Don't fear smart readers
Pierre TristamPrivacy is relative. We often think we have more of it than we do. So, it appears, are smarts.
Published: October 25, 2012
Published: October 25, 2012
Witness the reaction of otherwise reasonable, intelligent people to those smart meters that utilities are installing across Florida and the nation. The smart meters are digital, cellular replacements for their ancient merry-go-round forerunners. They'll make it easier for consumers to keep track of their own electrical consumption, help to quickly identify outages, build a more efficient power grid, reduce the need for meter readers and lessen the need for more power plants.
You'd think that's all for the better. But thousands of people, basing their fears on bogus viral information, are panicking over allegations that smart meters catch fire, emit dangerous levels of radiation and most of all are part of some weird plot to intrude on privacy.
The hysteria got so bad in Florida that the Public Service Commission last month felt compelled to hold a daylong workshop to allay fears and answer questions that made utility executives look like so many Galileos defending heliocentrism before a monkey-trial inquisition.
We've come to this: Some of our most basic scientific or technological advances are being held hostage to perversions of evidence no more legitimate than superstition.
We have serious privacy issues. Smart meters are not among them. My cable TV provider can tell exactly what we watch in my family, when we watch it and for how long. My Internet service provider keeps track of every place I click, letting advertisers develop dossiers on my tastes and biases more intimate than the one the FBI has been keeping on me since I migrated to this country.
Warrantless surveillance is now a police pastime. Last year alone, cell companies complied with 1.3 million police requests for texts, call logs, locations and other subscriber information, a congressional inquiry revealed in July.
Security or traffic-control cameras monitor much of our movement in public. And don't get me started on the inexplicably enduring homage to East Germany known as the USA Patriot Act.
We accept it all without protest, and much of the time without knowing that it's going on. When we do find out, we give the intruders a pass.
Smart meters are an easier target. It's easier to invent fears about them than prove their validity. They make an easy scapegoat for the paranoid.
The evidence of smart meters' dangers is next to nil. Your laptop's lousy batteries catch fire more often than your smart meter would. And what they can tell about your habits is puny compared to what all those other pervasive government or corporate monitors in our lives do tell, without so much as giving us the luxuries of uninterrupted electricity in return.
No wonder our elections are dominated by bogus issues and sham controversies. If we had smart meters installed on our collective intelligence, I have no doubt the smart meters would catch fire. Out of embarrassment.