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How Amazon and Google Smart Speaker Competition Reveals The Future of Government


I wouldn't invite the Amazon Echo or the Google Home into my home.

These smart speakers listen to everything that happens around them. Ostensibly this is to make shopping, playing music, and finding information easy. But the internet of things presents way too many risks to our privacy.

Internet-connected technologies are already used to incriminate their owners in court. And that is the main thing which scares me. Self-driving cars, smart watches, and smart homes controlled entirely from your phone sound really cool and convenient. But I don't want the government to have that kind of knowledge about me. I might feel differently if I knew the info wasn't going anywhere beyond Google or Amazon headquarters.

An Industry in Need of a Shake-Up

Government is an industry. Much like other industries, it can be upset by upstart competitors. But governments have monopoly status in given territories for their services. They don't allow competition, and they enforce this ban on competitors by using their monopoly on "legitimate" force.

Never the less some small countries now offer incentives to organize your affairs under their government. Usually, this requires physically moving. But places like Estonia, with their e-resident program, have hinted that location-based government might not remain the standard. It is the 21st century, after all, and the internet has transformed many industries. It is only a matter of time until the government meets its reckoning.

Countries like Estonia will help move these innovations in governance along. So will countries like Georgia which now uses the blockchain to store property records. And even upstart new countries like Somaliland, barely recognized internationally, have teamed up with private developers to host special economic zones that hope to become the next Dubai.

But established governments are not the only ones offering competition to traditional government. Tech giants are poised to become decentralized governments of sorts. And the best part is that purchasing their services would not require moving to a new legal jurisdiction.

So how do I get from an in-home device which assists with shopping and playing music, to a provider of vast government services?

The Market for Government Services

The government continues to expand by convincing everyone that they can get government services while someone else pays for them. But what if consumers had to shop for the services they wanted?

Think about it. What do people really want a government for? A lifeline. We want to be able to call 911 and be whisked off to safety. We want police to respond to an immediate threat. It's about having some sort of safety net in case something goes wrong.

With the Amazon Echo and Google Home, they can one-up 911 any day. They are always listening. If something happens, they know. And they can immediately get you assistance.

Except that they are still trying to work around regulatory rules which prohibit them from connecting you to 911. Apple's Siri can connect you to 911 on devices that can make and receive phone calls. The Echo can currently only call other Echo devices.

Without government regulations in the way, smart speakers would be better than Life Alert for the elderly afraid of falling. They don't need to be within reach to use. They are also better than a phone for calling 911 during a medical emergency, or even a home invasion.

In fact, soon, you won't even have to direct the devices to make the call. Siri will soon sense from your fingertip when to call 911. Smart speakers will hear break-ins or recognize the sounds of domestic abuse. Your body will tell smartwatches when to call for help.

Just the Beginning…

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