Monday, June 16, 2014

The Quantified Family, the Internet of Us.

The house of the future, quietly (we assume) observing all aspects of your life. Electrical usage, water consumption, eating habits, television preferences, entry and exit of individuals... sleep patterns... bathroom habits...

To provide us with what? I have not heard one person ask this question. I have not read or heard one person ask “How does this benefit me?” 

Break it down, how does this benefit me?

I want to know. I already know how much water I use, because I pay the bill and see the meter information recorded in the statement under usage. The same can be said for my electric and gas bill. Each of these items is recorded and listed for me to see via the paper statement or online bill. There is no reason I need my house to do this redundant task as well. Some may argue that it could be useful in a dispute or to help in the reduction of wasteful use. But is this small factor enough to justify a near sentient surveillance system in my house? I am hardly afraid of technology but to me this just does not make sense. We need privacy and our home is sacred.

So, ask yourself, “Why does my house need to know how long it took me to defecate?”

It's okay, I'll wait while you think about that for a few minutes.

Then the next questions is - would it stop there? Would your house simply record how long it took you to void or would it then offer suggestions on improving your digestion? Hemorrhoid treatments if you strained? Toilet paper coupons if you cursed under your breath or a reminder for colon cancer screenings?

At the rate computer surveillance is evolving we may realistically wind up with SARA in a very short amount of time. And some of these advancements are incredible achievements on par with what science fiction promised us in the 50's and 60's. But, through all the excitement and visionary goals, I still have not seen enough people ask why or how this would honestly benefit us as individuals or as a society. Of course there is always the “cool” factor in any scifi to reality technological advance, but is that enough? Is it simply enough to make the wall talk because it is neat and we can do it.

Does the fact that your house can talk or tell you when your wife walked in after work justify the complete and utter abandonment of any sense of privacy in the one place it is most warranted? In our sanctuary? The mental respite alone cannot be discounted. We are monitored from the minute we wake up and walk out the door. What does this do to us as animals? Remember... we are animals...

There have been numerous studies regarding stress and its effects on animals, including humans. The effects on health and social behavior can be extreme and the one thing they all seem to have in common is their negative impacts on subjects.

Constant surveillance can easily be established as a form of stress for those being watched. It has been an effective tool in countless formats to establish control and/or fear in any number of groups. Inmates, employees, religious groups, students and all in hopes that they will conform to certain behaviors without the need for force. The main definition of surveillance is to watch with the intent to stop a crime. What happens when we are all monitored and assessed even in our most private moments?

And since I have not found one person who actually wants this type of monitoring of their person I again ask, why. Why do we need this technology?

An equally compelling question, in light of the fact almost no one wants to be watched in this way, is who is this monitoring actually for. I do not need to be some conspiracy enthusiast to see, logically, this technology is not intended to benefit me or enrich my life. The greenwashing would have me believe it is amazing I am still alive without this essential service. But in reality, if there is any benefit to me it would be marginal.

We almost all hate commercials, advertisements and surveillance but it is the remora of the modern human. There is this constant need for others to monitor us and ensure we are consuming, doing and/or thinking in a way that aligns with their requirements, regardless of our own needs or desires. You can be assured that these driving forces are almost all commercial in nature, from insurance companies to product companies. They all want to know - they all MUST know - what you are doing, buying or thinking. But realistically are you going to get on the treadmill because your house nags you? Probably not. You might get on the treadmill if your private exercise habits were sold to your insurance company and they changed your policy accordingly though.

Did you forget to brush for two full minutes before bed?
Are you using a toothpaste that is not ADA approved?
Did you oversleep?
Did you eat cake?
Did you choose Coke over Pepsi?
Did you use lube last night? If so what kind? Here is a coupon for some KY...

The possibilities for abuse of this information are so endless I personally cannot conceive of all of them. Every single facet of your life will be monitored and controlled electronically. This idea is horrific to me.

But I am sure that this is all in an effort to serve me better...