Amazon’s plan to keep an eye on us will add to our shame about imperfect, messy lives.
Amazon has got a new wheeze! The internet giant has had a patent granted for the next generation of drones: these won’t just deliver stuff, they’ll take photographs of your home or garden, look out for problems (“or potential problems”) and report them back to Amazon, which will email you with recommendations for the products or services it thinks you need.
Well at least that doesn’t sound sinister. It’s a great leap forward: I’m sure we all share a concern that there just aren’t enough automated ways for huge multinational corporations to garner information about us.
Even if they weren’t going to trample all over our blessed, needed, dying privacy in order to milk and harass us or, worse, hand over the details as part of the quid pro quo for some kind of dodgy tax exemption deal from a mutually backscratchy government that seeks to monitor, document and regulate our every move in order to build its own power at the expense of our freedom – which I bet they are – I still think we could do without drones nagging us to paint the fence.
We’re all invited to feel quite enough shame about the state of our homes, selves and lives, thanks very much.
At one end of the spectrum, we’ve got TV shows, magazines and Instagramming celebrities to show us the airbrushed “perfection” we’ll never have: all thin thighs on unblemished velvet couches in impossibly shiny rooms. A young generation eagerly seizes the gauntlet, taking an average of 20 versions of each selfie (according to last week’s Ofcom report) before posting the one that best represents a cool and sexy life. As we turn guiltily back to our bedraggled, crumb-strewn parlours, I don’t think we need to find a letter from Amazon saying it’s looked through the letter box and reckons the carpet is shit.
In the patent document, Amazon suggests that these helpful new drones might spot an area of brown lawn and email a recommendation for fertiliser. Or they might notice missing tiles and send a list of recommended roofers.
Oh sure. That’s how it’ll start. I’ve had a glimpse of the future and it looks like this:
Dear Mrs Coren Mitchel
We see your hedge is a bit patchy. Did you know you can buy hedge from Amazon? We recommend an elegant yew. Not that vulgar buxus you’ve got at the moment.
Dear Mrs Corrin Michil
We couldn’t help noticing, as we flew past your window the other day, that The God of Small Things is still open on your bedside table. You really must stop buying books merely to impress the shop assistant. Amazon sells all sorts of other titles that are more your level, eg The Famous Five.
Dear Mrs Koran Mikhail
We notice your car is often parked with one wheel on the kerb. We recommend The Highway Code, on sale at Amazon or our new taxi service, Amazon Zoom, guaranteed to drive all other taxi companies out of business by the end of this email. It’s not like your car’s so great anyway. Diesel! Hahahaha! You dick. What’s its resale value, 2%? Don’t worry, you can always buy a new car.
Dear Michelle Cohen
Your child looks bored. What’s with all the wooden toys already? Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Why not download something off Amazon that will actually hold the kid’s attention. We’ve gone ahead and messaged her separately. We did it via that baby monitor you thought was intended for you to listen to her. It’s actually for us to listen to you. Ooooooooooo spooky. Your hair needs washing.
According to the internet you used to play glamorous poker tournaments and win them. Yet how come when we hover outside your window you’re always there doing something boring? How come when we leaf through your credit card bills you’ve always miscalculated what you can afford. Implied pot odds? You don’t even know how much milk is in the fridge. Your mind is atrophying. Maybe you should try tiddlywinks. Available on Amazon.
Here’s what’s cute. Look at your poor, weak, ageing mind, wrestling with the various ethical issues raised by the idea of Amazon drones. You’re all confused. You fear the new. You’re defensive of privacy. You disapprove about the tax thing. You worry about multinationals taking over the world. You’re suspicious of their relationship with government. But you think Amazon’s really good, don’t you? Interface-wise. So easy to use. Everything’s in stock. Everything can be sent straight to you, really quickly. It’s super-efficient. Especially compared to the actual shops, all half-stocked and half-run, full of rude people who wouldn’t help you even if they could. You can’t deny it’s hats off to the Amazon business model. You hate them for destroying the high street. But you’re irritated by the high street’s failure to up its game. So what to do, what to do?
Don’t worry about what to do, love.
We’ve already won.
And ever and ever