I have a Hive. It’s an app thingy attached to a box that sits in the hall and means I can control the heating and hot water remotely. It’s neat and easy to use. I’m pretty taken with it. The man who came to instal it told me there were other features, which is where I began to wonder what slippery slope I was on.
‘It’ll do your kettle, too.’
‘When you’re out and want the kettle on you can do that from the app.’
‘Like a teasmade?’
Ok, a generational chasm just appeared in our conversation which I skipped over. ‘You could programme the machine to wake you up with a pot of tea.’
‘I suppose.’ He sounded disappointed that his gizmo wasn’t new but I think we both knew this was different. Indeed there was a scare not that long ago when intelligent kettles and fridges were being hacked and allowing access to people’s home networks, here. It was then I first heard about the concept of the intelligent fridge, which if it’s passed you by, is a fridge that can warn you or indeed your grocery provider that you are low on, say, butter or kale and have a packet dispatched forthwith.
The articles make it clear things aren’t yet perfect but it’s the way things are going. Soon you won’t have a choice. Once even a radio was an extra on a car; now integrated stadium sound is standard. You had four programmes on a washing machine, now the possibilities are greater than on a Rubik Cube.
Which is fine, so far as it goes because these things are quantitative. So far. It’s not like we are yet close to the singularity, the point where our technological advances and development of super intelligent beings and computers means that what we create is more intelligent that what biology creates – a scary prospect but a real one in this fast moving world.
But as a staging post on this curve, I am not looking forward to the point when smart machines enter a qualitative phase: the point where my fridge bins the yogurt because it is past the sell-by date; the wardrobe won’t let me take out the shirt I want because it really does not go with those trousers; the satnav insists I stop and ask that man if it is right that I should take the small road on my left because it just knows it is a better route. It’s not even the point when my computer tells me not to bother continuing what I’m writing because, frankly, it’s boring and I can do better.
It’s not because of some technological fear that I worry about judgemental machines being invented; no, it’s because I really only want to have one wife…