All kinds of objects, from highway entrances to clothing mannequins, pace makers to industrial shelving, are now armed with micro-sensors which are communicating with the web to prevent traffic jams or inventory depletion, report arrhythmia or run your dryer at times that avoid peak pricing. And it’s happening without making a peep.
Soon your things will take preventative actions: cars communicating before colliding, laptops ordering replacement parts prior to a warranty expiring, a smart wine bottle letting you know the optimal time to open it.
While technophiles are thrilled about a system freeing us from routine nuisances, prior to disruption, technophobes are sounding alarms that the infrastructure for a total surveillance state is now in place: one where your blender is subpoenaed to find out how many margaritas you swilled before you went out. And it won’t be afraid to talk. Smart objects will size us up at every turn, scanning our retinas, cross-referencing our profiles with however many gigs of data they’ve already amassed, like your purchase and viewing history, and the direct deposit made into your account– and it’ll all happen before you blink twice.
Companies will manipulate the data for their own benefit, of course. Your car is tracked as you drive into a low-rent neighborhood where you teach at an underprivileged school, but instead of being rewarded for your altruism, your insurance company bumps up your rate because the area’s high risk.
Nor is it a stretch to imagine a cyber attack causing a technopocalypse in your home, where that turbo Dyson vacuum goes Cujo, colluding with your alarm system and microwave to hold your family hostage. A security patch will restore it all just as easily as it came apart for the low price of whatever they feel like gouging you for, as you’re trapped in a broom closet fighting of a battalion of pissed off appliances. And what will happen, out of curiosity, when everything you rely on in your life is linked to the internet and the internet goes down?
And what happens when smart technology evolves into smart-ass technology. How soon till your dishwasher is degrading you in front of your loved ones? “Is that really how you stack dishes? Are you blind, or stupid, or both?” Or your car jacks your twitter handle, hitting your followers with, “Guess who’s gonna be late again. Told him to avoid the 101, but dipshit knew better!” It’s only a matter of time before all of your objects are fighting for social media space. Your toaster oven will be more concerned with adding friends than heating up your crumpets.
Having blow-out arguments with objects won’t be unusual. Nor will being humiliated by a crosswalk sign as you jaywalk. A ticket will arrive in the mail, the envelope will know it’s been opened, and a direct withdrawal will be made from your debit account.
And as you check your smart-wallet for whatever tangible currency you have left, it’ll recommend you consider a second job to cover your expenses. If you don’t get one, you’ll find yourself locked in by a smart door which doesn’t want you going further into debt. It’s for your own good, it will say in calm voice. After all, it’ll know better than you.
All joking aside, the true danger isn’t that these objects will attack us. But they may very replace us. The profit motivation for corporations is crystal clear. Think about how much margins will be increased when Lyft doesn’t have to pay its drivers. Or when Apple can assemble a laptop without exploiting human labor. All those jobs will vanish– a tidal wave of mass unemployment– at the expense of unthinkable wealth concentration in the hands of the few. On the bright side, you’ll have robots moving you out of the house that you can’t pay for anymore, so you won’t have worry about straining you back…