Big Brother Is Watching You. Have a Nice Day.

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A friend of mine went hunting in Russia a couple of years back and among other interesting observations he made about the former USSR, one of the most telling was his account of getting by car from the airport in St. Petersburg to the little town several hours away where he was going to hunt.

Because he was a stranger in a strange land, he hired a car and driver to meet him at the airport and chauffeur him into the hinterlands. They got on the Russian equivalent of an interstate and drove steadily for four hours without incident, but when they stopped at what we might call a tollbooth to exit the highway, the driver had to pay a fine because a machine determined he had exceeded the speed limit by an average of two kilometers an hour.

Big Brother is watching you.

Jump to America.

For a variety of reasons, I had to drive my wife’s car for the first time a few days ago.

It is a brand-new, up-to-the-minute, non-descript, top-of-the-line Japanese economy car, bought primarily for the size of its cargo area (we have dogs) and secondarily for its fuel economy. It has a wide range of safety devices, sensors, and whatnots that detect this, that, and the other and then do an imitation of R2-D2 to let you know if something is amiss, emitting a range of generally cheery chirps and beeps and whistles and ding-dongs, all of which draw your attention to the dashboard where a screen tells you what to watch out for or what you’re doing wrong.

Like, for example, watching a damned computer screen instead of the road.

But so far so good. The little car was earnestly doing its job by communicating with me. Personally, my ideal vehicle would be a 1947 pickup from the golden age of pickups, preferably a Chevy that would get me from point A to point B safely and reliably and otherwise leave me alone. Sadly, that dream is long gone.

I realize progress is inevitable, but I hadn’t realized it was quite as pervasive or ominous as what I found in my wife’s little canine carrier with its computerized everything.

Why ominous?

We live a little way from town and I was taking a series of secondary, or possibly tertiary, backroads. I tend to be just a trifle old-fashioned and keep my eyes on the road, so I don’t know exactly when it first started, but I suddenly realized that the car was picking up the speed limit on the two-lane highway and posting that number onto the screen next to the speedometer. When I turned onto a secondary road through a residential area, it sensed that speed limit and posted it accordingly.

So the car knows where you are driving, how fast you are driving, how fast you should be driving, and probably a wide array of other, ancillary information you might prefer to keep private: what music you listen to; whether you sing along to the music you listen to; whether your singing is good or bad; just how bad it is; who knows what else? I find all that incredibly creepy.

But it’s worse than just creepy. Think about it: today, with this car, it’s where you are, how fast you’re driving, how much over the speed limit you’re driving, but tomorrow…

“Ah, ha! That’ll be $178.85 for averaging five-point-two miles over the speed limit for a total distance of forty-eight-point-three miles, of which eleven-point-seven were in a residential area. But for butchering, atrociously butchering, “I Did It My Way,” there will be an additional $200.00 fine. You may pay now by credit card or check, or the total will be added to your income tax along with applicable late fees and penalties. Have a nice day.”

And think about the day after tomorrow. Your car will automatically determine the posted speed limit on each and every road and you will not be allowed to exceed the speed limit for any reason whatsoever. There will be no mechanical override. The car and Big Brother know what is best for you and you will not be allowed, or even have the capacity, to exceed the parameters set for all drivers at all times on all roads. Yes, Big Brother knows your wife died because the ambulance drivers’ union was on strike and you had to drive her to the emergency room yourself and could not go fast enough to get her there in time. Big Brother is compassionate, and he offers his condolences. Big Brother knows the death of a wife is lamentable, but the cumulative good of the collective is far more important than any single life. Or wife. Have a nice day.

Big Brother is watching you.

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11 thoughts on “Big Brother Is Watching You. Have a Nice Day.”

  1. Yes, Big Brother is watching us! Back in the 1980’s or 1990’s semi-tractors had governors on them so it kept them well below the speed limit. Now, with technology, they know exactly where you are, if you are idling your motor while you wait for your load to be unloaded (which, according to those who are trying to keep the cost of fuel down believe that cooling or heating the unit is a waste of fuel). Many truck drivers operate semi-tractors that will shut down to a crawl after you have reached the allowable driving time. My husband has a word of ‘endearment’ for his computer when the female voice tells him he is out of drive time. lol

    JP, you shouldn’t stop with vehicles. I stepped into my boss’s office yesterday to do an inventory check and was speaking with a co-worker when the boss’s came on and asked me to repeat what I said because ‘she’ didn’t understand. I have heard many stories where this type of AI (artificial intelligence) is taking over a lot of things (turning on lights, locking doors, ordering items from Amazon and other stores). It is eerie. I would not have one in my home.

    I have a simple smart phone, (cheap, without a lot of bells and whistles). But there are times I shut it off because I just never know if something has been downloaded to where it could report back to ‘Big Brother’ of what I think about Congress today!

    Mary Ellen

  2. That’s scary!!! I agree with you, I’d rather have the 1947 pickup!

    Love to you and Darleen!!!! May the Lord bless both of you!

    Bonnie L Whitlatch

  3. So we need to follow the advice of the band “Rush” and put away a gleaming red Barchetta and only take it for a spin on weekends. Maybe you can scrounge up a gleaming ’47 Chevy pickup in good shape and put IT away!


  4. Ohhh Jameson! I love you so dang much! This is great! It brought forth loud gales of giggles in an otherwise quiet and empty house.

    “Like, for example, watching a damned computer screen instead of the road.” This is where the chortling began and it didn’t stop/76666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666667(Just going to leave Larry’s (my kitten) contribution right here. Feel free to edit it out.)

    I thought you looked like a man who would drive an old truck. I can picture you bouncing around in it, not caring that you’re speeding, or singing loudly and off key with the music. (Except you’ve said before that you don’t sing or listen to music much…right?)

    This was delightful! Thank you!
    Now, you, have a nice day.


  5. Sorry JP, but anyone who cares to purchase the Simon and Simon 8th season DVD and watch the first episode Beauty and Deceased will have you dead to rights on the “butchery of famous song” charge. You’d better get ready to pay that $200 fine, to Frank Sinatra’s heirs if there is any justice.

    Seriously though, this is what happens to democracy when people think that their only duty is to put a mark on a ballot or write a check every two years for the “red team” or the “blue team”. Big Brother will not go away until the people refuse to accept anything less from their representatives, no matter which party they belong to.


  6. Dear JP
    You should have purchased a BMW. Their GPS system is so terrible it has no earthly idea where you are or where you are going.
    Best wishes
    Ken from Dallas

  7. Cars have been able to do “data logging” for years recording speed of vehicle and braking force. This info can be used by law enforcement, car rental and insurance companies in the event of a crash. Now that GPS is also standard they know where you go and speed limits. I have seen stories of rental companies penalyzing renters for speeding. Insurance companies could theoretically set premiums based on such info. I believe one of the companies that runs TV commercials often had a program where if the insured installed a data recorder they would offer discounts or some such.

    Since the future goal of the industries involved is self driving cars the speed limits are critical for them to know.

    I too prefer older vehicles for reasons which include those discussed.

  8. Gutless repugnatin. Turns off reply on other threads when the truth starts to hurt a little. Liberals are the snowflakes? Hide in your bunker clutching your guns little man.

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