About a month ago I received a Google Home device in the mail. It was a free gift for renewing a Verizon contract, or some such thing. It sounded like it would be a fun thing to have; and it is! It lives in my kitchen and has cute flashing lights and it tells me useful things like when Walgreens closes or how many grams in half a cup of flour.
My family was alarmed when they saw it; it's a spy machine, they said. And they are not wrong! The press is full of articles talking about how these smart devices are nothing more than machines for gathering information about us, which they use to sell us stuff. Take, for example, this article from The Guardian: Will You Be Getting a Smart Home Spy for Christmas?
I clicked on that article, and was immediately presented with sidebar ads encouraging me give to Planned Parenthood and to buy a streamlined steam cleaner from Dyson that will replace every other home cleaning device I own, but taking up only half the space. They know my politics and they know that I am downsizing.
Of course they do! Every time I go to the grocery store I blithely give Jeff Bezos full information about my consumer preferences in exchange for $.25 per lb. break on the price of organic avocados. Should I be surprised that whenever I log onto Facebook, I am presented with ads for the most wonderful of pants, with pockets in just the right places, presentable in a business setting and yet comfortable enough to wear to yoga class? Which are made from recycled coffee grounds? And every time a pair is sold, the company gives money to retrain rescued sex workers as air traffic controllers!
Big Internet knows what I want before I know it myself. And when I'm elbow-deep in bread dough but can still command the Google Home to play Leonard Cohen, I don't particularly mind.
Yesterday was my birthday. In high spirits as I was cooking dinner, I told the new toy, "OK, Google! Play birthday music!"
And without missing a beat, the Google Home started playing 2Chainz' hit, All I Want for My Birthday is a Big Booty Ho.
I am thinking that perhaps Google has a little work yet to do on its algorithms. Because it is definitely NOT the case that all I want for my birthday is a big booty ho'.
I also want those pants I saw on Facebook.