Internet of Things depicted through a robotic dog and a talking toaster

Smart Home Dystopia

Stanley Bing’s “While you were out” column on the Fortune Magazine back page is always good for a laugh and his dystopian vision of our smart home future is a good one. But the truth is that we do need to be thinking about these implications as we move Internet-enabled appliances and smarter homes. The definition of “smarter” really depends on how we implement these technologies. We need to be just as aware of personal preferences and sensitivities as we are of traditional HF performance measures like learnability and task time.

I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and all anybody talked about was the Internet of Things. Yes, it looks like the day is finally here when every Thing we own has a tiny silicon brain that can think and talk to you and, more important, to all the other Things, and all is connected with the great web that unites us.

Here are a few of his amusing (but all too possible) predictions (full-disclosure – with some creative license of my own added in): Imagine you open up your refrigerator and grab the cheesecake. Out of nowhere, the fridge version of Siri announces “You should put that back and grab a salad. Otherwise, I will be forced to send an email to your doctor (to give you a lecture), your insurance company (to raise your premium), and Amazon (to send another one since you will probably finish the whole thing).”

After dinner you want to go to a movie. You reach to grab your car keys and that voice comes on again. “Your car is disabled until you blow into the breathalyzer by the front door.” The analysis is coded with your DNA print so you can’t get someone else to blow for you.

Your car is synched with your Smart Pay, so it knows what theater you are headed for. The directions are automatically patched into the GPS. Except that it routes you a slightly longer way to avoid any fast food restaurants, knowing you will grab a burger to sneak into the movie if temptation shows her pretty face.

Of course Bing is a comic writer and I hope that our future doesn’t look quite like this. But it could be closer than we would like unless we design proactively. I can see Big Brother emanating not from government intrusion but from a cabal of our health insurance, smart home vendor, marketing profile aggregator, and perhaps a few other corporate entities. And of course with the police being alerted if ever your profile veers into the high-risk zone for criminal intent.

Image Credit: Dadallone

2 thoughts on “Smart Home Dystopia”

  1. Ofcourse, automation should be there but, in the end the user should have higher authority and control over automation and not the other way around.

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