James Lileks
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In the future, your phone's built-in AI will know everything about you — except who you really are. This is why we have to start lying to our phones.

And by "in the future" I mean, oh, September. Tuesday. Around 1 p.m.

Perhaps you saw the previews of Apple's new AI-assisted phone software, due to be released this fall. It's very impressive.

You can, for example, ask your phone when your mother's plane is landing, and based on previous texts and emails — which your phone read because you clicked "Accept" on the terms and conditions without reading them and you believe a company when it says "We value your privacy, which is why we want to know absolutely everything about you" — the phone tells you the precise time the plane touches down, and probably the decibel level of the squealing tires.

You also could ask "Where should we eat?" and AI will suggest a nearby place, based on previous conversations, texts, mutterings in your sleep in which certain dishes are mentioned in dreams about restaurants where your mother is actually a butterfly now and can only take nutrition through a proboscis.

I'm sure there's more. You can probably pay for the meal by looking at your phone and drawing a dollar sign in the air, then add a tip by pointing to the end of your finger. When you get in the car the phone plays your mother's favorite music, because it studied the pictures in your photo app and deduced that she was 26 when Depeche Mode was big.

There are typically two types of reactions to this kind of intrusive AI. One is wild-eyed and full of dire warnings: "Your phone will know every detail from your life, from your shoe size to your shampoo brand. It'll know you hate New York Style pizza but love Chicago. Everything!"

The other type is the optimistic enthusiast: "Your phone will know every detail from your life, from your shoe size to your shampoo brand, it'll know you hate New York Style pizza but love Chicago. Everything!"

So, whether this development is good or bad is a matter of opinion. But there's something depressing about thinking we are the sum of our texts and emails and web searches. I scroll, therefore I am.

I find myself trying to keep things from my devices, lest they draw the wrong conclusions. Or the right ones. Or any conclusions at all.

I find myself clicking on things that are of no interest to me just to throw sand in the finely meshed gears of the algorithms, so they show me things outside of the set of things it thinks I like. If I don't, that magic glowing rectangle, which is sold as a portal to the world, becomes not a window, but a mirror.

The iPhone's photo app has a feature that shows pictures from the past. Periodically you'll get a notification: You Have a New Memory. It makes you feel like an android who just downloaded a new set of synthetic recollections. The phone's Journal app will nudge you to write about things you've done, and the other day I got something quite alarming:

"New Journaling Suggestion: Morning Visit to Edina Liquor."

I had no memory of that. Which really isn't a good sign.

When I clicked on the notification, all was explained: I had taken a picture at the dentist's office in the same building. The phone had transmitted the location to the great database in the sky, which stamped the photo with precise coordinates. It didn't know that I was on the second floor, over the liquor store.

I was not buying hooch at 9 a.m. I was getting my gums poked. World of difference, but utterly lost on the machines that tend our lives with manufactured solicitude.

The machine does not know, and cannot know, that I used to be so terrified of the dentist I had to have nitrous oxide. So what? you say. Lots of people have nitrous. I had to have nitrous to make the appointment. But this dentist was one of those genial and compassionate fellows, a true Tooth Whisperer, and now I plop in the chair and sing "Scrape me, daddy, eight to the bar."

The phone will never know the quantities of lies I've told about my flossing habits, or what it feels like to leave the office with that little bounce in your step, because your mouth is yours again. Or how I think of the childhood dentist, and how Mom took you out for a treat afterwards.

Mom didn't have to ask a machine where we should go. Somehow, she knew.

Imagine that.