Insanity: Locked Out

Imagine that you're a loyal Google fanboy. You've had an Android phone in your pocket for as long as you can remember, and buy a new one every 8 months (at least). You believe that other search engines don't work. You died a bit when Buzz and Reader were killed, but you bought the rationale behind it. If a video isn't on YouTube, you don't watch it. You stood in line overnight for Google Glass, Google Home, and every Nexus device. You faithfully attend most Google conferences and product launches, live Plussing them on your Chromebook (to the annoyance of your friends), followed by an in-depth Blogger post. When you see a non-Google advertisement, or someone not using Chrome, you retreat to your brightly colored safe space.

When you heard that Google was building a neighborhood, you remembered where you were. Your life changed. It felt like you found the promised land, and were the 937th person that immediately signed up to live there. You've drank so much of the kool-aid, you're almost swimming in it, and now you want to live in a more physicalized bubble.

Soon (a few years later), you move into the techno utopia (beta version) of your dreams. Sensors are embedded into every surface, to make sure things are "just right". Google's knowledge of you guarantees you will never see a non-Google or unrelevant ad again. You get served food that hits the spot every time. Since you work from home, shop from home, and all the "best" restaurants and venues are within walking distance, you don't need Maps anymore. Your cat eventually gets used to the self cleaning Nest litter box. Robotic trash cans sense when you are about to discard something, so one will open and follow you around like a puppy until you've finished your snack and given it a treat. You're living the best life possible!

"A smart lock, displaying 'Welcome John'"

But one day, you come back to your apartment. It's locked, and won't accept your authentication method. Since your technocrat landlords despise plain old metal keys for some reason (What are you, a peasant?), they provide one of several alternative methods for you to open doors. (Why can't those cyborgs be more like normal people?) They advise you to never share how or with what you use to login to them. Whatever it is, it's not working. You hope there's not an electrical outage somewhere: a friend had one of those happen to her and she almost died from the anxiety! (Someone across the room from her wasn't so lucky!) She's still going to therapy for it!

Because you're living in the future, everything is connected to the internet. Like most everything else, your door has a display mounted into it. A message appears, informing you that you've violated the terms of service, and that your account has been terminated. You're locked out from all your stuff! There is a customer service robot downstairs, so you try to get some answers from it. Unsurprisingly, the robot is not helpful, not sympathetic, and it won't listen to an unperson.

You step outside and ponder why on Google's green Earth would you be locked out like this. It's probably something you said or typed, but you're not sure of exactly what. You're a good little fanboy, and every fiber of your being is progressive. Maybe it was someone you knew. Taking off your tinfoil hat, you figure that it's probably the local e-lord wanting to have some fun.

After living on the street for 15 minutes, you remember that a friend sold hammers made out of roots (or something) in the store. A few months ago, you heard of someone using one of those to get into his stuff. In desperation, you go to the store, but there's none there. You try to open a Hangout with that friend, but your phone is locked too. It's very hard, but you remember where this guy hangs out in reality. When you catch up to him, he said that he sold that side project to someone else months ago, but Google eventually stopped selling the hammer, because it didn't have a good enough description or pictures.

While walking around town, considering your options, you pass by someone trying to give away her Google Home, but no one is biting, because it's one of those big old ones. She upgraded to the crumb-sized Home Femto. (So cute!) You gladly take the big one. You return to your former apartment building, and give that robot a piece of your mind. You relish both the robot and the Home asking you in identical soothing voices to stop. The cops arrive about 10 minutes later, long after you've bashed both of them to pieces like they were fascists, scratched your hands and arms in the process, and passed out at the sight of your own blood.

You were charged, not with something like trespassing or vandalism, but under dozens of charges of the CFAA, because no one owns anything anymore. (You are merely licensed to use things, because you think that owning things is for chumps.) You misused both the Home and the robot (2 charges), heard their requests to stop (9 more), failed to obey said requests (9 more), conspired to destroy them (2 more), actually destroyed them (2 more), and accessed them and the building without authorization (3 more). You plead insanity.

The judge pronounces you guilty, and sends you up the river. You're never going to use a Google product again, but at least you have somewhere to live and you have your material needs guaranteed for the next 270 years! (Because lawyers!)

Two years later, you hear that neighborhood is abandoned, because the magpies running Google found some other glowy thing. Then it hits you: you are the magpie flying to the next glowy thing that some marketing department snorted and got high on. You have to sit down on your cot as you realize how many times you've been duped. (28 smartphones? for $800 each?) And that's before you count how many Javascript things you've learned but only used once, if at all. What a tool. It keeps you up for a few nights straight.

After you've mourned your life, you head down to the commissary. There is something brand new: a holographic cat. It lays on your bed, walks around, and purrs, just like your old cat. It looks like your old cat, too. You look closer, and see it's from Google, and inspired by a cat that someone left in an apartment. You loudly shout enough swears (about how nice Google is) to make the guards blush, and you get solitary for a month. As a sick prank, everyone chips in to buy you a gift. When you return to your cell a month later, your cat is pacing around on your cot expecting you. After being isolated for so long, you just can't take it anymore. As you feel your mind explode, you understand that you aren't in control of yourself (or anything at all), you never were, and you are never sane again.

Note: this post is an expanded version of a comment I made on Hacker News about a Sidewalk Labs (a Google company) project in Toronto. A Goji Smart Lock was used for illustration. Special thanks to Jacques Mattheij for the cat.