Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Living In The Future

It took me about an hour to connect the wi-fi outlet to our network so I could shout into the ether, "Hey Google, turn on the Not." The Not is the name Ikea gave to the lamp we bought several years ago. My wife and I thought it was amusing enough to keep that name when it came time to robotize our household. We still have to flip some light switches and push some buttons. The dishes do not wash themselves. If I want a window open, I still have to lift that sash all by myself.
But I want to hear Ray Stevens singing "Gitarzan," I just have to yell in the direction of the doorknob shaped object at the front of our living room. I can ask it questions. If I want to know what time it is, or who that girl was in that episode of Scrubs, I ask Google. No typing. Just asking the doorknob. After I make sure that I have asked in a way that will make sense to the artificial intelligence that lives with us as long as the power stays on. 
I try hard not to think about the time I have spent connecting and wiring and making wireless connections and finding ways that this labor saving device could save me labor. Finding ways to amuse myself and others by asking this machine to respond to me in ways that feel clever. Then I have to remember that like all these bits, they are programmed in advance. My request to open the pod bay doors was anticipated by the artificial intelligences that preceded our know-it-all doorknob, but it still gave me a smile. And I try not to think about the rooms full of engineers it took to make that off the cuff silliness. All that energy and effort for the in-joke about the artificial intelligence that went crazy and killed all the astronauts in 2001.
Where is that labor-saving element again?
When I forget to phrase the request just so, or I want something that is not a pre-programmed response, I get a pre-programmed apology for the inadequacy of the response that has not (as yet) been programmed. Or sometimes I get some excuse about how the doorknob isn't able to connect to  the Internet. And guess who has to fix that?
A few minutes or an hour later, when our digital assistant is back online, we can get back to the stuff of life: Gitarzan. 

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