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By Thursday, Sep 6, 2018 Viewpoints 1

My computer and my iPhone no longer function as they once did, nor does my television set. Changes were made without my permission, without advance notice and with almost no guidance on how to adapt to the New Order. One thing is for sure: Manufacturers seem unconcerned with compatibility. My widescreen Sony TV has told me that I can no longer use Google Search to find an Amazon Prime video to watch. I can no longer trim my photos in Apple QuickTime 7. I can no longer update apps on my iPhone using iTunes. I talked with Apple Support and my problems baffled the supervisor. He was patient and diligent, but he could not figure out why the number of contacts on my iMac computer differed from the number on my iPhone and the number in my iCloud account. We got close but, try as hard as he did, he could not get an exact match of the numbers. And to his dismay as well as mine, iCloud would not let me combine what appeared to be duplicate entries.

We seemed to have re-entered the age of “caveat emptor”: Let the buyer beware. This time, we have to pay for the privilege. I got an advance notice from Samsung to buy an extended warranty for my smart television set, the one that still plays movies from Amazon Prime or Netflix  —or, at least, it does most of the time, but not the other night when we were told that we couldn’t see the next episode of “The Crown” and that we should try later. Then this:

Huh? I’d hate to lose “Paradise,” whatever that is. Computers “want to communicate” with you, but without the ability for immediate human feedback, they usually can’t. I never again want to hear: “I’m an automated system. I can understand full sentences. How can I help you?” My response: “I want to speak with a representative, agent or supervisor.” It’s a struggle to get one on the phone — and one who speaks English and is based in the U.S.

A friend sent me a Washington Post article that mentioned her husband but I couldn’t open it, even though I am a subscriber. I searched on my iPhone for his name in the Post’s app and found the article. The alternative was to enter my password on my laptop, and that failed. Often I am not recognized by an entity to which I subscribe, yet I am “stalked” by products that I have purchased or searched for, sometimes even after I have “unsubscribed”! I get numerous and frequent phone messages saying “you haven’t updated your free Google listing,” but none ever tell me why I should.

We’ve become so enamored of the “disruptive” power of technology that, until recently, we were unconcerned with the flood, firestorm and tornado-like damage that disruption can cause. As long as someone is making money, most of us aren’t concerned with the overall functioning of the systems that have the power to connect us. That’s why we don’t have high-speed rail like Japan and Europe, or universal broadband Internet connections like South Korea and Finland. No, we have major infrastructure failures and infrequent promises to fix what has deteriorated for decades. Rampant corruption tied to the power of money ensures that the power of ideas is reduced.

How many ways do we need to send and receive messages? Some people I know prefer WhatsApp, others text messages and fewer use email, though that should be designed for interpersonal communication. Someone whose name and photograph I recognized enticed me to accept him on Facebook Messenger. I did before I noticed that I had confirmed someone from Nigeria with his same name. Was my contact hacked? Will I be? Why isn’t our priority to simplify, standardize and secure our communications? Why isn’t electronic theft a major crime that is rare, discouraged and prosecuted until it is no longer rampant? In the current political climate, the need is more urgent than ever to solve the technological problems that not only inconvenience us but also threaten our democracy. Make hacking our voting systems impossible!

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One Comment   Add Comment

  1. Ed O'Malley says:

    Please send as a Letter to the Editor of the NYTimes!

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