Our lives influenced by technocrats and criminals

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 11/17/20

Tell me something, if you can: When did we, as a country, become so comfortable, and even blasé, about mafia-like behavior? For, example, two nights before the election, one of the bigger national …

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Our lives influenced by technocrats and criminals

Posted

Tell me something, if you can: When did we, as a country, become so comfortable, and even blasé, about mafia-like behavior?

For, example, two nights before the election, one of the bigger national stories was how stores and business in several cities around the country were boarding up their windows in anticipation of violence following the election. Apparently, if the election, which was closer than anybody imagined, had tipped the other direction, metropolitan businesses felt there was a credible threat to their businesses.

Of course we know which side of the election the store owners were worried about, and anybody who would argue differently is being obtuse. Exhibit A: the fact that one side lost, and no cities were burned.

But, in a larger sense, since when do we accept that behavior? Was the threat of violence and destruction a factor in this election? No, not likely. But it should never be a concern! That’s very 1940s and 50s South America kind of stuff. We’re better than that.

And why do we accept social media exerting power over our lives to control the flow of information? I get it — the Russians bought up a lot of Facebook ad space in 2016. But that should not mean that a couple programmers from Silicon Valley should suddenly have the power to decide which bits of information are allowed the light of day, and which are not? And, yeah, it’s not the government exerting control, so it’s not a First Amendment legal issue; but once upon a time, civil libertarians would have been storming the digital gates to prevent that sort of censorship. These days, not so much. Mostly just conservatives, in their khaki-pants brigades, whining about media bias.

And speaking of our tech overlords, when did Microsoft become the Wizengamot?

And if you don’t know what that is, I would refer you to the Harry Potter universe. I’m betting the powers that be at Microsoft know what that is, and the negative connotation it carries.

About six weeks ago, I received notice from Microsoft that my account had been blocked. I was not informed at the time of the nature of the violation for which I was blocked, nor was I even informed of the device upon which the “offense” occurred. I was simply blocked.

Now, those of you who store stuff in any of the Microsoft cloud environments would surely understand what a nightmare this could have been. As it turns out for me, it’s little more than an inconvenience.

However, since, as a security precaution, all of my son’s Xbox content is registered to my email account, my son has now lost access to hundreds of dollars worth of gaming content, his profile, his records, his ranking in some of the competitive worlds…. All hidden now, in some double super-secret probation.

Again, the genesis of the potential offense still a carefully guarded secret.

The best part of all this is that one afternoon last week I wasted an hour and a half chatting with a Microsoft customer service agent who had no access to my information, no access to records of the investigation underway, no ability to escalate my complaint, and no suggestions as to how to proceed. In fact, the only thought he had (and it’s not his fault) was to file a records request; of course, I filed a records request six weeks ago, and it clearly states that duplicate requests would “start the clock over” on the investigation into the original request.

So much of our lives right now are dependent on people and systems that we have absolutely no control over, and, frankly, it’s a little scary. You want to see the education world come to a screeching halt in a nanosecond? Have Google shut down all their services. Education would literally stop.

We should be smarter than this. Somewhere between Don Corleone and SkyNet there has to be a place for us to get off this ride.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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