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The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

Living With the Machine

Image of the Kinect Sensor LightA week or so ago I fell into a small stack of money, which I converted into an Xbox One because I am addled by technolust. It does some nifty things, what with the shiny new games and whatnot, but it does a couple of things that I find disturbing.

One of the big selling points of the Xbox One is that you can use it as a central hub for controlling your home theater. This is pretty cool. What is not so cool is that it really relies on voice commands for the smoothest experience. You change channels with your voice. You pause live TV with your voice. It’s all very convenient; saying “Watch Orphan Black” is way easier than trying to remember the channel number for BBC America. But there’s this one thing.

You turn it on with your voice.

Which means it is always, always, always listening to what you say.

This makes me paranoid. It makes my youngest daughter extremely paranoid. I catch her giving the three  red eyes of the Kinect healthy doses of side-eye during family dinners and the TV isn’t even on.

On the one hand, shiny new games and fancy universal voice control of my entertainment.

On the other hand, do I want my teenager getting used to the idea that she is under constant, unblinking surveillance by a device that’s meant to bring us entertainment? Is that really an idea any of us should be comfortable with?

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.

  • Remember Max Headroom and the TVs out in the waste. Or 1984 where the TV watches back.

  • Sam

    I have a feeling that’s where it’s all headed. “We note you have six people in your living room and this movie is only approved for watching by four individuals. We will debit your account accordingly.” “You seem to be swearing a lot in front of your child, the authorities have been notified.”

    The convenience is nice, but I guess that’s how they get you – they let your computer change the channel for you, in return for it analyzing every waking second of your day.