Saturday, July 26, 2014

Your Refrigerator Just Ratted You Out

Some time has passed since my post on the need to get away occasionally to a place of solitude, seeking to recharge and replenish inner strength by escaping a nattering world grasping for our attention. How fitting then that this week a webinar I attended confirmed my conviction for this need even more so.

I'm in the marketing business and the webinar I attended on Millennials, Social Media and the Future of Digital Marketing had some interesting and somewhat unsettling revelations. Besides updating on trends in usage of social media sites, the host revealed that connectedness to the internet is expanding beyond our computers, cell phones and tablets. Cars are already connected. Soon, household appliances will be. One example given was the humble crockpot. New ones will have sensors that detect what you are cooking, will upload that data to interested advertisers and a display screen on the crockpot will receive recommended recipes and coupons to use at your grocer.

Your refrigerator will, like the crockpot, solicit your business with offers to your local grocer. Your stove and microwave will similarly play the role of informant. Your TV already has the technology to do so, awaiting empowerment from cable and satellite providers to upload your viewing habits to the hands of eager marketers. Your computer browser yields up your search history for "retargeting".

Eventually every electronic device will be so connected. And besides advertisers, charitable organizations will solicit donations this way. Remember your parents urging you to finish your dinner because children are starving in Africa? Soon, your microwave will urge you to give money to feed the hungry. (Will your garbage disposal scold you when you put food down the drain?)

In other words, your life, already laid bare by the consumer choices you make, will be assaulted from the most mundane devices you own, equipped with the latest technology to unleash a bombardment of commercial solicitations from every corner of your electronic world. Its not that your personal information will be "out there". It already is. What's new is the pervasiveness by which you will be reached with messages into every corner of your life.

How long until such data is shared with, say, your life and health insurance companies who will charge you according to your habits? And not to go all "black helicopter", but with health care inching inexorably toward eventual direct government nationalization, how long until the feds have all your life data? Oh wait, they probably already do, according to Edward Snowden.

Trust me, I'm no wild eyed conspiracy whack job. I roll my eyes at most of that stuff. But these trends don't have to be the stuff of deliberate "Bilderberger" conspiracy. They are just the natural progression of societal and technological trends. Its not hard to see where this is going.

Certainly I'm aware that observers have been lamenting the loss of privacy for a long time, so I'm not just joining a chorus of other voices expressing this concern. My point here is not so much the regrettable stripping away of our privacy as it is about the need to shake off the leeching attachments of modern culture to find lasting strength and character in timeless spiritual disciplines. Returning to the theme of my post "Alone, Still, Silent", as these societal trends progress, the need for retreat time becomes even more imperative. The ancients of many world faiths, not just Christianity, have recognized the value of drawing away from the clamor of the crowd and the demands of daily living, spending time alone with God in reflection and prayer, replenishing inner strength.

Already I've said that I truly believe we western worlders are afraid to be alone, still and silent. We squirm if there is no music or talk or video continuously streaming into our already overwhelmed senses. Now, through technology, you will be hotly pursued to yield up the last scraps of your private life.

What else will it take for us to set a boundary around our lives and say, "this is my private space, come no closer"?

I cannot emphasize enough how refreshing and replenishing it is to wean ourselves away from the shrieking furies of modern demands on our attention and cultivate stillness within so that the quiet, gentle voice of the Living God can be heard. Daily time of quiet reading, thinking and praying and occasional retreats for more extend time are empowering in a way our frenetic culture cannot comprehend.

The promptings you will receive on that holy ground in the presence of God will be of a surpassing eternal value that no "buy one get one" offer from your appliances can ever match.