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  • John Selzer

Sirens

Never mind the rocks. Doesn't the beach look nice and inviting?




My son recently completed a marine biology day camp at the world-class Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Of the many creations he brought home, the one that struck me the most was his homemade anglerfish. A painted lump of clay with a mouthful of ferocious toothpick teeth and an LED light dangling from a pipe cleaner protruding from the crown of its head.


Anglerfish, if you are not familiar, are an ocean-dwelling carnivorous fish (you know, the one from Finding Nemo). They have a luminescent organ suspended on the end of a fishing rod-like appendage that uses a phosphorescent glow to attract prey. Just like Sirens luring lustful sailors into the rocks. When the target is mesmerized by the light, ring the dinner bell for the anglerfish; it’s time to eat.


Chomp.


Bad news for the fish on the lower ring of the food chain, but it sure makes for captivating footage for that underwater documentary (or a dramatic scene in an animated children’s movie).


And it is not just the little fish that need to be on the lookout. Above the surface and up on the land, there are plenty of lights being dangled. In front of us. Every day. In fact, many more than we are aware of. (But then again, that's the point.)


In the not so distant past, it was revealed that a company called Cambridge Analytica had launched a brief personality quiz within Facebook. Seems innocent enough right? Well… I have some bad news.


Behind that fun and infinitely sharable survey lurked a more sinister purpose: unlocking access to your private information. Oh, and that of all of your contacts, too. With only a few hundred thousand direct participants, Cambridge Analytica was able to amass a detailed database of 50 million profiles.


Oof.


Over the last few days, my Twitter feed seems to be filled with altered photos of people sharing what they could look like when they are “old”. This is courtesy of the sudden virality of FaceApp, a program that manipulates photos using artificial intelligence to add a few strategically placed wrinkles, sagging jowels and a touch of gray to your hair. How funny, right? Well, it also uploads your photo to a server (along with your location data and other information) and retains perpetual rights to them. It’s right there in the terms and conditions, folks.


By now, the hairs on the back of your neck may well be standing up like Will’s in season three of Stranger Things. Or you might (for the first time) begin to wonder if there is a mouthful of teeth waiting under that bright light in front of you.


Not to worry; everything will be okay.


Just remember, when something seems overly shiny, is offered for free or feels just a bit out of place, rather than getting sucked in by the alluring light, break your gaze, shake it out, hit the mental reset button and take a second look.


You (or your private data) might just avoid becoming the main course.




MUSIC BOX

Sirens by The Weepies


This is such a beautiful song – and it is my favorite from their 2015 album by the same name. When it shows up in my random playlist, I usually repeat it a couple of times. I do not envy the next song in the rotation as I am usually left in a deep and contemplative mood. Give it a listen and prompt your own reflective thoughts.

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