What, You Don’t Want a Surveillance Tool in Your Home?

November 22, 2022 Updated: November 27, 2022

Commentary

Amazon has just announced a dramatic cutback in its division that develops Alexa, that space-aged box in your home with which you can have long conversations but assures us that she isn’t spying on us. And the data she collects is super secure and would never be shared with the government. Right.

It turns out that (and I can barely fathom these numbers) the project is losing $10 billion per year. Its new ideas for turning the little box into a money maker aren’t panning out. For example, someone had the idea that Alexa would develop relationships with vendors, so when you say “Hey Alexa, bring me a Subway sandwich” and some poor kid arrives at your door to relieve you of the munchies, everyone gets a cut.

Great idea, right? Maybe in the COVID-19 pandemic when we were forced to stay home and despair set in. Why exercise? Why watch your weight? Let’s just Drizly some liquor and get through another day. Set Alexa to turn on and off the lights, play some tunes, and call our friends. The whole ethos was a disaster for civilization, but it was great for Big Tech, which had the idea of nearly giving away spy tools for every American home. Amazon tried it and Google soon after.

It’s the future! We’ll all just be couch potatoes and let our fancy boxes do everything for us. I should have suspected that something was up when I got a popup notification for a free Google Home. Then another one and another one. Pretty soon, I had a drawer full of these things. Why is this company so anxious to stick one of these in every room in your home? Good question.

An Amazon Echo, center, and a Google Home, right, are displayed
An Amazon Echo, center, and a Google Home, right, are seen in a file photo. (Mark Lennihan/AP Photo)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m sensing a huge revolt against this entire dystopian vision for ruling-class life. I tossed out my Google Home units months ago, and I’ve never been happier. Now I don’t have an always-on listening device in my home, which means that I can speak without slightly worrying that some bad actor is out there listening in. Telling my social circle of my decision, absolutely everyone said that they had done or were planning to do the same!

Seems like a great revolt against all this nonsense is developing. After all, it’s convenient enough that we can pick up our phones and Bluetooth something to a speaker and order a hamburger. Why do we need an extra box around to keep us from having to walk five feet to set the house temperature or turn off a light? For goodness sake, just how much ease in life should we really be demanding?

There’s something else going on besides a shift in consumer preferences. Big Tech is facing the thing it has dreaded the most for a decade and a half: economic reality. They were the preferred destination of the many tens of trillions sloshing around the world that were looking for some kind of return on investment.

Whatever happened to old-fashioned savings? Well, that was killed back in 2008 by the Nobel Laureate Ben Bernanke, who headed the Federal Reserve when he had the great idea of abolishing interest rates. What a loon! Somehow he got away with it, presumably because his quantitative easing in the form of zero federal rates didn’t cause inflation. That’s because he tweaked the system to keep bank credit in the vaults of the Fed.

When you adjust federal funds rates for inflation, you see how radical and unprecedented that policy truly was. It makes no sense.

Epoch Times Photo
(Data: Federal Reserve Economic Data [FRED], St. Louis Fed; Chart: Jeffrey A. Tucker)
But there was just one problem. People could no longer make money by saving money. Instead, you would lose money by saving money. That’s what the Fed policy did to us. This crazy world lasted for 14 full years, during which time every manner of insanity was unleashed on the world. Literally, the whole of the corporate and educational sectors went bonkers.

Think of all the nuttiness we’ve had to deal with for 14 years. The ideas came in the form of various acronyms. Please don’t make me spell them out for you. You probably know them anyway: ESG, DEI, CRT, and CSR. The first three are silly but briefly fashionable ideas that business should be about anything and everything except making profits and serving customers. Instead, business should serve political interest groups with endless donations and ideological posturing.

There seemed to be no downside. Companies and nonprofits were hiring workers they didn’t need by the hundreds of thousands. One guy who figured out the racket is Elon Musk, who has fired vast numbers of people at Twitter—perhaps four out of five—and the platform works better than ever! How the heck is this possible? Well, the real question is, how did the problem of tech worker bubbles begin in the first place?

The answer, in my mind, always traces back to 2008 and the zero interest rate policies. That’s what unleashed every manner of delusion and detached economic affairs from reality itself.

Look no further than FTX, the magic bean factory in the Bahamas that bamboozled a whole generation into believing that endless billions were possible simply by making up names for fictional tokens, then buying philanthropic and political influence. The whole thing has gone belly up, exposing “effective altruism” as just another racket. We’re only at the beginning of discovering the fullness of the scam, but it certainly included paying off scientists and nonprofits to shill for shutdowns and vaccine mandates.

The striking fact about Amazon’s dramatic cutbacks is that it’s all happening just before the holiday buying season. What are they seeing that we aren’t seeing? It must be pretty bad. After all, we have the news of a 30 percent quarterly decline in housing sales and deep trouble in the real estate industry in general. Plus we’re seeing collapsed savings rates alongside the largest increase in credit card debt in 20 years, at a time when rates on revolving plans are reaching 17 percent.

These days, it certainly feels like the jig is up for many in the information economy. Truth is making a fabulous return and taking down a lot of lies with it. For example, Alexa isn’t spying on you. Oh really? If you believe that, I have some magic beans in the Bahamas to sell you. After all, they’re endorsed by Larry David and Katy Perry.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Jeffrey A. Tucker is the founder and president of the Brownstone Institute, and the author of many thousands of articles in the scholarly and popular press, as well as 10 books in five languages, most recently “Liberty or Lockdown.” He is also the editor of The Best of Mises. He writes a daily column on economics for The Epoch Times and speaks widely on the topics of economics, technology, social philosophy, and culture.