Sunday, January 29, 2017

Doubleplusungood

In July of 2009 (the first year of my blog) I blogged about an incident where Amazon.com "disappeared" Kindle copies of the book 1984 by George Orwell.  This book, written in 1949 by the late George Orwell, was a warning against totalitarianism and the ability of governments to manipulate information.

In the world of 1984, there was no Internet.  But there were telescreens in each home that had to stay on constantly and they were two way - you watched them but Big Brother (yes, that was where that name came from) watched you, in turn.  There was constant emotional manipulation in a daily ceremony called the Two Minute Hate, where Party members had to watch a film about the Party's enemies and scream out their hate in a period of two minutes.

Constant surveillance.  Information manipulation.  Sound familiar?

Now, 1984 has climbed to the top of the best seller charts once again.  Yes, this has happened before, notably in the early 1980's, and again in 2013.  This isn't a brand new phenomenon.

Think about our modern world for a minute.  Websites and their contents can disappear or change in a minute.   We ponder these questions:  Are our virtual assistants, Siri and Alexa (among others) secretly listening to our conversations?  Recording our questions? (The answer to this last one, incidentally, is "yes" for both Siri and Alexa.)  Is there tracking software that can follow what we say on Facebook or Twitter, ready for the future use of a totalitarian leader?

There was the incident late last year where an Amazon Echo in the state of Arkansas may have been a digital witness to a murder.

What does privacy mean anymore?


Here's my post from 2009:

Doubleplusungood, dudes

This is not new news. For all that I love buying from amazon.com, this gives me a bit of that Big Brother feeling.

For all of you lucky enough to study the book "1984" in high school back in the 1960's, there are certain things in this book that stuck with you forever. The present generation would not be impressed but this book was absolutely chilling in its depiction of a world where a dictatorship totally controlled all sources of information, complete with a Ministry of Truth whose bureaucrats labored to continuously revise all written records to reflect the current Party line. To control thought, a new language called Newspeak was introduced. Words and thought were so short in Newspeak that one could spit sentences out without giving a thought to what one was actually saying.

Of course, nowadays we manipulate photos with ease via programs such as Photoshop and can manipulate electronic records with just as much ease.

And, apparently, we can buy an electronic book and download into our Kindle, and Bi...I mean, Amazon.com, can take it back for whatever reason.

When's the last time your local bookstore knocked down your door to grab back a book you legally paid for?

How ironic (not that this is exactly not my original thought) that the book they "vanished" was....1984. (Along with another Orwell classic, "Animal Farm".)

For the record:
1. This was due to a copyright infringement issue, not censorship and
2. Amazon.com duly refunded monies paid to the customers affected.

However, when they sent emails with the refund notices, some customers claimed Amazon never bothered to explain what was going on. (Disclosure: I do not own a Kindle and was not affected by this.).

But still. This gives me a very big sense of unease especially as I've been thinking about getting a Kindle. Not any more. Who would have thought of a Kindle as a two-way device quite like this? If you buy anything via Kindle, is it really yours? Can amazon.com take stuff back whenever they want? Maybe we should just stick to the old fashioned books that clutter up the house?

If not Big-Brotherish, it is certainly creepy.

Day 29 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.

6 comments:

  1. I love my Kindle, but less for reading books and more for having it handier than my computer. As for Alexa, if she hears anything that remotely sounds like her name, she replies. Someone on TV said "Alex would know" and next thing I knew Alexa was telling me she didn't understand the question. I've actually thought of unplugging her if I am not using the service.

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  2. This is a thought provoking read. As my husband and I get older, we often discuss how much technology has changed our lives, and whether or not it is for the better. We are a society for having everything at our fingertips, and with technology such as Facebook, Alexa and tracking as to everything we buy, it is a wonder if anything is private. Does it make our lives easier? I would have to say yes, but we need to be constantly aware of the information we share. Great post!

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  3. i did not know about the incident you mention but it does raise interesting questions and regarding Siri - i am not a fan though the kids definitely have fun

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  4. These days, the thought that 1984 could become reality is more immediate than ever. Yes, we definitely must be aware of what sort of information we are sharing.

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  5. I read 1984 a long time ago. Have you read Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451? I reread it when it was assigned to my daughter by one of her high school teachers. They burned books -- the dumbing down of society.

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  6. Wow. This us definitely creepy. I didn't know Kindle books can disappear like this. It is a terrifying thought to be watched n heard from every action n word. I am also wondering if privacy is now indeed a luxury of a few??

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