Amazon and Facebook just showed me the future and I'm shaking

In a week full of pointers to a different world, tech companies showed us how they want us to live. It's beautifully disturbing.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer on

Look at me. I'm so happy.

Screenshot by ZDNet

When I get up in the morning, I put on my wedding ring and my glasses.

Then I go upstairs and prepare to put on the mask that I wear in my professional life. The one that tries to hide my myriad failings, insecurities and large, dark bags beneath my eyes.

I'm delirious, therefore, that Amazon and Facebook are creating a future in which I won't have to change a thing.

At last week's hardware event, Amazon revealed it, too, sees a future in which we're all wearing rings and glasses.

Meanwhile, on the very same day, Facebook showed that the future will involve us putting on large black masks.

I confess my delirium wore off a touch when I observed the small print.

Amazon wants people to wear glasses and rings so that they can summon its virtual assistant with just a word.

With this ring I thee wed, Alexa.

Jeff Bezos's company doesn't want us merely to be betrothed to Alexa, it wants us to be attached to it/her night and day.

Some, of course, will look forward to this prospect. They'll believe that the ability to summon an artificial intelligence is always far superior to them using (the remains of) their own humankind.

And we love it because it's so easy. Indeed, Amazon offered pulsating evidence that this isn't its evil corporate scheme.

Rather, as Amazon's smart home vice president, Daniel Rausch, told CNET: "Customers don't want to be bound by the technology that we put in any particular box. They want things like Alexa with them all the time. That is literally the feedback."

It must be literally true of course. For example, I've often seen people in clothing stores placing rollneck sweaters against their bodies and ululating: "Alexa, does my head look big in this?"

I can't count the number of times I've been to sporting events and heard: "Alexa, can you get me a cheeseburger and make the Giants win?"

It's heartening to know that shortly, people will go to the supermarket and be able to whisper into their ring. It looks like such an intimate experience.

As for the Echo Frames glasses, please imagine being on a date and your glasses suddenly piping up: "Your next Tinder date is at 9pm. Traffic is light. You should reach your destination in 7 minutes."

Just loud enough for Date No. 1 to hear, that is.

Please, I know these are experimental products. But they're also products Amazon thinks are likely a good idea -- because you do -- so we should all prepare with gusto for this bright new world.

And nothing last week was as bright as Facebook's sudden respect for humanity.

Why, here was the company's head of consumer devices, Andrew Bosworth, insisting that Facebook's AR "smart" glasses would be different from everyone else's -- presumably dumber or less sensitive -- eyewear.

"We're very much focused on how can this machine be used to connect with other humans, whereas a lot of other companies are much more focused on just what the machine itself is," he told CNBC with, one presumes, an entirely straight face.

But the sheer glory belonged to Facebook's Horizon. Prepare your breath, this is "an ever-expanding VR world where you can explore, play, and create in extraordinary ways. At Horizon, you're not just discovering a new world, you are part of what makes it great."

You surely adore the humanistic emphasis. It's all about you. Doesn't it remind you of Facebook's perennial claim to want the world to be more "open and connected"? This seemed to include the underworld.

No, Mark Zuckerberg never told you he knew what you wanted better than you. Other than 2010, when he insisted he knew people had had quite enough of dull old privacy.

With Horizon, however, we have something entirely you-focused. Here are gloriously legless beings wafting about in another world, one in which you can be truly free.

Horizon, the presenter tells us, "isn't about rules. Or limits. Or pants." (Such a relief.)

No, it's about getting you to live in a Facebook-controlled world in an even more absurd way than you did before.

Now, you can wave your arms about and your semi-bodied virtual self will be waving at some New Zealander's semi-bodied virtual self in a marvelous meeting of the virtually mindless.

It's an attempt to make Second Life your first life, while your previous first life is relegated to the realm of connecting with other humans a little less because you're wearing a ridiculous mask.

I may not sound excited, but truly, I am.

You see, executives from both companies talked about how privacy is built into all these products of the future. No one will know -- least of all Amazon and Facebook (humor) -- who you are and whom you wave at from dawn till ten hours past dusk.

Think of last week, in fact, as the tech industry voluntarily impeaching itself.

Why, not only did it present so many products for which humans are apparently begging, it also managed to disappear the CEO's of Juul and WeWork, two companies that represented the troubled and troubling image of yesteryear's twisted, insincere Valley.

(Now those companies will be run, respectively, by a tobacco company executive and a joint leadership team of two men who wear ties.)

The future will be very different, don't you see?

Tech companies will become very serious and focus their efforts entirely on you -- except, perhaps, for the occasional squint at government regulation -- so that you can feel more confident about disappearing ever more intimately into their collective bosoms.

It's going to feel so good that'll you'll want to wave your arms around and tell everyone about it.

Without your pants on.

See inside an Amazon fulfillment center where many of the workers don't get paid

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