STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
How Amazon and Google Smart Speaker Competition Reveals The Future of Government
By Joe Jarvis - December 11, 2017

I wouldn’t invite the Amazon Echo or the Google Home into my home.

These smart speakers listen to everything that happens around them. Ostensibly this is to make shopping, playing music, and finding information easy. But the internet of things presents way too many risks to our privacy.

Internet-connected technologies are already used to incriminate their owners in court. And that is the main thing which scares me. Self-driving cars, smart watches, and smart homes controlled entirely from your phone sound really cool and convenient. But I don’t want the government to have that kind of knowledge about me. I might feel differently if I knew the info wasn’t going anywhere beyond Google or Amazon headquarters.

An Industry in Need of a Shake-Up

Government is an industry. Much like other industries, it can be upset by upstart competitors. But governments have monopoly status in given territories for their services. They don’t allow competition, and they enforce this ban on competitors by using their monopoly on “legitimate” force.

Never the less some small countries now offer incentives to organize your affairs under their government. Usually, this requires physically moving. But places like Estonia, with their e-resident program, have hinted that location-based government might not remain the standard. It is the 21st century, after all, and the internet has transformed many industries. It is only a matter of time until the government meets its reckoning.

Countries like Estonia will help move these innovations in governance along. So will countries like Georgia which now uses the blockchain to store property records. And even upstart new countries like Somaliland, barely recognized internationally, have teamed up with private developers to host special economic zones that hope to become the next Dubai.

But established governments are not the only ones offering competition to traditional government. Tech giants are poised to become decentralized governments of sorts. And the best part is that purchasing their services would not require moving to a new legal jurisdiction.

So how do I get from an in-home device which assists with shopping and playing music, to a provider of vast government services?

The Market for Government Services

The government continues to expand by convincing everyone that they can get government services while someone else pays for them. But what if consumers had to shop for the services they wanted?

Think about it. What do people really want a government for? A lifeline. We want to be able to call 911 and be whisked off to safety. We want police to respond to an immediate threat. It’s about having some sort of safety net in case something goes wrong.

With the Amazon Echo and Google Home, they can one-up 911 any day. They are always listening. If something happens, they know. And they can immediately get you assistance.

Except that they are still trying to work around regulatory rules which prohibit them from connecting you to 911. Apple’s Siri can connect you to 911 on devices that can make and receive phone calls. The Echo can currently only call other Echo devices.

Without government regulations in the way, smart speakers would be better than Life Alert for the elderly afraid of falling. They don’t need to be within reach to use. They are also better than a phone for calling 911 during a medical emergency, or even a home invasion.

In fact, soon, you won’t even have to direct the devices to make the call. Siri will soon sense from your fingertip when to call 911. Smart speakers will hear break-ins or recognize the sounds of domestic abuse. Your body will tell smartwatches when to call for help.

Just the Beginning…

The obvious problem with all this is government abuse of the data. But another problem is that these devices are still connecting you to government dominated emergency services.

Response from police differs greatly between municipalities. And once you get into solving crimes, things get even worse. According to the FBI, only about 65% of murders, and a mere 40% of reported rapes see someone arrested for the crime.

But if you signed up for Amazon’s inside delivery service, they have a camera on your front entranceway, and the ability to lock and unlock your doors. If someone breaks in, they know immediately.

The same goes for smart speakers, smart watches, and any other technology on the internet of things. They can recognize crimes in real time, without the user having to act.

And let’s throw Facebook into the mix. When it comes to security, they know who is stalking you before anyone else.

Speaking of Facebook, their first major investor, Peter Theil, developed a technology called Palantir. This aggregates practically all the data in existence to understand complex social connections, and behavior patterns. The tech can help users perform hundreds of hours of police work in minutes.

But what good is all this technology if the police don’t show up when called, and don’t don’t solve the crime when they do show up?

That is where Amazon has a headstart on infrastructure. They already have a network of delivery for packages. They are connected to customers not just virtually but physically. They want to deliver packages by drones from motherships (or nearby trucks). They have regional distribution centers.

It would not be very hard to implement emergency response teams in select locations. Add a security agent to the shipping team, and package delivery could double as patrols.

When it comes to solving crimes, use Palantir.

Google has some interesting infrastructure as well. They were the first to introduce self-driving cars in order to take street view pictures of practically everywhere in the United States and most parts of the world. Imagine hiring Google to patrol your neighborhood. On Google Earth, you can make out individual people in their backyards. Imagine how much more Google can see…

Now to be sure, all this technology is creepy. But most people have invited into their own lives. It wasn’t forced on us by an authoritarian government. My main concern is that the government will use it against people.

But what about in a world where governments know that they have to compete to provide people services?

Surely Amazon and Google compete with certain things, their smart speakers being a prime example. But they also have very different business models. Each may dabble in the other’s territory, and each is surely always looking for the next market to enter.

But does either one think they can ever entirely eradicate their competition? Of course not.

Governments have never been able to eradicate competition either, though they have tried violently. The only reason they can use violence in competition is because they have dominated the security sector for so long. They monopolize the “legitimate” use of force.

And still, some people have always managed to find their way to a friendlier jurisdiction.

Competing government where people don’t have to flee their homes means governments have very little leeway to oppress. Competition alone is a powerful check on power. “Siri, cancel my Google Government subscription. Alexa, sign me up for Amazon prime government.”

We have long called government employees public servants. And that is the idea of government, to serve us. They should be providing for the people, not living at their expense.

Private governance is the culmination of the American dream of independence. For most of history government have been rulers and dictators. We now have the chance to have a government that truly serves.

You don’t have to play by the rules of the corrupt politicians, manipulative media, and brainwashed peers.

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  • kenvandoren

    The problem with “private” governments is that some, including Google, are all to eager to share data they gather with “real” goverNMEnts. And if not eager, well, there is that “monopoly on the ‘legitimate’ use of force” thing. GoverNMEnt can and have forced private sources of data to share with them what they know. Not to mention, that there is the very real threat that “private government” will be just as pernicious, just as evil as “real” goverNMEnts. To the greatest extent possible, I will attempt to use the technology while sharing as little as I can get away with, foregoing some services altogether because they are too invasive.

  • Here’s a fine primer on Future AI Services already available virtually free, or for a token pittance ……… https://e-resident.gov.ee

  • Myron Goodrum

    Let’s be real, we will never have a government that serves the true interest of people. Just look at their 10,000 year track record, its dismal and only points to featherbedding, cronyism and bigger governments, period.

    Also, this comparison of Amazon and Google, it reminds me of the fake rival between the republicans vs. the democrats…no significant difference in either one of them when it comes to the freedom & liberty, of or for the individual. Especially in the U.S. where just about everything possible infraction you can think of has been made into a Criminal offense.

    The issue here is still authoritarian control. Either big government or big business – they both are vying for ultimate control; government via force and intimidation, and big business via new toys and gadgets (the internet of things comes to mind).

    By the way, isn’t Amazon and Google already in the pay of the White Witch?

    • Poppo

      Any organization run by man is doomed to corruption. Usually this happens sooner rather than later, but the corruption is inevitable.

  • r2bzjudge

    “Now to be sure, all this technology is creepy. But most people have
    invited into their own lives. It wasn’t forced on us by an authoritarian
    government. My main concern is that the government will use it against
    people.”

    William Binney said we have a turn key totalitarian state. Benjamin Franklyn said that it was a republic, if we could keep it. The republic has been morphing since day one of its existence. It is just a matter of time. Washington warned not to get involved with foreign entanglements and here we are, a global empire. As all empires decline and fall, we too will follow that same route.

  • Nobody

    “What do people really want a government for? A lifeline.”

    Upon more thorough investigation it can be found that what people want a government for is to have an entity that has no liability for its actions. This fact is derived directly from the observation that each man or woman does not want to be liable for their own actions. To be clear here I mean the legalese definition of “action” which means a court action.

    Under common law the accused has the right to face their accuser. The accuser initiates an action (court action) to seek remedy to a breach or injury. If an accuser was found to not have all elements that make up a valid cause of action then a court would not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case because there was no cause for action which for criminal cases would be determined by a grand jury for a civil case it would be determined by a judge. If cause was found the accuser would face the accused with the accusation before a petit jury for judgement. If the accused was found guilty a remedy was decided, if the accused was innocent then the accused might then have all elements of a cause of action against the original accuser – hence their was always the possibility that falsely accusing someone could have consequences for taking an innocent man’s time with false accusations. In fact, in some cases both parties would be both accused and accuser during the same trial due to the fact that taking someone’s time to defend themselves against false or frivolous accusations injures them and an innocent party might go ahead and make counter accusations to be heard at the same time.

    This entire scenario is what the scales of justice actually represents in the statutes of lady justice. The blindfold on lady justice represented the impartiality of the forum because the forum (court) had no skin in the game, the action was not brought by the court and the court wiuld have no gain from the outcome.

    The peace officer’s role in the scenario was to be available for requested agency to keep the peace. Since everything in an action revolved around an accuser having the elements that make up cause, the peace officer’s duty was also to be observant for probable cause – if there any incident taking place where there is probably an accuser with cause. If a peace would respond to a situation where he believed there was probably an accuser who would want to invoke his agency to keep the peace but upon investigating found that who he thought would be an accuser but said “no thanks we don’t need your services” then the peace officer would have no agency to proceed further in the matter. This is how the common law ensures everyone is equal in law- the accuser and the accused have potential liabilities and an officer would only have limited liability if he understood he had agency and he was always within the bounds of his bounded capacity of oath. A court could only have juridiction if there was an accuser with valid cause and a trial would determine what parties were liable, which way did weight of the facts tip the scales of justice. If a peace officer were to act without an accuser then there was no limited liability because who had no agency to principal accuser. The common law action is/was all about who holds the hot potato of liability – the accused or the accuser, a false agent, or just a big misunderstanding all decided by a jury.

    This is what sovereignty of each of the people actually is/was and how self governance played itself out; it was all about liability and the only thing anyone would do is uphold the law not enforce the law.

    From this picture of hiw American law is suppose to function we can derive several truths from our current condition, the Courts are no longer impartial because they profit from cases brought before them especially traffic courts- the judge your ‘guilt’ or ‘innocence’ with cash registers in the next room where they are deciding how much they will get paid from their ‘judgement’.

    All of this dismantling of proper application of law comes from the fact that each of the people do not want to be bothered with having to be the accuser and definitely don’t want the possible liabilities associated with being an accuser. The result is that they want an entity, ‘government’ to be an agent without a principal thereby making the scenario where no one is liable for their own actions.

    This dismantling of law is why America has failed to have a government that is bound by the Constitution. From this proper understanding of what equal justice under the law actually is one can clearly see America will never be fixed because everyone wants a society where no is liable for their own actions.

    • Free

      Wow.

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