Smart Technology and the Internet of Things are now here to stay, but what implications does this have for the consumer? In this blog, I’m going to look at the good and bad and how this new technology will affect us as humans.
The vision being sold to us by tech companies is one of massive convenience, but are there any downsides to giving control of our lives over to connected devices? Firstly, we’ll look at the positive vision.
Positives of Smart Tech
The idea that all of our devices can talk to each other, tell us when we should drink water, go to bed and order food for our fridge when we run out is great. Why should we waste time worrying about these things when we could be watching YouTube or having some other type of fun? We won’t even have to waste our time learning to drive because we’ll just be able to order an automated driving car to whisk us to where we want to be.
When we go for a coffee we won’t have to put up with a barista that’s in a mood, we can simply walk into the coffee shop and our phone will already have ordered our favourite drink and paid for it, the robot will get it ready and we just have to pick it up at collection. Think of all the energy we can save by being able to turn off lights and our heating from any location.
All of these examples have been cited as reasons why Smart Technology will be beneficial to society and this is before I’ve even talked about AR, which is going to become a massive trend in the next few years. For balance, I’m going to look at the negatives of Smart Tech.
Negatives of Smart Tech
You may be aware of the dystopian science fiction series Black Mirror, a TV series that looks at the potential horrors of technology, and of course, Star Trek which in the 1960s looked at the theme of remaining human in an increasingly technological world. The themes of both of these programs can be regarded as a bit alarmist at times but they both make very good points regarding connected technology and those points are that it is dangerous.
The European Convention on Human Rights defines one of our human rights as “having the right to a private life.” If we adopt Smart technology we are effectively giving up this right. How you ask? Once we start taking always-on listening devices like Amazon’s Alexa into our homes we no longer have privacy. Every word you say is listened to like a wiretap. I may be decried as being paranoid here, but this is exactly what is happening. Every word you say is analysed by AI and sold to advertisers, who can then advertise to your instantly when you mention something. There is also the implication of having a smart mirror in your bathroom with always-on cameras taking pictures of you at every moment in your bathroom. Would you be comfortable with that? I know that sounds like a Black Mirror plot, but it is something that is happening with the technology available today.
With a more connected world and automated delivery services that use robotic technology mean that there will be fewer jobs. How can you pay for your goods andservices with no job? This leads me to my next concern. If your home is automated and food etc is ordered automatically, what happens when you don’t have enough income to cover the costs of your automated lifestyle? Do you just go into debt? Do your services get stopped? There are real-world implications and things I’ve not heard people discussing when they talk about Smart Tech.
I have tried to be balanced and though there are positive aspects of Smart technology I think that people haven’t thought through the implications for privacy, jobs and remaining human. Over the next 50 years, this will be the biggest challenge for our species and this is before we start looking at AR and body-mod tech that is just around the corner. The insidious spread of tech reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek when they say “Resistance is futile” – I just hope we discuss these implications before we get to the stage of being human cyborgs.