by by Maggie Lange

illustration by by Nick Cage

Holla Back (or, I just want Beepers back.)
Last week, Google introduced a new service that will change the way we communicate. Again. Google Voice is a free service that fuses phone and email, which Google markets like other modern telecommunications marvels: Google Voice promises to make your life simpler. With this introduction there is a fear that Google Voice might follow in the pattern that the Blackberry, the iPhone and Bluetooth have created. Google Voice might just make everything more complicated.

Google Voice offers free voicemail transcriptions, sent to the user via both text message and email. Computers alone complete these transcriptions. Without a human read-over, both punctuation and vocal nuances are left by the wayside. The program does acknowledge its flaws--when Google Voice is unsure about a word, it sheepishly types in light grey.
Google Voice will also help Google accrue an enormous amount of information about users' personal lives. For each user, Google will have written records of voicemails and access to calls and texts. And because Google Voice is a free service, Google will most likely employ the same advertising techniques it does through Gmail--targeting users with advertising specific to the content of their emails. So, using Google Voice will involve a trade-off: simplified technology versus living out George Orwell's' biggest fear. Luckily, everyone has a few weeks to mull that one over before Google makes its newest feature available to the public.