A long time ago, when computers and the Internet were still wedging themselves into our lives, I was amazed at how easy someone had made it for us to simply answer questions and upload information about ourselves online -- and how seemlessly we began doing it. Even just saying "yes" seemed ominous. I remarked to colleagues that somewhere in cyberspace someone was conditioning us to simply type in whatever we were asked to type in. Not that I heeded my own wariness. I was as eager as the next person to type in my name, place an order on line, answer a survey.
Now our Google toolbar will fill in forms for us and hand out credit card information without us even having to open our wallets. How many of us are paying a monthly $7.99 charge or $12.00 charge or. . . on our credit card statements that buys us some service we don't even remember we have? Who did we talk to when we ordered it, and who do we talk to to cancel it? And are we even sure all of those companies that are collecting the money are still in business?
We've given Microsoft free access to our hard drives because it's easier than trying to remember to download updates on our own. We let McAfee or Norton Utilities have free access. Who are they? And why can any of them simply shut down our computer at will to "reconfigure" the updates? Why does Dell want me to upload my hard drive to their server in cyberspace -- so I'll be protected when my system crashes? Do I know anybody at Dell? And why does Quicken check to see if I've got the latest financial tools and urge me to go to their website every time I start the program? For that matter, why do they want to pay my bills for me? Do I know anyone at Quicken?
What prompted this reflection was watching my local morning news today. The price of gas in Atlanta rose 11 cents overnight and another 4 cents in a half hour during the broadcast. It's because of Ike, and I just wish I had filled up yesterday. Wouldn't it be great if I could get some kind of warning? And then they said it. If you want instant alerts on what's happening with gas prices, all you have to do is sign up on 11alive.com and they'll send you an alert when there's going to be a change in the price of gas. I didn't sign up, but I assume they'd send it to my mobile phone if I asked. It seemed like it was the perfect solution to a serious problem. Thank God for the Matrix.