Predictive Destination

Google wants to help. It really does. My car has Android Auto and I think it was confused today.

When in the car and connect my phone, Android Auto comes on and displays Google Maps, offering suggestions on times to my usual haunts. Today, when I headed out to play golf today, it kept showing the time to the coffee shop my wife and I visit each Saturday, no matter how far away I got. Tomorrow, I expect it will pop up with the time to my golf course as I usually play on Sundays.

Keep in mind, I am not using Google Maps to navigate to these locations, I never have had to. Instead, Google tracks me through my phone’s GPS. Of course, I have consented to this, so I am not complaining.

But, everything is connected, as Douglas Adams’ Dirks Gently said, and I make all kinds of connections.

Remember, I was off to play golf.

A man comes home late on evening. He sees the porch light come on and the door open. His wife is there waiting for him, clearly upset. Taking a deep breath, he gets out of the car and trudges to the porch.

“Hi honey, I know it’s late. I’m sorry…”

“Where in the hell have you been? I’ve been calling the office and your cell for hours! What in the hell is going on with you? “

He thinks to himself, “Wow, she’s really angry. the truth is simply not going to do. I guess the thing to is to confess to a lesser offense.”

He sighs, “Honey, is the going to be hard for you to say. The thing is, I just have not been happy. I have felt neglected and alone while you have been so busy. So, I had an affair, I’ve been at her place.”

She stares him down. Her voice cuts like a knife, “You lying bastard, I see the grass clippings on your pants, and noticed your clubs were not in the garage. You’ve been playing golf again, you son of a bitch!”

Yes, a very old and bad golf joke. But it came to mind while driving and got me to thinking about predictive destinations. If Google notices that you frequent particular addresses, I can see where this becomes a really bad thing.

“Umm, honey, what’s this address on the display?”

“Gee, I really don’t know.”

“Let’s go there and find out. I’m curious. Google must have suggested it for a reason. This could be fun!”

I wonder if Google and its developers think about these things. This age of near total surveillance has so many things going on. For example, this article about Acension health system tells us about how Ascension is sharing de-identified patient records with Google for Project Nightingale. The goal is to use Artificial Intelligence to improve patient healthcare. But if Google knows most every android users’ location history and can match those histories to medical records that include appointment dates and times, the merged records for those Android users are now fully identified. I remember a news story about this in the last two weeks, but I can’t find it for some reason. So, maybe Google is not perfect. Or maybe not.

Clearly, it occurred to developers after the fact because they added an Incognito mode to Maps that allows you to hide your location. I wonder who complained? And why? Maybe a stronger grounding in the liberal arts and humanities would have avoided the need to add such a feature as it would have been built in from the beginning.

The destination is less important than the trip. That was the moral of Robert Bloch’s Hugo Award-winning short story, That Hell-bound Train, “The joy is in the trip, not the destination.” If Google developers had read that story, they would better understand the risks of focusing on just the destination.