Seeing people’s faces raises moral and lowers stress.
As Local Outreach Pastor during the COVID19 pandemic, the church is faced with new challenges when it comes to connecting and serving people. While most folks know how to use social media and communications platforms like its second nature, we must consider those who may not know how to use technology to connect.
Think about the elderly widow who is isolated but she has a smart phone. She may not be aware of the capabilities at her fingertips. The objective is to help you help others connect face to face using technology.
Below are some simple videos and instructions you can share with others. Help those feeling isolated and lonely connect. Be their buddy and the face that brings them hope and comfort.
Let’s help our neighbors connect during quarantine during this COVID19 situation. Let’s keep relationships and loving our neighbors at the forefront of our minds while we exercise proper precautions like social-distancing and self-quarantining.
Welcome to Part 3 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend reading Google: Friend or Foe Part 1 and 2 before continuing.
What type of threat do companies like Google pose?
First, I think one threat tech companies pose is rooted in their surveillance business models, data collection, in addition to outside business relationships with governments (foreign and domestic) and other third parties. How will they use data? We’ve already seen the privacy issues, subsequent lawsuits and investigations.
Case in point, ten years ago China executed a state-sponsored cyber attack against Google and other large businesses. Many believe the attack was a response to Google’s decision to stop offering their search engine in the Chinese market due to human rights concerns. In addition the totalitarian communist state wanted to censor, monitor and limit Google search results. This began an interesting relationship between Google and the NSA (National Security Agency).
Once you investigate links with China, you will discover Google’s “Dragonfly” project. In a 2018, article from Just Security entitled, “Google’s Dragonfly: A Bellwether for Human Rights in the Digital Age”
“This “history” throws yesterday’s news about Google’s secret “Dragonfly” project, a search engine that will meet Beijing’s demands for censorship, into disturbing relief. Ever since 2010, the Chinese government has never quite gotten over the rebuke leveled against it by an uppity Western ICT company, which in retrospect clearly discredited the government on the world stage. Google took the type of action in support of human rights that few governments, let alone the private sector, would dare attempt. Of course, the Chinese government viewed the incident as a threat to regime control …. But, in the end, the Chinese government merely had to wait its challenger out, and all would be well.”
“Resisting no longer makes any business sense when the laws and policies of your country of origin and other active markets begin to resemble those of the country from which you withdrew.”
On the home front, if you want to explore Google’s U.S. partnerships with government agencies, political groups, nonprofits and the like, check out their ‘Transparency’ page.
Another interesting article was written by Harvard Law Review in 2018 entitled, “Cooperation or Resistance?: The Role of Tech Companies in Government Surveillance”
Second, I think the biggest threat comes from the Social Engineering aspect of Google’s capabilities.
Remember, social engineering is used to manipulate people. When your platform is capable of shaping thought, behavior follows. Behind every artifact or innovation is a worldview – a philosophy of the person or group that created it. What is this artifact or innovation for? What is its purpose?
What is the dominant philosophy behind driving the current and future business model at Google? Does the philosophy view humans as dignified individuals or machines or something else? What are the political and economic philosophies expressed through search algorithms and social engineering.
Everything is fine when the people at the top are of goodwill toward their fellow humans. However, when organizations and their partners become self-serving, abusive or tyrannical, a perceived threat becomes real. Individual lives and whole societies will be impacted.
I don’t think we fully understand the power and implications of these technologies.
When a company makes profits by collecting, organizing and manipulating the personal data of billions of people we must attempt to understand potential threats and risks involved. In the wrong hands, these powerful tools can cause great harm or be misused to the detriment of humanity.
At the end of the day, Google is able to curate your internet experience to the places Google wants you to go. It controls what you see and what you don’t see. In other words, Google can herd people where they want them to go through powerful algorithms. Because Google has millions of data points on billions of individuals, Google’s powerful AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology can predict your behavior with creepy accuracy. If Google can tell you where to find the information you think you are looking for but Google wants to to see and what to buy, it can tell you what to say and think. It already does.
Without anyone knowing, Google is shaping the worldview of billions of people. The question is what is the shape of the worldview Google intends for users? How will Google treat worldviews that counter it’s own? Shaping thought can be beneficial but that is what parents, teachers, mentors, artists and leaders do – not tech companies.
The First of the Ten Commandments is; “…You shall have no other gods before me”. After digging into the tech giant’s business model, activates, partnerships and philosophy, I believe Google’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods but Google.” Think about it.
After reading this series of posts, are you seeing a general theme?
What can we do about it?
Don’t just take my word for it, do your own research.
Take a technology inventory. List all of the technology devices and platforms connected to you and your family.
Welcome to Part 2 of my blog series about Google. If you have not read my first post, I’d recommend readingGoogle: Friend or Foe Part 1 before continuing. Part 2 builds on the foundation of my previous post.
I think the best way to understand “What Google is actually doing?” is to see that Google is in the “thought-shaping” and digital human data-trafficking business.
When an organization’s stated mission is to “organize the world’s information”, we know that based on what Google does with information tells us more about the purpose. Information shapes thought. Thought and beliefs drive behavior. Therefore, I submit that Google is shaping thoughts of billions of people and by extension, driving behavior. But, to what end?
What is Google actually doing?
YouTube, AdSense, FitBit, Nest, DoubleClick and over 200 others are not the end of Google’s reach. Google is a major stake holder and data repository for genetics-testing company 23andMe. Seems harmless enough. However, 23andMe is partnered with big pharma drug giant Gloxo-Smith-Kline for research into disease using data collected. Most 23andMe customers are unaware of this. [source link]
“In its filing, Google also noted that Anne Wojcicki is a co-founder of 23andMe and is a member of the board of directors. Wojcicki is married to Sergey Brin, Google’s president of technology and company co-founder. The search giant also outlined other intertwined relationships beyond Brin and Wojcicki: Sergey also holds approximately 35 percent of Google’s Class B common stock. Prior to Google’s investment in 23andMe, Sergey provided approximately $2.6 million in interim debt financing to 23andMe…” [source link]
In other words, Google is interested in genetic data on millions of people. That’s of interest to me.
Google surveillance in your home
On the home front, Google’s purchase of Nest is an interesting play. Nest is well known for their ‘smart’ thermostats and ‘user-friendly’ security camera systems for homes and businesses. What is not so well known is Google placing microphones on their in-home ‘smart’ thermostats. Apparently, Nest ‘forgot’ to include the one feature most people concerned about privacy care about on their product feature list for in-home thermostats – a microphone. [source link]
Of course, there is Google Home, a virtual assistant similar to Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. These devices are constantly monitoring or ‘listening’.
Additionally, Google has filed a few interesting patents. Perhaps, ‘invasive’ is a better descriptor. These new technologies use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze other technologies inside the home, clothing, chemicals and even voices in your home. [source link]
Google made inroads into the smart phone market. It’s Android mobile operating system has dominated the mobile market. Its devices are cheap and come loaded with Google apps. The Android operating system is collecting data on users who may not use Google’s other products or platforms. There are 2 Billion Android users worldwide as of 2017. [source link]
Google surveillance at your child’s school
Google also launched it’s Google ChromeBook, cloud-based personal computing hardware. It’s also very cheap but you’re locked into Google’s offerings with the device. The key to understand its growing pervasiveness in schools is knowing that the low price-point is a strategy to gain marketshare and essentially aimed at data collection. If a child is forced by his school to use a Google ChromeBook, he is being groomed to grant access to his data to a tech giant for life. How will that data be used?
Google is being sued in New Mexico for collecting and misusing data on children who are required to use ChromeBooks in schools. [source link]
The growing ‘tech in the classroom’ or “edtech” industry is worth BILLIONS of dollars. So, there is a huge push by big tech to cram as much technology as possible into classrooms and homes in the name of “better education.” There’s little to no research supporting the pervasive use of tech in the classroom is beneficial. In fact studies are proving that “the digital interface does not stimulate the brain as well as an analog interface. Off-loading the cognitive effort that makes critical brain connections stronger is like paying someone else to do your exercise for you.”
Remember, this is a profit-centered approach, not a student-centered approach.
Google surveillance on the school bus?
“In places such as Hot Springs, Va., Alphabet Inc.’s Google has wired school buses, turning them into rolling study halls for students with long commutes and sometimes patchy or nonexistent Wi-Fi at home. Google says the program, a pilot which is in 15 school districts in 13 states, will be funded at least through the end of this school year.” [source link]
Google surveilling your location, email, documents, photos and network
Google Maps was the best free mobile GPS system available… until Waze was introduced and began giving Google Maps a run for their money. Google acquired Waze for nearly a $1 Billion before Apple or another competitor could buy them. [source link]
All of this and more on top of the world’s most powerful search engine and email client used (Gmail) [source link]. While most know that Google stores personal data related to search, few are aware that Google is collecting data from Gmail accounts. [source link]
Google Docs is popular for document storage and search capabilities. Google Photos platform receives 1.4 Billion uploads per day by users. Let’s not forget Google Fiber (broadband internet and IPTV).
Are you starting to see a pattern? A good detective identifies behavior patterns. Patterns lead to evidence.
Google may have begun with good intentions but as I have demonstrated they have followed a path of bad actions that are a cause for concern.
BTW. None of this has gone unnoticed by the Feds, the U.S. Department of Justice has ramped up it’s investigation into this tech behemoth. [source link]
Why do companies like Google and Facebook offer their products for free or cheap? Because their surveillance business model turns the user into the “product” they can sell. Google and Facebook are in the ‘Digital Human data-trafficking” business. They manipulate people and sell the digital profiles of billions of people. They surveil you and sell everything they know about you to the highest bidder … and you let them.
In my next post, we’ll talk about the type of threat companies like Google pose and what can we do about it.
Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine. It felt great in the moment.
Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later. At present, I rarely check the platform. Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline. Not much has changed. I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon. Addiction defeated, problem solved right?
Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty. So, I was stuck inside the house. I had some choices to make. I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash. All decent options.
I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem. I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day. No need to do that. Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end. Simple enough. Let’s read! I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.
At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news.
The battle was on!
I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book. Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down. Problem solved!
I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book. Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?” My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call. I’d better keep it with me while I read. I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout. In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again. After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight. A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel. I had been ambushed! It was an inside job!
It’s always an inside job!
My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News. My problem is my heart. If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly. Yes, I have a few Godly desires. But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God. There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news. However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.
Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives. A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.
As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness). I read the passage and something changed. A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.
Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection. We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…” I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises. In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!”
Is that what James 4 is about? We don’t have because we don’t ask?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.”
James 4:2b-3 ESV
We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions. Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages. God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.
Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God? Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.
Sunday night I saw one of my favorite bands, Phish perform live at Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. It was a fantastic show. The sound quality was amazing! I was VIP and had full stage access for their entire performance. I did not have to pay for tickets or fight the crowds of soap dodgers. I had a glass of my favorite wine and slept in the comfort of my own bed after the show. How did I accomplish this? Well, the story begins 20 years ago.
In 1991 I got my first car and my first cell phone. The car was a 1966 Mustang and the cell phone came in briefcase weighing about 20 lbs. I thought it was pretty cool at the time. Since then, I have owned over a dozen cell phones and/or smart phones.
Boy, was I wrong…
When cell phone companies decided to place cameras on cell phones, I remember thinking that the idea of a camera phone was stupid. Who wants a camera phone? It made no sense at the time. Boy, was I wrong!
When cell phone companies added ‘texting’ to phone capabilities, I remember thinking that texting is a waste of time. Why text, when I can call? Boy was I wrong! (more…)