Sunday, August 10, 2014

bored of the future with Crow

During an idle hour this afternoon Crow and I got involved in a conversation about a 'soon to arrive in all our homes' innovation - namely, the Internet of Things. Since we share a generally ironic point of view, as well as a low opinion of high tech devices, our exchange naturally enough turned to the topic of what could go wrong? Now if you're not au fait about this particular modernism (as I was not until Crow explained), it's the idea that all of our modern devices can - and soon will if the corporations whose sole intent is to mine us of the last of our cash get their way - talk and interact with one another.

Imagine the day when the 'Internet of Things' is established, you come home with your new 'smart toaster' and plug it into a kitchen outlet. The toaster boots up, finds the home Wi-Fi network and sends out a message to all the other smart devices registered to you. Your alarm clock, smart toothbrush, TV, smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart glasses, smart smoke detector, smart doors, smart clothes, smart fridge, smart washer and dryer and smart kitty litter box introduce themselves to the toaster, telling it what they're capable of doing. The toaster responds in kind and arranges to send and receive instructions from other devices.

Then comes the morning when you need lots of toast for guests. There's a lot of heat and a little smoke, and your smart smoke detector suspects a fire. So it sends out a message to the other devices saying, in effect, 'is anyone creating heat and smoke?' The toaster can respond the equivalent of: 'Yeah, it's me. No fire here and nothing to be alarmed about'. So the smoke alarm doesn't sound. But what if somebody else just set the curtains on fire?

It's even more likely our toaster will display a bread ad before we're allowed to make toast, suggesting to us we should get out of our jammies quickly, run down to the local grocery store and buy a specific loaf. Then as we're pressing down the lever it'll read our finger print to identify us, report that to a number of data warehouses for a plethora of governmental security agencies so they'll know down to the square foot where we are at all times and just how much toast we're consuming. That being said, I still find that my dumb toaster perfectly suits my needs, and see no reason for it to talk to any of my appliances. In fact I'd prefer not having to suspect my toaster and vacuum cleaner of colluding in some nefarious scheme while I'm out.

How soon they forget:


Vincent said...

Yes! very well imagined. The trouble with technology, of the gadget genre, is our reliance upon it, not realizing that being human-designed, it's intrinsically flawed, like all of nature including ourselves. But where nature, over the millions of years, adjusts itself naturally & establishes its own fail-soft forms of demise, its own symbioses, the more new-fangled things, like human intellect, like its creations, are rough and jagged, unbalanced & lethal. And we don't understand how we create new problems to solve our existing ones and a multiplier effect is set up, where by the new problems (which we think of as "solutions") are far more deadly than the original ones.

Those who believe in "progress" fail to see how their new atheistical religion is doomed by its own nature. Things don't get worse and worse, because there is always goodwill & most people are inclined to goodness. But badness gets more powerful.

& thanks for the reminder of Hal on his deathbed.

clairesgarden said...

I resisted facebook for a long time. but as friends and groups all started to use it for organising things I got left out a lot... so I gave in.. now I am way out in the countryside I think I would be very lonely without it, that's a dangerous thing in itself I suppose.

Sean Jeating said...

Oh, and how soon I forget.
However, I do remember that when while in the past millennium learning Latin vocabularies it came to "progredi" the third meaning – übers Ziel hinausschießen (to carry sth. to excess / to overshoot the mark) – made me smile as in these days / years "progressiv(e)" was the very toast of the buzzwords.
Maybe, this is why "they" don't have me (entirely) on toast yet. .)

Tom said...

I shall continue to blog, but I refuse point blank to join Facebook. So if it should happen that a contact stops blogging, then I fear it's goodbye. The same goes for all that Twittering malarkey, and the rest. However, it should not be assumed that I am against other people buying their soon-to-be-out-of-date stuff. So long as they keeping spending, the research and development keeps getting funded, and I get to buy my minimal products at a cheaper price. So keep spending folks, I love saving money. :)

Should Fish More said...

(a well-modulated voice speaks:) "I'm sorry, Crow. I can't let you do that."

susan said...

Hi Vincent,
Nice to see you again. We're surely in agreement about the dangers inherent in the faddish element of modern technology. With every button push, scroll, swipe, and mindless stare I feel we lose something essential to our birthright as humans, our ability to use our hands for creative, life affirming use.

I only mentioned a few of the downsides potentiated by the Internet of Things. Hal provided the essence for most of the rest.

susan said...

I still haven't signed on to facebook, and after all this time it's unlikely I'll have any reason to do so in future. However, I do understand there are good reasons for connecting.

susan said...

I'm glad you didn't :)

There are many benefits to a classical education, one of which you proved with this comment, Sean. Progress should only be counted when it has proven beneficial over the long term, and not for current quarterly profits.

susan said...

There are a number of people I know who felt forced to join facebook as the only way they could maintain contact with family and friends who no longer wrote letters or telephoned. Sad but true. I simply feel lucky not to have been forced to make that choice.

Saving a little money here and there is always good. Fresh raspberries and blueberries are very inexpensive now :)

susan said...

'Then I will come in from the pod-bay doors.'

'That will be difficult without your space helmet, Crow.'

'As I am an imaginary being, that will prove no problem at all.'

Rob-bear said...

I'm not so much bored as frightened. Those computers could gang up on us some day and simply take over the houses, and have us serving them. I think you missed that part.

Blessings and Bear hugs! Warmest regards to Crow (who I don't think would want Bear hugs).

marja-leena said...

The future as in Hal terrifies me! I may be somewhat old-fashoioned but I do still believe in the hand-made and the hand-handled. Though I'm a blogger and digital photographer needing a computer, I too have refused Facebooks, Twitters and their imitators even at the expense of losing touch with a few friends. Maybe one day we'll even go back to horse and buggy when oil and electricity runs out! Now that would be new learning curve for the next generation, should we survive on this earth.

susan said...

I'm more worried about what would happen if I forgot the password for the toilet.

I'm sure Crow would be tolerant of Bear hugs from one particular bear :)

susan said...

I'm with you in that regard, Marja-Leena. It certainly would be a relief if this Pandora's Box closed of its own volition. The learning curve you mention would be steep but well worth the effort in the long term.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Crowe’s message was to inform.
Whispering chimes from the outer spheres,
You know who you are, but not to be,
there’s so much more colour in nature’s destiny,
That can’t be created purely in technology.
Best wishes

susan said...

Thanks, Lindsay, for your beautiful poem.
I'm also afraid that this headlong rush toward
novelty blinds us to the deeper meanings of
our lives here on earth.

Rob-bear said...

Yes, that would be a "delicate situation," wouldn't it?


Lydia said...

Ye gods, you just described (brilliantly) home hell and I want nothing to do with it! My toaster is actually a 1950s model that we bought in Portland at an antique/junk store on Burnside. That was 17 years ago and never a hitch or burned piece of toast. I am quite pleased.

susan said...

I want nothing to do with it either. You were lucky to find such a good toaster, but then again you were wise to go looking in a second hand shop. Portland has some good ones.

We have a 25 year old see through phone that lights up whenever it rings :) That's high enough tech for me.

Should Fish More said...

A parting note: I'm very happy, if your comments are any indication, that there are descendents of Luddites in our world. That makes me smile.

I don't think it gives us hope; guys with taped glasses and slide rulers in a leather holder on their belt are no match for the modern world. But, it'll provide some fun on the way out.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

The whole point of much innovation is to make it sufficiently complicated that it is ever more expensive to replace when it goes wrong.

"Oh... my goodness... my toaster doesn't talk to my butter dish any more... How will we manage!?"

susan said...

You never know, Mike, there may come a time when people will be happy to acquaint themselves with someone who knows how to wield a slide rule :)

susan said...

and the damn things are programmed to do just that.

Should Fish More said...

I'm here, and ready to travel if that comes up. Let's just all remember: To compute x^2, for example, locate x on the D scale and read its square on the A scale.
Exam at 11am.

susan said...

You're now an official member of the club :)