Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.
I, for one, welcome our Google overlords: Mochama
Dystopian futures have a certain appeal, writes Vicky Mochama.
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I have always wanted to live in a dystopian metropolis and each passing day brings me closer to my dreams.
The City of Toronto recently announced a partnership with Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, to build Quayside, a waterfront neighbourhood with all kinds of futuristic innovations. Having pledged $50 million so far to planning the neighbourhood, Sidewalk hopes to be the first tenant. I intend to be the second.
The ambitious plan will include, according to the New York Times: “a thermal energy grid that would be carbon neutral, sensors that separate waste from recycling, modular buildings that convert from retail to housing, monitors that track noise and pollution, self-driving transit shuttles, shared-ride taxibots, adaptive traffic lights, delivery robots, heated bike paths and sidewalks that melt snow on their own.“
Except for the part where cycling still exists in the future, I see absolutely no problem here. (I saw Wall-E. I was promised a hovercraft with a TV where my body can expand and atrophy.)
But the plan has its detractors. My colleague Matt Elliot wondered how this futuristic neighbourhood could bear the oppressive presence of the slowly disintegrating Gardiner expressway, “a relic from the past.” With due respect to my learned colleague, everyone knows that any good dystopian city worth its fibre-optic cables is always built directly beside a giant metaphor for its eventual destruction.
There are also other major concerns, namely over data collection and privacy. In sum, Google already knows too much about us and can’t be trusted.
It’s a valid concern. This week, an update to Google Docs resulted in users being kicked out of their documents. It turns out that Google “reads” or in the parlance of company lawyers, “scans,” your documents for abusive content.
If I start using coupons at the local grocery store, will Google start preparations to convert my modular housing unit into a retail store?
Will my lease (as if I can afford to purchase housing by the waterfront, let alone the Googlehood) be voided because I swore at the fridge?
I hope not, but if that’s the case, I would be OK with it, because Google sends all my receipts to one inbox. I’d like to see that logic applied to health care, education and grocery shopping.
In some places, the tech revolution is working beautifully. The city of Innisfil, Ont., has said that replacing public transit with Uber is “a big success story.” (No comment about the failure of public transit.)
You might say, “what about freedom of choice and your right to privacy?” Please, I don’t even like going to restaurants with a menu longer than one page. And as my parents said throughout my childhood, privacy is a Western concept.
I welcome our new overlords. And not just because I wrote this piece using Google Docs.