Beware! 8 sinister consequences of Google and Amazon drones
If Google, Amazon, and Facebook usher in a new era of urban delivery drones, will we lose more than we gain? Crave's Eric Mack sees danger ahead for everything from Spam to Slurpees.
Eric MackContributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is email@example.com.
ExpertiseSolar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/Credentials
Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Last week, Google unveiled Project Wing, the company's take on delivery drones and its latest attempt to use tech and data to make the world a better place -- Google says it will initially use drones for disaster relief.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't point out a few of the possible unintended consequences of the widespread adoption of delivery drones operated by the likes of Google, Amazon (also testing drones), and Facebook dropping everything from pizza to prescriptions on our doorsteps.
So here are eight such examples of techno-panic -- in no particular order of seriousness or likelihood -- that kept me up nights over the long weekend:
A new era of junk mail on steroids
The amount of junk in my snail mailbox has steadily decreased as spam has migrated online during the past two decades, but a world filled with legal delivery drones making regular door-to-door drops could lead to mountains of unwanted junk greeting us each time we open our front doors.
You could literally walk right into yet another unneeded new credit card application being dangled in front of your face by a menacing bot as you head to work each day. And hey, how about a sample of the latest in draw-tie garbage bag technology or a new kale-flavored gluten-free protein bar? No? Too late, it's already been dropped on your porch.
You will never be alone again
Technically, you should already be worried about the prospect of law enforcement, government, or one of your frenemies using a drone to spy on you for whatever sketchy purposes motivate frenemies. But here's the thing: you aren't yet, because drones currently aren't commonplace and you'd probably notice one hovering nearby your window or following you down the sidewalk.
But if we all became accustomed to drones navigating to our doorsteps with as much regularity as taxicabs, they would suddenly become much more useful for inconspicuous surveillance. A world of delivery drones is a world where all the shades are drawn, all the time.
More parking tickets
No more sprinting back to feed your expired meter when you spot parking enforcement moving up from the end of the block. A future full of drones means the new meter maid will be a robot hovering over your car at the moment your meter expires to snap another photo of your car and/or license plate. If it matches the photo it took when you first fed the meter 20 minutes ago, you're too late -- your parking ticket is already in the mail, which is probably also coming by drone at this point.
Romance by drone
If you think breaking up via text message or SnapChat or Facebook status update has taken a little of the humanity out of our romantic relationships, just wait until the day an Amazon drone buzzes up to your window with a bouquet of red roses. Is it sweet? Sure, but where is the person who sent them right now? Think about it. There's no good answer to that question, really.
They will be hacked
Because everything gets hacked at some point. Let's just hope your aforementioned future frenemies don't exploit their knowledge of your peanut allergy in concert with their hacking skills to divert your pizza delivery and replace a few bits of garlic on your pie with slivers of the dreaded legume.
The drone backlash is already simmering, with at least one town considering issuing a license to hunt drones. By the time delivery drones could become commonplace, drone shoots could become a full-blown hobby for reactionaries and technophobes with only a marginal amount of good judgment and common sense.
The end of urban BASE jumping
Insane low-altitude BASE jumps from bridges, cliffs, and structures like skyscrapers are already crazy enough, but the prospect of running into a flock of drones with their rapidly rotating propellers seems like enough reason to just give the whole idea up for good.
The death of the Slurpee/Icee/Slush Puppie
This is the one that concerns me the most personally. In an economy dominated by delivery drones, convenience retail outlets like 7-11 and Walgreens become less relevant and could disappear altogether. These stores also happen to be the best place to track down those special frozen concoctions of artificial flavors, colors, and high-fructose corn syrup. These slushy sugar bombs are also among the few items such places currently carry that couldn't be delivered via drone.
So go ahead, humanity, embrace the ease and convenience of ubiquitous retail robot porters. Just remember that you'll be condemning the Diet Coke Frost Cherry Slurpee and Super Big Gulp to a slow but painful and inevitable early extinction.