What do Amazon and “little green men” have in common? To take over the world, of course.
How did I come to this conclusion? Well, I read a lot, including tons of science fiction. One publisher I get much of my reading material from is Baen. I have mentioned this before but one reason I like them is that they don’t lock down any of their ebooks, at least on their site, with that dastardly DRM (digital rights management) copy protection. It lets me read the ebooks on everything from my Linux machines to my smartphone or the four different types of tablets or ebooks sitting around here.
But I digress.
One of the books I read recently was Little Green Men–Attack! It is a collection of humorous short stories edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt. Of course, it is about little green men, women, and other green things. I actually got the book as part of the Monthly Baen Bundles that collect about half a dozen titles for only $18. Like I said, I read a lot.
The book was not one of the primary reasons I chose that month’s collection but I tend to read everything I get. The one story that caught my eye was “The Fine Art of Politics” by Robin Wayne Bailey. Here is an excerpt that I found relevant to our discussion here today:
Major Tom folded his arms across his chest. “My agents have already checked out your so-called store in Georgetown,” he said. “Your free replicators intrigued us, but it turns out that all they replicate are junk food and sex toys.”
Doctor Ree nodded and shrugged. “Give the people what they want,” he answered. “By doing so, we win hearts and minds. That is a fundamental tenet of Earth politics.”
“Along with its corollary,” Doctor Poh added, “Tell the people what they want and by hyperbole, lies, and subterfuge, make them believe it.”
Major Tom had to acknowledge the wisdom of that. Earlier in the morning, he had experimented with one of the replicators, and he had to admit that the anal vibrator had been amazing. But leave it to aliens to produce the best anal probes. However, he brushed those thoughts aside. “So why did you kill the whales?” he demanded. “What was the point?
Doctor Poh turned his gloved palms upward. “We make it a policy when we conquer a new world to exterminate its most intelligent species. It makes the other species so much more malleable.”
“Ah hah!” Major Tom moved a hand closer to the gun at his back. “So this is a conquest!”
Doctor Ree shrugged again. “In a manner of speaking,” he answered. “But nothing as violent as the weapon you’re reaching for on your belt or the weapon on your right ankle or the weapon on your left ankle.”
Major Tom breathed a secret sigh of relief. They didn’t know about the brass knuckles.
“No, nothing like that,” Doctor Poh agreed. “Your people will surrender themselves to us without violence, lured not just by junk food and sex toys, but by all the wonders we Fermi have to offer.”
“Cures for cancer?” Major Tom pressed. “For the common cold?”
“Better,” Doctor Ree said. “A cure for the common mother-in-law. Observe.” He drew a slender wand from a pocket on his sleeve and pointed it at a congressman’s desk. With a bright flash, the desk disappeared, leaving no trace at all. “It works as well for ex-wives and old boyfriends,” he added. “Just stand your ground the next time one of them, as you humans say, gets in your face. We sent a few of these weapons to your gun lobbyists, who are at this moment preparing legislation supporting the rights of all citizens to own superior Fermi weaponry.”
The rest of the story just goes to the dogs. You have to read it to see why (and hopefully that is not too big a chunk that we run afoul of our wonderful Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) but you need that much to make sense of the rest of this discussion).
Anyway, the other thing that caught my eye was an advertisement on Amazon for a bundle of Echoes. Now if you have been hiding under a rock, or reading too much science fiction, you might have missed Alexa and the invasion of the Echo (see “Speaking of Orders: Who’s Winning?” on electronicdesign.com). It is the quintessential Internet of Things (IoT) device now with seven built-in microphones to better hear you with and sell you lots of products.
Amazon will give you a quantity discount when buying a new Echo.
Yes, the Echo, with Alexa in the cloud, can tell time, jokes, and the weather but its main purpose is to get to know you very well and sell lots of products like “junk food and sex toys.” (Don’t click on that link if you are under 18.)
Usually I get to write about the neat technology inside the Echo and how it links to the cloud. There are actually some very interesting things going inside that tiny cylinder, including some very advanced audio processing designed to identify not only who is talking but from what direction. All this will be available to developers soon but I can’t talk about that, yet.
In any case, the real relationship I see between the story and the Echo is the indirect approach each takes and how the typical consumer, or voter, can be misdirected. The results may or may not be to their liking in the long run but once they go down that path it is hard to change directions. Amazon’s efforts are not unique and more than one little company that runs a search engine is in the pack.
Echoes are popping up next to HDTVs, living-room coffee tables, and desks in homes without much more thought that this is a neat gadget that can be quite useful at times. I don’t know if anyone is bringing these to work or if there are going to be corporate policies about their use.
Don’t think that will happen? Well, check out Teem. It has a meeting room booking and workplace analytics platform. The Echo and Alexa interact with Teem’s EventBoard conference room displays and scheduling systems (see “Amazon Alexa Is Going to the Office”).
In the meantime, I am off to re-read the Black Tide Rising series about a zombie apocalypse by John Ringo (whose site was giving an Index that was outside the bounds of the array error). It actually makes more sense than most of the zombie stories and movies I have seen, and, of course, the books were in the monthly packets I picked up.
Oh, and you can use Alexa to order Little Green Men–Attack!