My in-laws screen phone calls to their landline, so when we were there over Thanksgiving, every now and then the phone would ring [loudly] and then we would hear the answering machine pick up. Their message was interesting, as it started with a warning that their phone number had been spoofed and was being used by scammers, and that they had nothing to do with it. I kind of imagine the first few calls they got before they realized that.

I've had a noticeable uptick in spam phone calls to my cell phone lately, and I usually just go into the recent calls and mark the number as spam so that it doesn't call back. If I'm feeling particularly interested, I'll google the phone number to see what it comes up with, usually nothing useful, and I wonder if it's some random family's number and if they get all sorts of irate return calls.

Whenever I think about that, I think of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. The basic premise of the show is that some particularly enterprising company has developed the technology to be able to reprogram humans to do whatever they want. It's mostly used by ultra-rich playboys for ultra-rich playboy reasons. In a handful of flash forward episodes some number of years after the main events of the show, events have taken their eventual dystopian turn as nation-states and hackers have essentially figured how to hi-jack just about anything with an electric current to reprogram humans to fight for their side or another.

The stakes are a little lower when it's a phone number, but it's just a small example of the sort of thing we have so little ability to really possess that we tend not to think about. We're not too far away from realizing our phone number has been stolen, or our Facebook account, or our bank account. I wonder how long until it is so rampant that our current systems based on honesty and customer convenience collapse under the weight of bad actors.

Incidentally, the setting for Dollhouse's dystopian future was 2019. Happy new year.