“Why is my phone telling me the weather in Seattle? I didn’t ask for that!”
My long-suffering spouse looks at me, sighing, and says, “That’s Google Assistant.”
“I didn’t turn on Google Assistant. I didn’t give it permission. Why is it doing this?”
She shouts towards my phone, “Hey Google….” Nothing happens. “It must not recognize me.”
“Why would it recognize you? It’s not on.” Ignoring my own retort, I bark at my phone. “Hey, you Google…”
Nothing, of course, happens, other than a cheery notification that tells me what the baseball scores are from games that happened seven hours ago. The baseball games which I had already watched and could already tell you who scored what when with runners on base over which pitch count.
Off the Grid Is Impossible
I do not Hey Google. I respect you if you do, but I don’t believe in talking to objects. I don’t believe we should have robots listening throughout the house to our every activity. I don’t have seeing eyes peering out the front door to spy on mischievous-looking passers-by nor do I have glowing orbs in my bedroom, blinking to notify me that there might be a lost dog three miles away.
I am not a complete Luddite or a fool. I know that it is impossible to go completely Off the Grid anymore. The show Parks and Recreation had an episode where Ron tried to get Off the Grid. He cut up his credit cards and threw away his phone before realizing that his family might need to get in touch with him. Besides, a co-worker was uploading photos of him to Facebook. We can’t control it all.
I am perfectly aware there’s a GPS tracker in my phone, tablet, and car. I know the government knows where I am. I do remember being a little freaked out in 2008, standing in a staff meeting of the eCommerce group to which I belonged, where I ran a team that was building out text chat (see? I can Do Tech), where the Sr Executive said, “At every minute, the phone company knows where you are.” He said that like it was a good thing, but I thought, Me? nu-huh! Because I didn’t have a cell phone at the time. Eventually, I relented, fully aware that I can always be tracked. Of course, except when I’m hiking in the hills where there is no service–the exact point when I might need it. Technology isn’t a complete solution.
My answer to governmental eavesdropping is to hope they don’t care. I’m just way too boring to be considered a threat, which is my ultimate disguise, as I plot World Domination bwhahahaha! Soon you will all know how to spell parasaurolophus! (No auto-correct, that’s not a typo– that’s how you spell it.) You will all watch the Olympics and Shakespeare ha ha!
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, I don’t understand why I am getting notifications that I did not ask for. Well, apparently, I did ask for the baseball scores back in December, when I got the phone. I didn’t know I asked for them, and I’ve never received them. Why am I getting them now?
You Must Give Your Life to the Googles
My wife has told me this month in and month out. You must surrender to something–the Apples, the Googles, the Microsofts. I refuse to go easily. I do understand compatibility, which is why we opted to go all DOS, all Android, all PC and gave up our lovely iMacs a long time ago. I do use Chrome and YouTube and Google Maps.
I just don’t want Google giving me the weather in a place I don’t live, especially if it’s using Accu-Weather, which is stealing our taxpayer-funded weather systems and profiting from them, see here…. I also don’t want notifications for the price of AAPL stock or TESLA, which, by the way, I made a tiny profit on once upon a time when I owned them, but I don’t have any risky stocks now that I’m living on a fixed income. Why is it doing this?
The sinister answer, apparently, is the new car. We just adopted Sirena — so named because whenever you drive her slowly, the mermaids sing in the deep, beckoning the wayward traveler to their doom… It’s a hybrid, and its humming to the unwary in parking lots is eerily loud. The beeping when you put it in reverse sounds like a tanker truck: 85 decibels. The anonymous and angry friends on the Internet have already discovered that the only way to dampen either sound is to remove the bumper and to disconnect the speaker wiring. I would never do that. The sound might be helpful in some cases. Besides, wiring means electricity, and I’ve watched plenty of episodes of Alias and 24 where people get tortured with wires, so I don’t touch wires. I will simply follow the singing.
Come To Us, Come To Us, Turn On Your Google Assistant…
The car has updated software, which includes more fancy-schmancy media. The first thing that happened was its refusal to accept any sort of plug to play my iPod. My trusty (8-year-old? 12-year-old? I lost track of time)… iPod. And there’s no CD player. So all our old technology is Pfffft. But it has lovely New Technology which actually connects to our phones which the plucky little Prius refused to do without spitting out a hairball and which the zippy Subaru will do, unless it’s Pandora, which is what I want.
Well, my CyberGoddess wife — and that’s no joke, that was what they used to call her when my wife ran all the networking and LANs back in her office days — CG showed me that the car has Android Auto. What is that? Apparently, your phone and the car can share icons that helpfully let you choose your streaming music (ah Pandora!) and show a Map and whizbang! Overdrive that lets you practice your Spanish with downloads from the library. Golly gee! Cool!
But when you turn on Android Auto, the car clock disappears. I noticed right away because I’m always just a little later than I planned to be — Oh, who isn’t?– so I need the clock. You also can’t see the fan settings or the volume adjustment when Android Auto is on. And I learned RIGHT AWAY that you can’t turn it off once the car is running, and you can’t type in a map destination while driving. I tried to tell the Googles where I wanted to go, but Googles never understands what I am saying. It’s like it doesn’t hear me.
Hence, I found the loss of some functions far worse than the bells and whistles gained, so I have not been using it. Not to mention that it annoys me that whenever I get in to “add” my phone, in my car that I drive every day, it keeps telling me it has to disconnect my wife’s phone, even though she only drove it once. The car, the Googles, the Android Auto, already like her better.
She thinks it’s funny. And had the solution to the strange notifications.
“When you turned Android Auto on in the car, it activated the Google Assistant on your phone. That’s probably sending you these notifications.”
“But I turned Android Auto off. And Google Assistant is off on my phone. See? Hey Google!!!! See?”
“Yes, but it’s probably on in the background.”
“How do I turn it off?”
“Here.” Fiddle fiddle, fumble. “Hell, I don’t know, google it yourself!”
Yes, but why do I have to google how to not get Google? And why is the solution that I have to turn Google Assistant ON in order to tell it to turn OFF.
I don’t accept this. I do not Consent. I am not going gently into the Singularity. I will rage, rage, until Google actually understands what I am saying and does not send me helpful recipes for bouilliabase when I just want to see my bill. I will Resist, and I will prove it to you by uploading a photo taken on my phone, using an app to erase the license plate, connecting to OverDrive that we just migrated to from Dropbox because of Cloud storage limitations, and … and …. and… I will stay true to the Luddite in my heart.
But not in any reality. Hey, Google, please can you tell me the time and turn down the volume? Pretty please?