Look, I’m all for ringing alarm bells willy nilly, but I strain to find a reason for which Adam Greenfield should be proven correct in his far-reaching article wherein he predicts the future of ubiquitous computing. He wavers from design questions to security questions, from aesthetics to mechanics, and from exclaiming the benefit to the user and denigrating the potential harm it can do. I’m all for hypocrisies, but, please spare me the “Big Brother is Watching” nonsense, and the “the future is coming” prophesy.
Usually, in order to scare the living daylights out of me with spook stories of government surveillance, I require a little evidence. Greenfield gives none. Sure, let’s develop ethical guidelines for the use of these technologies, but Greenfield gives none. We’re left with a few of his charming suggestions that, really, will be extremely nice if implemented. I have little hope.
Did you ever read David Sedaris’ book “When You Are Engulfed In Flames?” In it, he describes visiting Japan and staying in an apartment where the toilet beeped throughout the night. Not for any real reason. Not, “flush me,” or, “clean me.” Just letting you know that it’s there, ready for use at a moment’s notice. Our future will be like this. A toilet so smart that it can measure the amount of iron in your diet, but so profoundly ill-designed that it will keep us awake at night. No ethical, moral or design-minded guidelines will prevent this, because people in companies don’t talk to one another, and the one’s who do are too high up to care.
Maybe when Apple stops making TVs and Phones and Magic Wands and Coffins and finally settles down to design it’s iToilet will this be considered (because designers are gods at Apple and nobody has really caught onto this yet). But until then, as Adam fears, we’ll be surrounded by chirping, beeping, vibrating, reactionary crap.