Weekly Musings 113

Welcome to this edition of Weekly Musings, where each week I share some thoughts about what's caught my interest in the last seven days.

Ever have one of those weeks in which getting the ideas out of your head and on to paper or screen is akin to a minor archaeological dig? That's been happening more and more with me lately.

And, to be honest, it's a tad worrying. I'm not sure if it's stress, fatigue, approaching burnout or something else but I'm not hearing the stories as clearly as I used to, I'm not feeling them quite the way I should. Regardless, I'm hoping this is a passing phase.

With that out of the way, let's get to this week's musings.

On the Need to Make Everything Smart

Back in 2001, I was working as a technical writer (my high falutin' title was Documentation Engineer, in case you're wondering) at a telecommunications software company in Toronto. One of the quality assurance people there was a big fan of the latest technology. And of technology that was over the horizon a ways.

One February morning, he was pontificating in the lunch room about fridges with built-in sensors that could detect when vegetables were going off or when milk was about to go sour. When he finished his breathless exaltation of this coming wonder, he concluded Isn't that going to be cool?

I waited a moment and told him that I already had sensors like that: my eyes and nose. Most of the people within earshot snickered softly. The QA guy? His scowl spoke volumes.

Let's jump two times ten years into the future. Our present day. Devices like those he pontificated upon are everywhere. Watches, televisions, household appliances, toys, baby monitors, speakers, even light bulbs and sex toys. If anything is digital or has a chip in it, it can be connected to the internet. With all of that, the device becomes smart.

I continually wonder whether everything needs to be connected to the internet via wifi or by Bluetooth to something else that's connected to the internet. I continually wonder whether everything needs to be, or should be, smart. Not that offloading the processing power of a device to someone else's computer or sending data to said computer over the internet is necessarily smart ...

It feels like firms are adding complexity where it's not needed. They're making things smart because they can, not because it's useful. Those companies, I often think, are just being a bit too clever. Someone said We can add Evernote or Google Calendar to a fridge or microwave. And someone else, seeing dollar signs (or whatever the symbol of their local currency is) said Great! Let's do it!

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