Daresay - Deb Meissner

Daresay - Deb Meissner

Self-aware computers?

Big brother is watching.

Connected vehicles, smart houses and kids plugged in are all terms that really mean you have tuned out.

The easier machines make it for us to deal with our everyday lives, the faster we are to accept them and give over responsibility for our own tasks.

I only say that because it’s been on my mind lately how connected we have all become, which is both a blessing and bloody scary at the same time.

And I don’t mean connected in a familial way either. I mean we are on our phones, barking directions to Siri, telling the house to set the temperature, turn off the lights, or arm the doors and instructing the car to turn on and warm up the seats while running out the door with the kids playing games on their iPads.

Since I grew up in the stone age, it always blew my mind when the internet would go out, and the kids would say there was nothing to do… seriously?

I was reading an article about connected vehicles. It estimates 29 million connected vehicles are on the road now, and by the year 2023 that number will be nearing 77 million. That blew my mind first.

A connected vehicle is one that is cognizant of the world around it via access to the internet and often a wireless local area network (WLAN).

The article went on to explain how that was remarkable in so many ways, and it truly is, besides the kids being able to watch movies or listen to music in the back, this vehicle can run diagnostics, plan your route, locate itself, and shut itself down if it’s stolen and can call for help automatically if you’re in a crash or need help.

Sounds great right? Although I find it amazing and useful for certain purposes, I find it makes me wary and uneasy at the same time. Maybe it’s because I know there will be those who set the route and speed and crawl in the back seat for a nice snooze until arrival at the destination. Heck, I’ve even seen a few on the news, with the driver totally asleep at the wheel, flying down the road.

I know having your car, and your house for that matter, be aware, and able to make adjustments to keep us safe is great. The article about the car even said that through technology the car can avoid a crash, while the whole concept of safety in a vehicle up until now has been about the ability to survive a crash. Big difference.

I’m all for the safety aspect of any of the technologies out there, they save lives, bottom line.

I also see us giving up more of those personal freedoms people talk about as we give over control of the more mundane tasks in our lives to a computer that is ever increasingly able to reason.

If it can tell that you need more milk in your fridge, and you are low on oil in your car, won’t it also be able to look at the calendar on your phone, schedule your oil change and pay for it with a credit card you have saved on your virtual wallet, and then find the cheapest milk, order it and again pay for it, schedule it for pick up and tell you the fastest way to go and pick up your milk on the way home, all before you were aware you needed either?

That’s the unsettling part for me, and it’s not all that far-fetched.

I’ve known for a long time computers will become self-aware. Convenience is just making it way too easy for us to accept for the benefit of comfort or safety or peace in the household, to notice how much we are giving up all along.