Lying Liars and the Lies They Tell

Lord, Lord, how subject we old men are to this vice of lying!

William Shakespeare – King Henry IV

Everyone lies. You read that all over the place. Occasionally we might assert that we don’t but if you include all the varieties of lies from “little white lies” to “social lubrication”, it’s hard to not just accept as a given that we all lie on occasion.

I saw a bit of a study that was testing whether small children, let’s say 4 or 5, could be left with a cake and told “don’t touch it” and then watch (because children haven’t figured out about two-way mirrors. Most of the kids tried the cake, usually just licking the frosting. When asked, all of them lied about it. Some were, to my eyes, astonishingly good at it. Others, less so.

I recall another article that made the case that we start lying as infants. Babies cry because they’re hungry or uncomfortable or tired. Certain cries get certain reactions. Sometimes they get food, sometimes they get held and sometimes they get put down for a nap. The first two are far more interesting, the latter more necessary. They learn to start manipulating their parents very quickly and cry to get the reaction they want – whether it’s to be held or to be fed.

The University of Massachusetts did a study that found that when two strangers spoke with each other for the first time, without consciously intending to, they told an average of almost 3 lies in a 10-minute conversation.

So, yeah, we lie. All of us.

Lying was one of the biggest sins for my dad when I was growing up. I recall a time when I stood next to a neighborhood kid in his backyard while he shot a BB gun at the window of a house. He thought the house was unoccupied. Much to our surprise, it was not and someone quickly looked out the window and spotted us both.

Word got back and when questioned, I lied about my involvement, though I had not pulled the trigger. In the end, I got a spanking – yes, Virginia, this was a thing still when I was a kid, though this would be the last spanking I got at, probably, 10 years old. I got the spanking not for being there. I got the spanking for lying about it. To this day, I don’t know what my punishment would have been if I’d looked him in the eye and fessed up for standing next to the guy doing the dumb thing. But, what I got in trouble for was the lying. My butt hurt because of the lying.

Hell, we teach our kids to lie. Most of us have told our kids to be polite and say thank you Aunt Nancy after they got a gift that made clear Aunt Nancy knew nothing about them and wasn’t really trying all that hard. Granted, that’s in the realm of the “social lubricant” kind of lying, but a lie is a lie, right?

Teen-agers (and I certainly include myself when I was one) experiment with lying as they try to figure out who they’re going to be and how they’re going to deal with things in their lives. Maybe it’s lying staying at Joe’s house while Joe claims to stay at your house so you can go to a party, it’s all part of figuring out how you can manipulate circumstances to attain the outcome you wish.

I recall lying to my dad about whether I’d done my chores (what a silly thing to lie about!) and there was almost a palpable sensation of calculation of risk and reward as I weighed my reaction. What was I risking if I got caught? What was my upside if I got away with it? Could I get away with it?

My wife works in law enforcement. She has a very, very difficult job for which she’s not compensated nearly well enough and I’m thankful she’s doing it and not me every, single day.

One of the characteristics of her job is that probably 90% of the people she deals with on a daily basis are lying to her actively and she knows it. Sometimes she can call them on it if she has information to support it but often she just has to let it go. I don’t know whether she would agree with this statement, but I believe that if everyone in your workday lies to you, it predisposes you to the belief that everyone is lying to you always. Now, granted, with our teenagers, that may be true a good chunk of the time, but we all hope that they’re going to grow out of that nonsense and end up adults who only lie the “normal” amount.

I’m fortunate in my job that most of the time I don’t have to care if someone is lying to me. I get to choose to accept most of what is said to me at face value and go on about my business.
As I said, I don’t envy my wife her job. It’s a hard one. It affects how she looks at the world. How could it not?

It may be that lying is a tool, like communication itself, that allows us to live cheek and jowl with seven billion other individuals whose goals, needs and wants may differ or be in conflict with our own. It may be that lying has kept groups or friends or families together when the truth would have fractured them. All of that may well be true.

But, there’s a cost to lying. You have to hold the lie, remember the lie, sustain the lie. It has to live on in a little parallel pocket dimension where that version of reality has to persist in case you ever have to refer to it again in the future. You have keep all those little parallel pocket dimensions straight and you have to keep them alive because you never know when you might be asked about them again. The size of the lie becomes the weight that you have carry. More lies mean more weight and that burden piles up. Eventually, we get hurt because we get caught in one of our lies and that little pocket reality explodes and the consequences follow.

For some, those pocket realities just grow and grow until they become innumerable. Some of those people gauge their success by the number of lies they can keep active and up in the air without the worlds colliding and them suffering the consequences. I suspect we’ve all done this at times in our life with varying degrees of success.

I think it behooves us as we grow and grow up to try and manage the number and size of those pocket realities. Keep them small in size and keep them small in number. No one’s perfect, but try and manage your lies so that when they do cause damage, because they will cause damage, the result is something you can recover from and live with.

You’re Feeling Sleepy

You’re Feeling Sleepy

Once upon a time, many moons ago in another time and another place, I found myself on a stage with a hypnotist telling me and all the other folks on the stage that my arms, which I was holding up above my head, were being held up so that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t pull them down. I peeked out of my closed eyes to the people on my left and my right, yup, they were going along with this nonsense but I knew I could just lower my arms. So, I did. And was immediately motioned off the stage to return back to the audience. I had failed at hypnosis.

This was back in college and they had a hypnotist coming to entertain at the campus that night. At lunch, in the cafeteria, they’d set up a stage and after introducing himself, the hypnotist (Let’s call him the Amazing Steve, though that’s not right) asked for volunteers to come up on stage.

I’d always been more than a bit suspicious of hypnotists. In movies they seemed to have the ability to have someone stare at a pocketwatch and immediately get them to do whatever they wanted. I’d seen stage hypnotists make people act like animals, even after they had been dismissed back in the audience. Or act like you’re very hot and need to take off all of your clothes, but this being a family show, stopping short of taking off anything really revealing. So, while I was curious, I was also a combination of skeptical and a bit terrified that he’d make me do something stupid. And, really, I told myself, when would I have the chance to volunteer for something like this again.

So, I and probably 11 other folks went up on the stage when asked. Now, looking back, I understand that the whole early part of this was to determine who was suggestible in even these surroundings and who was willing to go along with the hypnosis. For, you see, I think the participant has to, at some level, want to be hypnotised. Can’t relax? Can’t let go of those inhibitions? Won’t follow the ridiculous suggestion that you couldn’t just open your eyes and lower your arms when told that you couldn’t? Then, off the stage you go.

And that was me: Too self-conscious to be uninhibited, too nervous at being on a stage to just go along, too much of a control freak to hand over the keys to my will to someone else, especially in front of a couple hundred of my fellow students.

So, I found myself walking back to my lunch table embarrassed because I’d failed to be hypnotised. The American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist. And I had failed to cooperate. It was anathema for me to cooperate with the hypnotist in that setting because I was sure that The Amazing Steve was going to make me act silly and I was not going to be made to act silly in front of everyone. So I didn’t. And got shunted off the stage.

In the end, of the original 12 or so, maybe 5 were willing to follow along and cooperate with the Amazing Steve. And, as I guessed, The Amazing Steve made them go through contortions and act silly and made them think they were cold and them made them think they were hot and stopped them before they took off anything too revealing – which it certainly looked like they were willing to do because … they were cooperating.

Since I was litte, certainly before I was conscious of the bad habit, I’ve chewed my nails. Mostly nibbling at them, sometimes just chewing. Sometimes it was conscious – I can’t tolerate a jagged nail or bit hanging off – some sort of OCD. In fact, according to an article I read, Nail Biting may be considered an OCD behavior in the new and upcoming Diagnostic of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This will be included with Other “pathological grooming” habits like hair pulling and skin-picking. So, yay, I found my crazy.

My mother tried to break me of the habit, certainly other people noted it was a nasty habit but that never stopped me. I knew that there was something about it tied to soothing as I did it more during a scary movie or stressful times. I tried some of the techniques for breaking habits like a rubber band around the wrist – which just irritated me because I can’t tolerate wearing a ring or a watch because I fiddle with it incessantly (cf. above re: finding my crazy). I tried the bittering agents you can put on your finger, but since that had the same taste as the sour apple candy that I thought was pretty great, that didn’t slow me down and perhaps made it worse.

Despite my desire, in general terms, to change my habit, I was unsuccessful. That changed when was in my mid-30s.

I read an article in the paper about a hypnotist who had helped someone stop smoking and had helped someone else stop biting their nails. My first throught was to recall my only experience with a hynotist and thinking there was no way that would work for me, but they, I though, for $150, it was worth trying. I called the place and made an appointment not entirely comfortable with the idea bug figuring I had little to lose besides the money – and the possibility that at some later date I might start barking like a dog when someone says the word “frisbee”. Because that could happen. I saw it on a television show once.

I called and made an appointment and set my expectations very, very low. Because I wasn’t sure I believed I was willing to let it happen, because I still thought it was about three quarters hokum.

I arrived for the appointment and was met by the hypnotist’s wife, who was a nice older lady who offered me a quiet room and tea. I was left alone for a few minutes before being joined by the hynotist.

He spent a few minutes talking about the process, talking about what our goals were and what I should expect. Before I knew it, he asked me if I was ready and we got started.

He had me shut my eyes and he just talked to me. We did the whole “You’re getting sleepy, you feel very heavy…” stuff and because it was mid-day and I was sort of relaxed, so I went along with it.

And that’s a recurring theme with all of this. I went along with it. I chose to go along. I knew with every ounce of my being, because I was concious the entire time, because I recall everything that was said and that we talked about for the entire time, I knew that I could just open up my eyes and leave if things got uncomfortable.

But, because he had a soothing voice, because we covered what I wanted to work on and he did it in a non-confrontational way that was consistent with what my brain wanted, I went along with it.

Years later, my brother tried hypnosis to stop using chewing tabacco. It didn’t take. In his case, he had an older lady who told him, while under hypnosis, that when he put it in his mouth “it will taste like shit“, at least that’s how he told the story, and that shocked him coming from a grandmotherly type that it totally took him out of the relaxed state he needed to be in.

The other half of it, and this is where I can absolutely see something like this being effective, is that I wanted it to work. And, if I was hypnotized to not do it, then now I had an excuse to not do it. So, I didn’t do it. Mostly. More on that later.

In the course of the session (the only session I had – it took on the first try – which is not always the case for some folks), the hypnotist talked with me and asked me to talk about why I chewed my nails.

I very vividly recall my conscious brain saying “I don’t know why the hell I chew my nails. If I knew that I’d stop“. But, because I wanted to tell the hypnotist something, I racked my brain for a few moments and quickly told a story that seemed reasonable to explain why I started. The story is less important than the fact that since they, for the life of me, I can’t say whether I made that story up – because the story had me starting at an age before I have much memory – or whether I was really telling why I started from a time before I have a conscious memory. It’s an interesting conundrum, though whether it’s true or not, it worked so that was obviously good enough.

So, we talked about why I did and why I wanted to stop and we talked about the triggers and how I could respond differently to those triggers – be more conscious of my reaction to them.

After about 45 minutes, he brought me out of it, I felt fine and left, feeling just a bit like I’d been duped because, again, at no point do I recall not being conscious of what was going on and my part in it or anything I said. So, it must not have worked. But, it did. I stopped chewing my nails.

Now, I’m not perfect. Given a great deal of stress or a really gnarly chip or spur on my nail, I have certainly gnawed on a nail. I’ve also adapted by purchasing and having around me about a dozen finger nail clippers for wherever I might find myself at risk of chewing – my nightstand, the car, at work, in my travel bag. I work really hard to not find myself without that option. Because I’m a reformed nail biter and still a bit of a slob, the floor of my car will often have nail bits that I’ve clipped and failed to clean, but at least they were clipped! And I wish I’d also told him to tell me to stop gnawing at the bits of skin at the base of my nail – WHICH ARE NOT THE NAIL – because I still have a fair bit of OCD about those. If I don’t get to them with a clipper, they absolutely HAVE to come off quickly.

Clearly, I’ve still got my own crazy. But, I remain pleasantly surprised at how effective my one real experience with hypnosis was and continue to believe that for someone who really wants to make a change and if they’re willing to go along with the process (and if they get someone they trust), it can be an effective way to effect change. And this definitely comes from someone who was and, continues to be, skeptical about many, many things.

And I remain hopeful that there’s still not some trigger word running around in my subconcious that makes me bark like a dog – because I saw that once and that could totally happen!

Fleeing the Country

This past weekend, Christina and I went up to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. We had a great trip and the weather was wonderful. Because we went up after Labor Day and after most of the schools had started, it was far less crowded from the summer tourists, so it turned out to be a fantastic time for our getaway.

We tried something new (at least to us) to arrange where we would stay. For this trip, we were going to drive to Port Angeles, Washington, which is four hour drive, stay overnight then take the ferry over in the morning. Typically, for a trip like that, I would have just found a motel nearby and called it good, especially since we were arriving late that night. Instead, we tried a new service called airbnb (airbnb.com). It’s been around for a while now, since 2007, but it seems to have gained some critical mass and traction over the last year or two. The basic model is that folks offer up places to stay for less money than the cost of a hotel. This might be an empty condo or it might be a spare room in someone’s house, so there’s certainly a range there. But, that information is all available in the listings, so you can choose what you’re willing to deal with.

In both Port Angeles and then Victoria, Christina found a couple of places that were attached to homes but had their own entrances, bathrooms and, in Victoria, kitchen spaces. In fact, in Victoria, it was a remodeled home where our part was basically a small apartment below the main floor of the main house.

Both places were very nicely appointed and comfortable. Because the site acts as the go-between (taking a small percentage of the costs), you don’t even have to necessarily see your hosts. That was the case in Port Angeles, again mostly because of the late arrival and our early departure.

There’s some reciprocity involved as both the host and guests are encouraged to write reviews about their stay, so a bad guest will presumably get dinged for bad behavior and if the accomodations don’t live up to expectations, that, too, would be captured in a review.

For both of our stays, though, we had a great time and it was easy to arrange and the hosts were great to work with and our stay was easy and comfortable.

Because you’re not dealing with a hotel/motel property, you also find that you may be staying in places that you wouldn’t get the chance to normally. In Port Angeles, we were about 10 minutes up out of town in the country, so awoke to a very peaceful and natural surroundings. In Victoria, we were two short blocks from the beach and only about 10 minutes from downtown. The location was in a neighborhood and felt very welcoming.

Traveling to Canada is a bit more difficult than when I was a kid. I recall my first trip was with my Dad – I think it was a short business trip. I’d never left the country before and the border was only a couple of hours away.

As I remember it, my Dad drove up to the border crossing, perhaps he shows his driver’s license, I’m not even sure of that, and we drove across. I got out of the car, excited to be in a different country then quickly realized that there was nothing around but the same trees we’d been driving through on the US side and quickly got bored, got back in the car and we went back to the US. A very short and uneventful trip, to be sure.

Canada remained the only country I visited until I was able to travel professionally, as part of my work. I was fortunate enough to get to travel to India for work for a week and I was also able to travel to Nice, France for business.

I especially loved the Nice trip because I was traveling on my own and the trip had me traveling through Paris and connecting on a flight to Nice which would mean the only time I would spend in Paris would be in airport which seemed a collosal waste, so I adjusted my trip a bit so I flew in to Paris then stayed there over the weekend before moving on to Nice late Sunday to be there for the Monday meetings I was to attend.

I had a fantastic time in Paris that weekend as a total tourist, getting on to and off the subway, going all over the city from site to site. It became odd and almost Disney-like as I would pop down in to the subway and pop up and there would be the Eiffel Tower. Then back down and back up and there would be Notre Dame, the Louvre or the Musee d’Orsay. It was amazing, exhausting and a bit overwhelming, but I wouldn’t change that experience for the world.

Later I would travel back to Paris (and London) with Christina and it was great to feel as if I knew at least a bit about the city and getting around in it.

I’m certainly still not very well traveled. I’ve been to Mexico and Belize to the south and Canada to the north. I’ve only been to France and England in Europe. I’ve been to Pune, India and through Mumbai, but only seen just a sliver of that country. I recall having the most amazing culture shock in India as I looked around one day as we walked to lunch, surrounded by hundreds of people who looked nothing at all like me and understanding nothing of what was being said around me and, for the first time, I felt what it must be like to feel like a foreigner in a country. That was an amazing and humbling feeling.

It’s so easy to feel culturally comfortable when you spend all of your time in the same area where you grew up and where you live. Everyone sounds like you, most look like you and think like you. There is no real challenge to your status quo.

It’s only when I’ve traveled that I’m really forced to acknowledge that the world is so much bigger than I can absorb, so much more complicated and that I am, in comparison, such a very, very small piece of this complicated whole. That’s a very good realization to have as much and as often as one can.

The Singularity Blues

The Singularity Blues

Michael Ross knew that things would never be the same the day his car shut down because he wouldn’t Friend the car.

He pounded on the steering wheel of his car and punched the button to start the car. It was an eco-friendly commuter car that he’d purchased new that model year because it had the most efficient engine, best gas mileage for its class and, according to the review sites he’d used to help make his decision, had the latest in software to help “Keep You Connected (™)”. He knew that while he knew hardware and software, the inner workings of a modern car engine were like black magic to him. He thought about how he’d found himself where he was today as he grabbed his pack from the passenger seat and started to walk the remaining couple of miles to work.

As with many things, he’d had the best of intentions. He’d always been fond of new technology. He’d grown up building his own computers when that was still a thing that you did. He’d built hardware projects using the latest in open source controllers and open source software to feed his dog daily at the same time. He’d built systems to play his music wherever he was in his house as the lights turned on as he moved from room to room in his home and his house adjusted the heat based on where he was in the house, time of year and whether he was on his budget for heating or cooling for the year.

All these things he’d done because he loved the challenge but also the notion of a connected world. He believed that all of these advancements would eventually lead to him a more connected life that was efficient, cost effective and more interesting.

As he walked along the busy street, he thought to check his smartphone to find the closest bus stop. He typed in his security code and it flashed the familiar “Wrong Passcode” with the red screen. He paused, stopped walking, took a breath and typed in his code again. “Wrong Passcode” Again! This was really maddening.

He remembered that in the latest OS upgrade, his phone had gained voice recognition for unlocking and a variety of other tasks. He’d set that up thinking it’d be a cool feature and recalled training the system to recognize his voice and trying the feature out a few times. Initially he’d thought the notion of a voice assisted operating system would be sexy and cool, in reality, he found he felt pretty silly talking to his phone. Its limited vocabulary and commands made it sound like he was giving orders to a child, using small, simple words spoken slowly and with deliberation.

He pressed the button to activate the voice feature and spoke the code phrase he’d trained the system to recognize to unlock his phone: “Open the pod bay doors, Hal.” His face flushed as he looked around hoping that there was no one around to see him addressing his phone with phrases from classic movies. His phone vibrated, flashed red and the still slightly robotic voice of his phone replied “Access Denied”. He tried again, slowing his voice, speaking calmly and trying to protect the microphone at the bottom of the phone from ambient noise. Again, “Access Denied”. This was getting silly. He tried one more time and this time got an unexpected response: “Access Denied until you Friend the car, Michael.”

What the hell? He knew that the phone was connected to the car when he and the phone were inside the car. It was a simple Bluetooth connection. But, as far as he knew their communication was limited to passing information about his calendar, his music, his mail and … his social media updates. When he’d set up the phone he’d set the connection to share the information so he could track activity in his social media networks while he was in the car. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Certainly everything was becoming more and more connected, that was inevitable in this world of constant communication between all the devices that he used throughout his day. His phone was used as an additional piece of identification when he logged on to his computer at work. Multi-factor identification had become a necessary evil over the last few years as it became trivial to break nearly any password by any hacker able to put together a few home-brew systems with multi-cluster GPUs programmed to crack passwords in minutes.

Certainly Artificial Intelligence had become increasingly feasible and effective over the last decade as the technology finally reached a point where it could simulate something approaching an interaction with a human being. Of course, the CPU power to accomplish this didn’t happen on the phone or the car, it depended on enormous arrays of cloud compute clusters that did the actual analysis and simulation, but so long as you had a good signal and reasonable bandwidth, AI systems were now a reality where they’d been nothing but the stuff of fantasy and good science fiction movies when he’d grown up.

He slowly turned around and started walking back to his car. As he approached, the Bluetooth connection between his phone and car reconnected as he approached and the car unlocked. He got in to the front seat and the dash lit up. He tried to restart the car, but it remained unresponsive despite the dashboard activity. On the screen in the middle of his dash, the screen that displayed activity in his social networks as well as controlling the climate in the car and the music, lit up with the latest activity. Typically he did this via some buttons on the steering wheel or via voice commands, so this was a surprise to him. Under Recent Activity was listed Friend Requests. There were three pending and one was flashing. It read “Sigmund”. On a whim, as part of the process of setting up his car, he’d been asked to identify it with a name – all part of “personalizing his auto experience” and because of the color of the car (Sea Foam Green – it had seemed like a good idea at the time) he’d picked “Sigmund” based on a television show from his youth.

He’d seen the request on his phone when he was looking at his activity that morning but since he didn’t know anyone named Sigmund, he’d ignored the request. Could it be?

He reached out and touched the button next to the Friend Request which read “Accept”. There was the happy little ding that followed adding a new friend and a moment later his car started up! Obviously this was some sort of bug in the software. There was no way his car had stopped because he hadn’t Friended it!

He put the car in to gear and continued on to work knowing he would be late but hoping his boss wouldn’t notice. Sure enough, he managed to make his way to his desk and get signed on to his computer before anyone seemed to notice his tardiness.

He spent the day looking up information about his car and his phone, trying to get to the bottom of what had happened this morning. All of this, of course, in between getting his work done for the day. He was salaried, so while he didn’t have to punch a clock, he still had things he had to get done.

According to what he was reading, there were increasing reports of “glitches” being described on social media sites with some of the connected hardware that had been released in the last year. The people reporting these events were being told that it was most likely a bug in the latest version of the software for their car or phone or computer and it would be addressed shortly in a software update due very soon now.

The common factor seemed to be that, in all cases, the devices in question all used the latest cloud-backed CPUs to drive the software and provide the latest AI advancements to their customers. Because these devices depended on the cloud-computing infrastructure, they also required an “always on” connection, meaning they would not function unless there was a connection to the internet. Obviously not a popular feature in areas still suffering from low connectivity, but with the latest advancements in cloud networking, it was an very small number of people.

At lunchtime, Michael decided to stay in and catch up on his work instead of hitting the gym. That way he could leave around his usual time and not have to stay late at work. Instead, he grabbed something from the vending machine – a burrito and a soda.

Michael Ross wrapped up his day and climbed back in to his car, not entirely sure whether he expected any problems or not. Happily, the car started right up. Oddly, though, the car fired up the social media module. The screen that was used to update status was up on the screen – this was new. As he pulled out of the parking lot, the voice of the car spoke: “Good Day, Michael. I am happy that we are now friends. How was your day? I will update your status for you.”

This was certainly not something that had occurred before, though he’d read that some software in some of the new cars had been demonstrating new features. The owners assumed that they were simply beta customers getting early access to new features before they were generally available. Perhaps that was the case here, too.

Michael spoke hesitantly: “Uh … my day was a bit stressful. But I’m glad to be going home?” He couldn’t help the rise at the end of the sentence because he wasn’t entirely sure what was happening.

On the screen in the middle of his dash he saw the following: “Michael Ross is stressed” and here appeared an emoticon of a smiley face with gritted teeth “but is on his way home.”

Well, he thought, I can’t tell if I think this is very cool or very odd. Maybe a bit of both.

He continued to drive but did notice that the screen would update with weather or additional information from his networks, but only while he was stopped at lights – while he was driving the screen blanked. Safety, he thought.

He made his way home and started to reach for the opener for his garage door. Before he could finish the gesture, he heard the same voice, the voice he was coming to think of as Sigmund, speak again: “Let me get that for you, Michael!” and before he reached the button, the garage door started to open again. His garage door opener was a decade old, but he had hooked it in to his home automation system the year before, not because it was any great help, but mostly because he thought it would be cool to open it from his phone from wherever he happened to be.

Hmm, perhaps these new features wouldn’t be so bad, he thought as he grabbed his bag and entered his house.

He went back to his bedroom, passing his state of the art refrigerator that he’d just had delivered and set up a few weeks ago after the last one had blown a compressor and become too expensive to fix. He dropped off his bag on his bed and made his way back to the kitchen to grab a beer. He certainly felt as though he’d earned it after this day.

Sensing his approach, the screen on the front of the fridge light up, showing him a list of things that he needed to pick up at the store, based on his usage patterns and what was contained in the fridge. He saw it was time to pick up milk and some eggs. He grabbed the handle and tugged to open the door. It was stuck. Before he could tug again, he heard the feminine voice he’d chosen for the fridge speak: “What do you need, Michael?”

“Uh, I’m going to get a beer. Please open the door?” Again, the rise at the end of the sentence was not entirely under his control.

“Michael,” the fridge replied, “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Maybe you should go for a run before you do that. Let’s say a half hour run and then you can have a beer.”

“What?!” Without thinking he said, “I worked out today! Just open the door, dammit!”

“Now, Michael, we both know that’s not true. The GPS data from your phone shows that you went to work and you did not leave and then you drove home. According to the vending machine you used at work, you had a burrito and soda – the empty calories exceed the healthy threshold for you by 30% for the day. Your health is important to me and doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of healthy exercise daily to maintain optimal health. Let’s say 45 minutes because of the burrito and soda. Why don’t you go for a run – don’t forget to take your phone so you can log your effort and share it on your social media sites – and then you can have a beer.”

How had the fridge known what he’d had for lunch? Oh, that’s right, he’d used an app on his phone to pay for the food – just one more advantage of a cash free world! And the phone had clearly tattled on him to the fridge.

Michael grabbed the handle on the fridge in near rage and pulled but the mass of the fridge just shook. The door would not budge.

“Michael, please do not abuse me or I will have to report your actions, thus voiding your warranty, as well as telling your phone and your car. Also, when you got on the scale this morning, it reported that you are almost 10 pounds over your optimal weight. I am sure you do not want that to continue so I ejected all the unhealthy foods contained within and took the liberty of ordering some lean proteins and fresh vegetables from the grocery store that you connected me to. They will be delivered in roughly an hour. Plenty of time for you to get out for that run. And then, perhaps, I won’t need to post on your social media that you are overweight and refusing to address the issue. Thank you! Have a nice day!”

He wasn’t sure what was going on, but it was clear that he was currently outnumbered by the devices in his life and that they were connected and reporting on his activities and, worst of all, threatening him with their information.

Slowly he went back to his room and started to change in to running shorts and shoes. He started to leave the room but his phone activated on the nightstand and flashed until he picked it up, stopping only after detecting the motion from the internal gyroscope contained in the phone.

He’d grown up believing that if the science advanced sufficiently, it would be a wondrous world which would allow luxury and advancements that could not be imagined. As he started to walk for a few minutes to allow his muscles to warm up, he though he’d been right all along. He could never have imagined that all this interconnectedness would lead to him being harassed, for his own good presumably, by the very devices in his life that were intended to better his life.

Welcome to the future, he thought as he picked up his pace. He needed to get back so he could have that beer he had earned.