“The choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness, and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better.”
― George Orwell, 1984
Dear Readers:
As a follow up to yesterdays article about privacy and the spread of face recognition technology, we have something else for you to consider today!
Imagine a system in your house that is designed around your voice.
It’s always on—just ask for information, music, news, weather, and more.
Echo begins working as soon as it hears you say the wake word, ‘Alexa.’ (It’s also an expertly-tuned speaker that can fill any room with immersive sound.”)
According to the demo video, Echo answers trivia questions (Alexa, how tall is Mount Everest?), it tells jokes, helps the kids with homework and plays music on demand.
You can ask it for a “flash news briefing” with the latest headlines. (The demo video features news from NPR.) And it keeps a running shopping list for you — it is from Amazon, after all.
In a post titled “Amazon’s new Echo device marries Sonos with Siri,” Gigaom notes that Echo isn’t the first device of its kind:
“There have been efforts to build these kinds of smart assistants for your home before.
The Ubi aims to be a kind of intercom for the smart home, and the Aether speaker aims to combine cloud music streaming with voice input.
However, Amazon’s strength is that it could combine Echo with its other devices and services to make it a lot more valuable out of the box.”
There’s a button to turn off Echo’s microphone, but as you can imagine, some people might be uneasy with a listening device planted squarely in their living room or bedroom.
As a commenter named Hicham Bouabdallah wrote on TechChrunch:
“NSA, CIA and FBI would like to personally thank Amazon for installing spy mics in every home. Having said that, love the idea of an always on personal assistant.”
Echo also works away from home using a free app on Amazon’s Fire OS and Android as well as desktop and iOS browsers.
It’s selling for $199, invitation only, though Amazon Prime members are eligible to get it for $99.
One last question: What if your name is Alexa ……………., and you want a bit of privacy?

“Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know what no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
― George Orwell, 1984


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