May 3, 2017
The biggest FI in every sci-fi dystopia is that their horrifying technology actually works to inflict a nightmare future. Sure, “working” might mean imprisoning you in a thermodynamically impossible gamer pod playing the exact opposite of a video game, but at least it functions. You don't see the Matrix grinding to a halt as their wall of smartwombs tries to download new drivers from a company which went bust last millennium. Behold modern monstrosities of tech absolutely terrible at their intended horrors.
Rich Person Robocradle
The “Snoo” is an American Psychopath Incubator. This crib costs $1,200 to computerise the exchange rate between parental wealth and affection. This robocradle is equipped with sensors to detect the baby’s crying and then absolutely NOT notify their caregivers. It’s specifically designed to prevent human parents from paying attention to their own offspring. Instead it activates motors to rock the organic material back to normal status without requiring a human to go in and pick things up. You'll see similar technology in any sewage treatment plant.
Rocking your baby isn’t always a picture of parental bliss. You’re tired, it’s screaming, all of that, but the whole point is that the baby wants to be reassured by its protectors. Also: babies shit themselves. Buying this device is a thousand-dollar endorsement of babies being stirred in their own shit before anyone even considers checking. The sewage treatment gag in the previous paragraph was meant to be a metaphor, not a childcare strategy.
Imagine watching a baby being rocked by a loving parent and thinking the key component was oscillation. King Midas would call that person an asshole. A Snoo auto-cradle is a physical failure of the Voight-Kampff test. Actually inserting a baby turns it into a Voight-Kampff Eraser, mechanically removing empathy from a developing brain.
“Don’t worry”, the motors gently buzz, “They don’t care. No-one cares. No-one is coming for you. Your parents spent over a thousand dollars specifically to prevent that. You’ve been spawned by sociopaths who view human beings as a shallow series of inputs and outputs, and honestly consider it affection that they’ve spent their money on a system to administer your signals instead of security to have you arrested, which would be their automatic response were you not their direct blood possession.” If even one child emerging from this e-motion substitution is anything less than Joffrey the parents can count themselves lucky.
Even their own advertising staff couldn’t bring themselves to use it. The website features the Snoo sitting empty while an adoring mother coddles her infant. Advertising models can fake any human emotion for money and even they couldn't be paid to place a child in this corporate maw.
Of course the Snoo also requires a specially branded "swaddle-suit" sold by the same company. The Snoo is the first strike in megacorps reinstating the old meaning of “brand”. The suit clips the baby into the Snoo. NON-EUPHEMISM-TRANSLATION: this product mechanically restrains the baby inside the machine. The branded “SNOO Sack: 100% Organic Cotton” costs forty dollars, and you know it’s great babywear when you’re eleven syllables into the name before it stops sounding like a menu item for trillionaire lizard overlords.
Ultrasonic Cross-Device Tracking
Pop-up ads are annoying. Web pages which make noise are even worse. This combines both with every other gadget you own so that they can gang up and extract as much of you as possible. Not just your money, your YOU, echoing and analysing your entire existence for future advertising assaults. We thought body-snatchers were bad for pointing and screaming at you. At least they did it in ways we could hear and killed us so it was over quickly.
Don't worry, marketers aren't experimenting with ultrasonic cross-device tracking. They've already been doing it for years . The mistake most people make is dismissing conspiracy theories, as if the core idea -- "Corporations will use every technology to extract as much money as possible with no regard for anything else" -- was only a theory instead of supported by more solid evidence than gravity. The question isn't conspiracy theory, but conspiracy practice. If the technology exists it's already in practice.
What technology do they need for ultrasonic cross-device tracking? Machines which can make sound and transmit data. Shit. Those are more established internet technologies than fire, because people will immediately stop their phone from being on fire. A company called Silverpush has already received millions of dollars of funding to do this for years and multiple FTC warnings to stop. I'll let you guess which has more effect on their behaviour.
Biometric Bracelets Monitor Middle School Student's Attention
A company marketed biometric monitor bracelets to tell if students are paying attention, but didn't cast a heroine to eventually detonate their secret Headmaster Computer, because they escaped from young adult novels into real life. Search for "Affectiva Q sensor" and one of the first results is “How tight does the sensor have to be?” Someone sat down and typed that for copywriter wages instead of picking up a mask and molotov cocktails, thereby disproving accelerationism.
Affectiva describe how they want to fit children with the "Q Sensor" to make sure they're learning correctly because they all still think Darth Vader was just a concerned middle manager. The tech industry is a Twilight Zone sequel without the subtlety. Their sales pitch talk about focusing and improving education, because sales pitches are aimed at executives who at best ignore how Mr Stompshouter will use it to scream at any child whose little blippy thing isn't as high as the others or isn't on a white wrist.
Don't think about how this is clearly targeted at training a new generation of continually monitored servants. Seriously, don't think about it, your Q sensor will beep and you'll get less gruel.
Thankfully the Q Sensor marketing push failed. This time. Keep bolt-cutters on standby. Affectiva switched to market research because of course they did. They now offer “Emotion as a Service”, because Black Mirror is way behind reality. On the upside, though this is less upside than an iceberg and with similar effects on future progess, learning to fool computerised sensors will be an extremely useful skill for their future.