Over the past few years, I’ve kept returning to the “Mister Gotcha” meme from the Pulitzer-nominated cartoonist Matt Bors. The titular character delights in empty social commentary, pointing out the many hypocrisies of daily life and ignoring the conditions that make them. In the first panel, a woman muses on social media that Chinese factory workers make a pittance despite building expensive Apple products. “You said on an iPhone!,” Mister Gotcha interjects, winking in the frame. The fourth panel has become a recognizable, stand-alone meme since Bors drew the comic in 2016. “We should improve society somewhat,” a gaunt figure muses, his back saddled with sticks. “Yet you participate in society. Curious! I’m very intelligent,” Mister Gotcha says, grinning.
Mister Gotcha might be an idiot, but he’s not wrong. We have enough awareness to recognize when something is unfair, but disengaging from it can be difficult, if not impossible. Overlapping privacy scandals have inundated Silicon Valley in the past three years, yet we still buy tech companies’ products.
Yesterday, at its annual hardware event, Amazon announced a new line of Alexa-enabled products that, when stripped of the day’s high gloss, are just wearable microphones. There were Echo Frames, glasses with embedded microphones; Echo Buds, a competitor to Apple’s AirPods; and the Echo Loop, a smart ring that lets you ping Alexa at the touch of a button. (At Amazon, “Loop” is a ring. “Ring” is a camera.)