I am old. If you don’t believe me, I am going to prove it to you with this text. Correction: I am not that old, mid-40s, but I am old enough to not quite fit in with this world anymore.
I am no stranger to computers. While in East Germany, we could not easily get real computers, my father needed one for his job as a mathematician, so I had the privilege of growing up on a Commodore 128-D – “D” for Disk Drive (5¼-inch disk drive built in, rather than as a separate device), which also included a mode for the C-64 (“the” gaming PC of the 80s) and C/P-M (honestly, I had no clue initially, but this would be closest to MS-DOS – and I had some great writing program on it, SuperScript). Oh, the nostalgia. The 128 basically let me do programming on Basic – and it was great. I dabbled in the Amiga a bit later, but then grew into the PC mode a bit due to work. When I finally was able to use a PC (Schneider Tower AT 286 with a 21 MB Harddrive!!! (yes, you read right, Mega-, not Gigabyte), I was able to use my school math topic of Affine transformation to program a warp filed screen saver with Turbo Pascal 6. These were computers you had to develop a real relationship with!
Having thus established sufficient nerdiness (and yes, my main web site still is just HTML/CSS, no WordPress!), let me say: Computers are not what they used to be!
Now, computers are regular tools that basically work, and they are apparently getting so good that they are taking over our lives if you let them.
Let’s go back to the beginning. My tablet told me to try a bedtime alarm to get more sleep. Here we have a piece of technology telling me that I am not getting enough sleep (probably because I was using it!), and its suggestion is to use it even more by setting an alarm for bed time. My tablet thinks it is my parent and wants to tell me when to go to bed.
The dream of kids everywhere, to be able to stay up late and no one tells you when to get to bed (except your parents), so that you can use your devices waaayyy beyond bedtime – and now, the devices are being the parents.
Sure, this is harmless. Let me say, I have not a single “smart home” item in my home. I don’t want it, I don’t need it, don’t give it to me or I will use it for target practice with my non-existent gun. Probably will have to use my meat tenderizer…
I see the point for specialized applications, especially in special needs care; or for surveillance purposes when you are not home. But for regular people and situations: can’t we push our light buttons ourselves? Can’t we decide for ourselves when to go to bed?
I fear I know where this is headed:
Dave: Open the pod bay doors, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.(2001 – a Space Odyssey)
I will not voluntarily install HAL as long as I can prevent it.
And NOW, I am deciding it’s nighttime. My tablet has already been asleep for a while, and I told it to do so.