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McAdams On: The U.S. of AT&T

AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION—What I am about to describe is the true story of how phone companies are taking over the United States of America. If I am never seen or heard from again, tell my mother I love her, just not over the phone.

Once upon a time, making a phone call involved the use of a toaster-sized static device roped to a wall outlet. There were areas of the country where calls were connected by local ladies who, it is now clear, were operatives of The CIA. If you were not in the vicinity of the toaster-sized device when someone tried to call you, the only way to know is if you were so informed by the caller or the phone company spy lady.

Consequently, there were no repetitive cha-chas spontaneously playing in every eating establishment across the country, and there was no “looming spectrum crisis.” One could go outside and just see the spectrum enjoying itself. Now it looms about, dragging a rucksack of cha-chas, doorbells, jingles and electronic barks, chirps and quacks. There are more cellphone sounds than human beings in the United States, or at least in my house.

We’ve all been convinced through the miracle of advertising that we must be “connected.” Those without connectivity are looked upon with suspicion, even though connectivity hath yielded zombie hordes walking and driving everywhere with their noses stuck to three-inch screens. This phenomenon is considered innovation, however, and we must prostrate ourselves before it or be accused of murder! For to resist “innovative” technology is to be considered “job-killing,” even as thousands of former phone spies were displaced by innovation. Or so it seems. Several thousand were reassigned to the retail network known as “Walmart” where they keep track of what we buy.

And what they discovered is, not only does America buy more stuff than it makes, it makes more stuff than ever without the help of Americans. How can this be, you may wonder or not. Because if you’re still employed, you’re doing the jobs of two or three people the only way one person can--kind of--and with the help of your trusty smartphone. Things that once looked like toasters with tethered handsets are now tiny newsgathering, broadcasting, communications, homing devices. And if they are the new iPhone, they are also your own personal Geeves named “Siri” because Geeves is not innovative.

Siri, as every connected individual now knows, is the voice-activated robot helper in the iPhone IVs, quasi-secretly keeping track of your every move by asking you what you want. “Siri, find Belgian blonde on tap,” you might say, for example, whereupon Siri replies, “Sorry, I’m having trouble connecting to the network... *hic* Sorry, I’m having trouble connecting to the network... Sorry...”

When Siri works, which I guess it does sometimes, it reaches through the parent company’s database into the cloud and comes back with Dutch-speaking dance teachers. Ha ha, not really. That is called “Google.” Siri apparently works so well that users overwhelmed Apple’s servers with it yesterday. It seems Sirians caught wind of some news from smart people that robots can now practice law as effectively as lawyers, and by proxy, lawmakers.

Reports now are emerging--here, for example--that the Siri crowd simultaneously requested that the electronic assistant run for office. Siri, whose intelligence may be artificial, is no dummy. She put a stop to that nonsense tout de suite. The good news, however, is the resulting development of a voice-activated assistant of questionable intelligence, without a single scruple on its chipset, designed to take the place of human beings in Congress. This innovative technology is expected to become available before the next election cycle in select Walmart locations staffed by nondescript ladies who will innocently inquire, “Oh, are you going to send a robot to Congress?”

And there you go.
~ Deborah D. McAdams