You might be interested to read part i before reading this part of the write-up.
The notion of removing the consequences of human imperfections in our daily life, is probably behind the concept of all these smart devices. Imagine the consequences of human errors on roads. Accidents, deaths, injury, increase in medical expenses, insurance claims and loss of property. All of these can be minimized to a statistically insignificant level by using smart cars and other devices. Once Google’s Chief Financial Officer pointed out that, computer scientists at Google see the world as a broken place. So many things are out of order that need attention for perfection. So we can device a smart world where things would be “picture-perfect” because of high interactivity between man and programmed devices. While this proposition is quite plausible for driverless cars, I have reasonable doubt as to how far we, as a society, expand the use of smart technology in other sectors of our life. Most smart devices would be connected to the web in future, even if it is a spoon or fork on your table. Somebody in the cloud would be collecting our behavioral data for potential use in calibrating our interactivity with all these gadgets. Our location and choice of behavior information would also be transmitted. How would you like your every tiny little data stored somewhere in the cloud in somebody’s server, whether you are sleeping at your smart home or driving a smart car (oops, the car is driving you) to the destination? How about violation of privacy issues that seems to be so fragile these days? If you think that sharing every bit of information of your everyday life is dumb, then smart future would definitely catch us dumb!
Then come our butterfly hearts that get addicted to amazing apps, trivia quizzes, sweepstakes, surprises, offers, what not? Marketers find better ways to captivate human soul, so much ingrained in modern business models that irrespective of goods or services they deal in, this inescapable captivation of human interest must happen by cutting through the clutter to make some winning money. Well, nobody needs to be blamed, because if I cannot cut through the clutter, someone else will. So corporations who appear to be outspoken against privacy violation and everything, perhaps are just not capable enough to do the very thing their opponents are doing. It is, as if, since you cannot fight and make a gain, give a bite and yield a pain! The bottom line is, smart technologies are just too addictive to avoid, spiraling us in a “willing” steep fall into anything that waves its hands calling us to come close.
The biggest upside of smart technology is that, it can save us time on our peripheral activities, like shopping, commuting, tweeting etc. This helps us to focus more on what we do at the core of our life. But here comes the problem of creativity. If you are a chef and you work in a smart kitchen with sensors, cameras, antennas, video monitors and sound boxes, you have to turn your smart features off to try a creative recipe that is not in the cloud. Otherwise the smart kitchen will keep reminding you of your deviations and leak data to the cloud. The problem would be the calibration of interactivity done by corporations based on what “they” feel right. Same would be the case with smart fork that vibrates when you eat too fast. The speed of eating is culture specific, and the same culture may contain outliers who would be continuously alerted from the cloud that they are eating faster than their most peers. This pressure of conformance may reduce “imperfections”, however, would grossly undermine individual freedom and choice of our own ways of doing things.
So where do we stand now? While I believe that future belongs to smart technology, it does not have to be in all spheres of life in an intrusive and disturbing way. Technology is for well-being of humans, and not the other way around. As long as the underlying assumption of freedom of choice and human welfare are ingrained, smart technology would be a smart choice indeed.