Monday, April 4, 2016

Week of 04/04/2016

Another Electronic Nightmare From The Not-So-Distant Future
(In honor of the twentieth anniversary of the launch of the weekly column now known as “Brutally Honest”, we feel it is only right to take another look at the original article that started the column.  Because, let’s get brutally honest here... thanks to the changes in technology and in the rights of the netizens in how they use said technology, we are no longer facing a near-future where technology is stale and stagnant.  Instead, we face a time when technology plays more and more of an active role in our lives, weaving into our daily activities in ways that we never would have imagined a decade ago, never mind two.)
The alarm clock wakes you up from your sleep.  You hit the snooze button, but your smart clock reminds you that you’ve overslept two times this past week and you don’t want to be late for work again, especially given how bad the traffic already is.
You do your morning constitutional and your smart toilet tells you that you have too much fiber in your system and asks if it can schedule an appointment with your nutritionist.  Your smart shower lets you know how hot the water is and how much of it is being used so you can figure out how it will contribute to your monthly water bill.  It also lets you know that you seem to be using a lot more soap than previously.  Would you like to order some more online?
Your smart toothbrush detects some weakness in your teeth and asks if you would like it to schedule an appointment with your dentist.  Your smart mirror reminds you of the time and of the traffic and also says that the smart shower detected a little more weight from you.  Would like to schedule an appointment with your physical trainer?  Also, your smart comb picked up a few extra hairs.  Would you like more information on hair treatment programs?
You get dressed with your smart TV reminding you on the time and the traffic.  It’s going to be a busy commute, and you don’t want to be late to work!
You go to get your coffee, but your smart coffee maker tells you that no coffee was made because you don’t have the time to enjoy it.  You have to get going now.  You really don’t want to be late for work again.
You get into your smart car, which maps out the “best” route to get to work given the current traffic.  You try to factor in a trip to the local coffee shop to get some coffee to-go, but your smart car vetoes that idea.  You don’t want to be late to work just because of some coffee.  It also tells you that it picked up a few extra pounds on you when you sat down.  Would you again like to schedule an appointment with your physical trainer?
Unfortunately, the roads are full of people who also were told they had to get out now or else they would be stuck in traffic.  So now traffic is really backed up.  Your smart car tries to find an alternate route, but those routes are also blocked, this time from people who decided to ignore their smart cars and still went to get some coffee-to-go.
So now you’re really going to be late for work, and before you can even call in to say you’re just a few minutes away, your smart car has already emailed your workplace to let them know that you’re going to be held up for at least a half-hour or more.  At this point, you can only hope that some of the other employees are in the same situation so it won’t just be your problem.
You arrive at work and your smart desk logs you in and reminds you that you are late, yet again, and to expect a visit from Human Resources.  Would you like to schedule an appointment with a time-management consultant?
You get a buzz from your smartphone.  Your smart refrigerator has added some items to your shopping list that you’re either low on or are about to expire.  Would you like to order them online so they can be delivered by the end of the day?
It’s not the only message that your smartphone gets.  Your smart TV tells you which shows you’ve recorded but have not viewed yet.  Your personal email has seventeen new messages, most of them reminders from other smart appliances.  And your office computer sends you a new email from Human Resources reminding you about being late and scheduling you for an appointment with a time management consultant.
You try to get something quick from the break-room vending machines for lunch, but the smart-vendor can’t process your debit card due to a software glitch.  The smart-coffee-machine is down because it’s out of coffee packets.  And there’s no time to go out and get something at the corner store anyway, because there’s an impromptu meeting set up so your boss can lecture everyone about the virtue of showing up on time and how to use your smart technology to better manage one’s daily commute.
You struggle to get through the day when your boss calls you into the office.  Human Resources is there too, but it’s not about being late.  It seems your smart computer decided to upload an old picture of you to social media as part of some “good memories” routine.  Nothing wrong with that, except that the picture was from your best friend’s bachelor party ten years ago, and it was of you completely passed-out drunk with your face scribbled on.
You try to explain that you had no control over what your smart computer did, and you didn’t even know you still had that picture in your computer’s hard drive, but that didn’t matter to HR.  Along with your record of tardiness, they’ve decided to let you go and wish you better luck at your next place of employment.
The notices are sent out before you can even return to your smart desk.  Your workplace terminal has already locked you out.  Boxes were already waiting for you to pack your few non-digital belongings so you can leave efficiently.
As you return home, your smart car tells you that it needs to be serviced next month.  Would you like to schedule an appointment with the mechanic now while you still have one more paycheck coming?
Once you get home, your smart home tells you that you received a message from your bank.  Its smart system was informed of your termination and reminds you that you need to pay your credit card bill.  Oh, and because you no longer work, they’re raising your interest rate to twenty percent.  Would you like to schedule an appointment with a fiscal manager?
Your Internet and TV provider also send you a message, since they got the same announcement of your work status from their smart systems.  They also remind you that you need to keep paying their bills so you can continue to get smart services.  Would you like to... ?
Just then, everything goes dark.  The power is out.
The home is unusually quiet.  No power means no smart TV.  No power means no Internet.  It also means no phone service, since everything is now connected to your home Internet package.  While your smartphone still works, it can’t connect to your smart Internet, so it can’t make calls.  Once upon a time, it could, but that was before all of the “smart” systems got even “smarter” with telecommunication integration.  All it can tell you now is the time and that everything else is not working.
There’s a slight whimper in the air, as if technology itself was saying “No, don’t go... please stay...”
The air starts to get a little stale.  No power also means no air conditioning.  You open the door, which, thankfully, is unlocked, because you forgot to turn on the smart lock feature.  You step outside for a little bit and you hear other people complain. They too are without power, and they can’t call in to complain because their smart phones are also tied into the Internet.
And for a little while, everything is blissfully quiet.  It’s almost as if time is standing still.
But the quiet is then interrupted by the rush of devices being turned back on.  Smart TVs start up again.  Smart Internet devices start syncing again.  Smart doors start closing and smart locks start locking again.
As you make your way back inside, you think back to the days before all of these smart devices became a part of our lives.  Back then, the people behind making those devices “smarter” said that it would make life easier for us. 
Well, maybe not “smarter”.  Certainly more “needy”.

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