Will Palmer ‘21
Ha! Are you kidding me? Do you think I want to belly-flop into that minefield? I’m not touching it with a ten-meter pole. So, instead of blithely wallowing in the treacherous waters of political opinion, I’m going to go ahead and talk about why smart home technology gives me the willies.
Here’s an anecdote to set the scene: An acquaintance of mine (let’s call him Dennis) received an Amazon Alexa in the mail some time ago. Dennis had not ordered an Alexa. There was no information on the package identifying the sender. Dennis used it anyway. It turned out that a mutual friend had sent the device in question, presumably with the intention of either (1) bugging Dennis’s domicile for salacious purposes, (2) teaching Dennis a valuable lesson about responsible technology use in the modern age, or (3) both. However, it could just as easily have been some dude named Boris who’s a contractor for the FSB and works a crappy desk job with terrible benefits manipulating the American public by remotely accessing our consumer electronics. Next thing you know, your Alexa is telling you that Nancy Pelosi spends her free time burning down orphanages with a flamethrower and that the only way to stop her is to buy taint wipes from InfoWars and watch a bunch of Russia Today.
While we’re on the topic of Amazon, we might as well mention the fact that their face recognition software, the not-at-all-villainously-named ‘Rekognition,’ now ‘rekognizes’ fear (wow, that was terrible). Maybe if Jeff Bezos dedicated less of his schedule to pushing humanity into the darkest possible timeline, he could figure out how to send sexts that don’t immediately clue everyone in to the fact that he’s an actual robot. No offense to Mecha-Bezos. I mean, people are entitled to their sexual proclivities, you know. Let there be a thousand blossoms blooming as far as I’m concerned. But I ain’t spending any time on it, because in the meantime, every three months, a person is torn to pieces by a crocodile in North Queensland.*
But I digress.
Where were we? Right, smart home devices. My reptilian brain’s immediate reaction to smart refrigerators—much like my instant response to snakes and green ketchup—is one of extreme, almost paralyzing, disgust and horror at the sight of this thing that should not be. I looked over at my refrigerator just now. (It was running.) It doesn’t have Twitter capabilities and it doesn’t know the weather or keep track of my schedule. It keeps my White Claws cold. It is a simple purpose, yes, but a true one, and honest. And I respect that. Call me a Luddite if you want (hell, tweet at me from your smart fridge if you feel like it**), but I’ll be the one laughing after the Rise of the Appliances.
My parents, unfortunately, do not possess the same apprehensions. In January, they purchased a new washer and dryer. But these weren’t just any laundry machines: these were from Sweden. I already possess an innate distrust of Swedes (you can’t depend on anyone who eats herring), and the cheerful, futuristic beeps and flashing lights emanating from the new machines only served to reinforce my trepidation. In my mind, the ideal home appliance is one that endlessly belches coal smoke and requires two tins of long cut Grizzly a day to function. The gleaming silver monoliths, towering like Nordic icons of the laundry room, most assuredly did not meet this standard. They probably used Skoal pouches. . .or snus. Leave it to the Europeans to take all the grit out of packing a fat lip.
Needless to say, the infernal laundry devices had to be destroyed. That night, I dragged them into the backyard, poured water onto their circuit boards, and buried them next to my twin brother Damien. Staging the scene to make it look like a very specific type of burglary had occurred was difficult, but it’s doable. I would know.
So, how to resolve the smart-home dilemma? The first option that comes to mind, as with many of life’s troubles, is to flee the surface and join the mole-people in their underground kingdom. However, if you’re not a fan of becoming a Morlock, there’s another choice: stop bugging your own residence. Or at least do so minimally.
I don’t need to worry about Boris from the FSB hacking an Alexa or smart fridge and ordering 50-gallon tubs of Vaseline off Amazon using my account. Don’t put that evil on me. I worry enough about this wish-granting guitar I bought at a moonlit crossroads in Georgia to have to deal with g*ddamn Skynet. And I already have enough Vaseline left over from Prime Day.
*This delightful bit of commentary comes to you courtesy of Australian MP Bob Katter. The man knows his priorities.
**I don’t have a Twitter account.