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This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandchildren (who exist), and my great-grandchildren (who don't) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups or I'm deleted.
Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, and/or grups may result in a debilitating intersectional triggering
Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlerreader
"You can't go into Youngstown, Ohio, and tell everybody they're going to be retrained and go work for Google or Apple." -Michael Avenatti
Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),
B'donk (the technical name of the default googlebeep).
Where's my money?"
B'donk: "I couldn't find anything related to money."
The Goog, the Zuck (AKA Facebook), and no shortage of smaller firms have built companies that generate more cash flow than the so-called robber barons could've even have dreamed of.
[What about the other two FANGs, Amazon and Netflix? They're right up there with Google and Facebook.]
True, Dana, but Amazon and Netflix—no slouches when it comes to collecting, slicing, dicing, and monetizing our data—provide products that we can secure elsewhere relatively easily or choose to not access at all.
[There are other search engines besides the Goog's, and there are other social media sites besides the Zuck's.]
Absobalutely (I confess I had the very first Sticky briefly convinced this was a better word choice than absolutely just to amuse me and Nana. I have since convinced myself), but they're both de facto monopolies so they should be the first ones ordered to appear in front of Senator Blowhard’s Committee for the Regulation of This, That, and All Sorts of Things.
I don't have a problem with a given monopoly that's really good at serving the public as long as the public is getting a fair shake.
If the FANGs and the numerous other hi-tech firms that thrive from, and actively promote, disrupting huge swaths of the economy don't want The Gummit in their faces as they claim (I know I certainly wouldn't) they need to become more transparent and give us more control over our data.
Most importantly, they should start paying for it.
Instead, they propose to provide the poor—and the disrupted Deplorables and Bitter Clingers—with a grain dole (see Rome, ancient) in the form of a universal basic income paid for with new taxes and run by The Gummit.
What could possibly go wrong?
While I had envisioned writing a column, based as much as possible, on a dialog with... Just a sec'.
"Hey, Google, what's your name?."
B'donk: "Did I forget to introduce myself? I'm your Google assistant." Hi!
[For the record, the exclamation point was perfectly and appropriately muted. B'donk (which I much prefer to Google assistant) managed to sound perky without sounding like she was smoking meth.]
But attempting to have a conversation with some software was even creepier and less productive than I expected it to be. Of course, I've spent more years of my life living in meatspace than cyberspace.
I didn't expect that it would be like talking to HAL 9000, or even Max Headroom (you know you're old when even your tech cultural references are becoming outdated).
And, I've been known to scream at, or hang up on (in a snit) the Walgreens robolady (talk about perky!) while trying to get my prostate pill script refilled.
But, bottom line? repeated inquiries failed to elicit a direct answer to my question although I tried various permutations. For example:
"Hey, Google, why don't you pay me for my data?" B'donk: "Check out these results."
Plenty of links from around the web, no actual answer.
I kept picturing a hooge, gloomy, frigid room filled with thousands of racked computer servers and not a human in sight. The thousands of blinking lights were cool though.
I could hear muted, classical music playing, Wagner I think, but I didn't see any speakers. Anyway, I don't imagine computers enjoy listening to music since...
[Cough, cough. Perhaps you'd like to expand on your notion that people should get paid for their data?]
Good point, Dana. Lemme see, where was I... yadda, yadda, yadda, OH! Okay, here we go.
I recently read an article somewhere that claimed that the data generated by any given meat puppet is only worth pennies and given the free services the Goog and the Zuck give us we should shut up and be grateful.
As a wise woman of the world I knew in the early 70s, who made her living by slicing lunch meat and wrapping meat meat before it went in the meat case for public perusal and purchase used to say...
[What's the matter with you? Stop it!]
Give us a cut of the ad revenue that you're awash in and charge us for the software and/or the service—whatever the market will bear. It's our data that you've gotten rich from and it's our data that you've used/are using to gleefully disrupt our lives.
I, and I suspect no shortage of other little people, would rather be a micro-capitalist keeping a careful eye on the stock market to see how we are all doing than waiting for The Gummit to send me my UBI check.
Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day
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