SOUNDS OF SILENCE

“And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls.”

In my world, we all heard the same sound. We heard the screaming baby, the screeching siren, the shrill parent, the drunken neighbor, the morning doves, the leaves rustling, rain falling, children splashing, that new song by Stevie Wonder.

Not you.

You hear differently.

Like how you see differently. You stare each into separate screens, each screen showing only for you.

Now, those same screens — and their cohorts, your cars, your speakers, your appliances, even your doors — now speak to you, only to you, but with different sounds, different voices, different instructions than for anyone else, which I can almost understand, and now your computers have extended this, literally altering the digital inputs and digitized waves so that no sound is the same for anyone. Fascinating.

It started with a low-end speaker and a Super Bowl commercial:

By running Alexa commercials through digital audio editing software, (Reddit user) Asphyhackr discovered that Alexa ads transmit weakened levels of sound in an upper portion of the audio spectrum, between 3,000 and 6,000 hertz, outside the most sensitive range of human hearing. Asphyhackr speculated that Amazon could be tipping Alexa off to ignore certain commands if it detects artificial gaps or bumps in the spectrum.

And now you all have even your music and your television shows and your podcasts and your languages and all the advertisements and coupons spoken directly to you, only you, and in the voice and sound of your choosing.

But can you turn it off?

Certainly, it prevents anyone else from using your data or screens or speakers or swallows or robots or flat surfaces from responding to anyone but you. If you sell any of these things, that has to help your profits. Are profits still a thing?

But I suppose it’s better than always before.

It’s like how I sometimes envy your wandering autonomy. We were tied to a place, sometimes cold, sometimes poor, often filled with people we didn’t particularly care for, and which didn’t always have the opportunities we craved, even if it did fill us with love and certainty and familiarity. But you now travel the world, go anywhere, live anywhere, build anew, start over, with no concern of what’s already there, what’s already been.

The opportunities must seem endless.

Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.

They want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like.

Brave new world.

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