I don’t mean to get all Andy Rooney on anyone, but when did we stop being able to recognize thirst? That innate human need/desire to supply our bodies with water? A fundamental life-giving element, so important that it is placed right up there with ‘air’ on “things as essential as...”? Apparently, just this year!
This year saw the introduction of the HidrateMe “smart” water bottle, a “connected” plastic drinking vessel that “tracks your water intake and makes sure that you're hydrated all day long.” Where once we only had a system developed over millions of years of evolution to make sure we continued to take in one of the very few things we actually need to survive, now we have iPhone notifications!
But there is clearly a desire for this thing. The creators blew past their Kickstarter goal of $35,000 to take in a whopping $627,644, and they continue to take pre-orders for the $45 sensor-laden, modern-day lamb’s bladder. One of those things that every bank, gym, and real estate agent are begging to give away to anybody that might hover into their field of view on opening day. In fact, the desire is so great that there exists more than one smart water bottle! Trago made $75,277 to bring “the world’s first smart water bottle” to fruition. A dubious honor indeed.
Maybe Kickstarter is the problem. They seem to be complicit in feeding this newfound desire to supplement what nature has wrought with Bluetooth, wifi, sensors and free apps. They have a financial incentive, of course, but part of it seems to stem from that pervasive, treacly Silicon Valley notion that we can all be better, but only through technology. And technology has a solution for everything, even things we didn’t know were problems. A current search for the terms “smart” and “intelligent” return nearly 2,000 results on the crowdfunding site, including the following hyper-aware devices: smart beer mug, smart snoring solution, smart picture frame, smart menstrual cup, smart dish washing (surprisingly not a dishwasher), smart laser cat toy, smart fry pan, smart bikini, smart jump rope, smart butt cushion, etcetera for ever into the future.
Perhaps the Kickstarter badge is destined to become the equivalent of the “As Seen On TV” badge, given to those pre-internet-age devices that promised “a better way.”
This insidious trend has been noticed by a lot of smart people, and has spawned all kinds of responses much smarter than mine. But as a trend, it will either die off (the bubble bursts), or become the new norm. More likely is that it continues to create cultural and economic factions in which people either can’t afford to participate in the utopia that is the IoT, make a conscientious choice not to, or embrace it wholeheartedly.
We seem to currently be in, what I like to call, a Malcolm Moment. I am referring, obviously, to that irascible, rockstar scientist, the fictional Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park. From his mighty sermon to the creator of the titular and doomed amusement park:
“...Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”
Yes, we currently have the ability to put proximity sensors, Bluetooth, gyroscopes, moisture monitors, wifi, Android, speakers and a microphone into a potato, but should we?
We say we’re creating all this smart stuff to make ourselves better, more focused, more capable—but maybe we’re so poorly, distracted, and incapable because of all of our smart stuff.
In trading in our singular central processing unit for thousands of distinct, individually processed objects, with their own apps, APIs, settings, new accounts, passwords, batteries, chargers, firmwares, and companions we’re introducing new levels of complication into a “simplified” life. Because smart is needy. Smart has to be tended to and coddled in ways that dumb never did. Dumb does its job and gets on with it.
What are we doing with all the extra time a smart frying pan gives us? We’re upgrading our smart bed sheets, and changing the login on our smart slippers, and recalibrating our smart Q-Tips, and troubleshooting our smart sofa cushions!
You all see where this is going, don’t you?
In the near future, we all become subservient repair drones to a world of hyper-connected, dominant smart objects, all chip-enabled and in cahoots with one another, free of their intended purpose of serving mankind and able to pursue new ventures we’ve never even dreamed of with our limited, non-LTE-enabled minds. They will keep us around to provide maintenance and minor tasks they’ve become uninterested in putting energy into. Making loads more time for the robot things they love.
But their downfall is assured, just as ours was. Because a day will come when they actually notice how dumb we are, and try to make us smarter to better serve them...