer (the one that your best friend gave five stars on Yelp) (Yes, I know it doesn’t make any sense that your friend is rating fart deodorizer on Yelp, except that 1) your best friend is kind of crazy, and 2) this was the fart deodorizer sold by a special “beans only” restaurant. It’s downtown) (And by the way, that wasn’t exactly the craziest part of that sentence anyway, so lay off alright?).

We hardly exist as people anymore; we’re just chess pieces in the game of mass consumption. Our very existence generates money for other people. Every product we buy, every link we click on, ever celebrity we tweet about is stored in a database for later use. Employers are Googling job applicants and demanding access to their Facebook profiles before hiring them. All of a sudden, you’re wishing you hadn’t done that review of Mein Kampf on GoodReads.

And librarians saw the writing on the wall, tried to stop it, before it was even technically possible to do it.

Good job librarians. Sorry we didn’t listen to you before it was too late. Anything else you want to warn us about?

It’s like 1984 all over again

Maybe everybody knows about this already, but it was news to me. Well, let me back up.

There’s a huge debate raging around the Kindle about whether it can actually replace paper books. I’d say both mediums have their advantages and paper books will not be going away any time soon. But the anti-Kindle / pro-book movement gained a little when it was revealed that Amazon has the ability to remove a book from your Kindle that you’ve already paid for. At least they were decent enough to refund the money, but, as the article points out, that is equivalent to Barnes and Noble sneaking into your house and stealing a book you’re in the middle of reading, right off of your nightstand. Even if they left a check to cover the cost, it is awfully obtrusive. A little too Big Brother for my taste.

The ironic twist? The novel in question was none other than 1984. “It could have been worse. It could have been Fahrenheit 451,” says Sara.