Here it comes: The invasion — infestation! — of flying robots whose eyes and ears belong to prying neighbors, IRS agents, bitter ex-spouses, the NSA, homegrown terrorists, jilted lovers, scouting burglars, mothers-in-law, anybody for any reason eager to stick their nose into your business…
The other afternoon my wife and I were sitting by the pool, having a prosaicwhat should we do tonight for dinner sort of conversation, chatting as always a bit about our kids, dissecting a book we had each just read, gossiping about a friend or two…and then from nowhere we began to hear an approaching continuous buzz, sounding like a muffled electrical short. As it grew exponentially louder, we searched in every direction for the source — finding it finally right above our heads! A remote-controlled whirling futuristic thing, a gigantic winged spider or a miniature spaceship that looked like it came from a planet of alien midgets! Had it come any closer to us, the high spin of its blades would have given me a haircut.
And yeah, to be sure, I really scared the thing. It just hovered in place for another minute or two, making it all too clear that the invisible creep controlling the remote was still clicking away and having a good laugh at our expense. Then abruptly it veered off to have a closer look at our house before turning back to fly in the direction from which it came.
I don’t live in South Waziristan, have never traveled nor attempted to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, am not nor have I ever been a member of Al Qaeda. Politically, I’m your average liberal Democrat whose present activism extends to demonstrating against the Keystone Pipeline. I live in a quiet and quaint mountain town known for its aging rock stars and the beauty of its mothers twenty five minutes north of San Francisco.
But here I was and here it was, 2015 America. A drone invading — shattering! — my personal space.
Are we serious? As a nation, are we about to allow these snooping robots to steal our precious breathing space? Already we can barely move on clogged streets and highways, and now we’re going to forsake the very air between us too? And our quiet! Not to mention the safety issue! There have been numerous incidents to date of near collisions of drones and aircraft.
Who are the thieves of our peace, quiet, safety and privacy to be? Amazon has its stake in already. Go Pro stock just shot up the other day because it is developing its own line of drones. Next up Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Uber? The Dronosphere, inches from our noses, promises to be quite a dense and sinister place.
But…it’s the ethos of the times, isn’t it? Technology says we can do it, so why not? A few years from now will kids even remember the time before the Seven-Eleven drone dropped off the toilet paper and milk right onto their front porches? A venture capital firm is likely already funding a twelve year old prodigy to develop code that will take our dirty laundry to the dry cleaner. For such conveniences, is it not worth ducking the drones as we make our daily rounds?
And look at all the trouble we will be saving our voraciously curious government in its War On Privacy. The NSA or CIA or FBI won’t need to deal with recalcitrant executives at Google or AT&T or Apple who have recently vowed not to make it so easy to tap our wireless lives. In a world of ubiquitous drones, eyes and ears will be everywhere. Fast, cheap and out of control.