Last month I went down to Mount Vernon, Va., the home of George Washington. But I wasn’t touring the mansion and gardens, where busloads of visitors were milling around. Instead I drove further down the road to the distillery. Yes, aside from being a farmer, general, and our first president, George Washington was a distiller of whiskey.
Cameras, connected to facial recognition software, watch every corner in lower Manhattan. A “heat list” helps police pick out Chicago citizens who may be involved in a future shooting so they can pay a preemptive visit. Information culled from social media, shopping habits, and phone calls is used to build a precise profile of you, and to pinpoint your involvement in any crime.
It is, at this point, a tired trope: the relative, usually an uncle, of at least embarrassing if not quite unsettling political opinions, a specimen of another time and place with thoughts on everything he’s eager to share but you’d rather he didn’t, at least while we’re eating, please. I have one, and you probably do, too—not so bad as the guides springing up online assume, telling you how to handle him as holiday feasts approach, but a character who keeps family meals interesting.