Monday, May 8, 2017

No Working at Home

After my extended diatribe on automation and the 'Post-Work' society over the last few weeks, it has occurred to me to question the role of home automation in this transition.  After all, this blog started because of my interest in smart home technology and the promise of consumer level IoT.  So how does a connected home fit into this transition?   How does having a automated light switches and thermostats and shelf-top voice assistants help get us (me) towards a 'Life Well Lived'?

My initial, gut reaction is... not well.  After all, these are designed to off-load small tasks, time-sucks, from our busy lives.  But if our lives aren't busy because all of the tasks, big and small, are off-loaded, then what are we actually doing?  Do we need an automated garden or is one way to live a better life to get out and tend that garden ourselves?  If we are not busy, what are we saving our labor for?  Don't we suddenly have the time to flip a switch or adjust a thermostat?  I mean, come on!  We have to get out of bed for something!

But 'Couch Potato' is my Calling!

I've written about this before: the idea that all of this automation is going to lead to a world of couch potatoes.  The basic argument is that we have more important things to do/think that worry about the light switches.  However, if I'm going to be honest with my self (something I struggle with), I'm really going to sit around playing video games and reading epic fantasy.  Maybe watch something heavy with CGI.

CGI and epic fantasy all in one!

I'm not going to spend all of my newly free time thinking deep thoughts or trying to make the world (or even my little corner of it) a better place.  Some of it, sure.  But not enough to justify building all of this stuff into my house/apartment/yurt.

How Will We Buy what they are Selling?

On top of that is the essential 'marketeering' of most smart home devices.  Two weeks ago, Amazon announced a derivative Echo piece called Echo Look which adds a camera to the Echo.  The internet has been a bit cautious about how this device might be used.  Ecobee has also incorporated an Amazon Echo into the latest version of their connected thermostat.  This has been more positively reviewed.  However, from my seat, this is another avenue for Amazon to know more about us and thereby sell more things to us.  Google Home, Samsung's Bixby and Microsoft's Cortana are all sitting in a bar drowning their jealousy.

But what is the point of all this targeted marketing in 20/30/40 years when we are all jobless, money less and living off of some Universal Basic Income?  Even if we can afford the devices themselves, will the parent companies (some of the biggest names in workplace automation) be interested in providing them?  We won't have the money to buy the things that they are shooting at us.

That's a Problem for my Future Self

Again, I'm left with the answer, "not much."  Not then.  But we are not there yet.  Today, most of us are still working, whether in a formal, economically responsible 'job', or off-loading house work and child rearing from someone who has one of those job things.  Or we're living off welfare or investments or directly off the land or bartering what we have for what we need in some fashion.  All of those answers to "what do you do?" can use a little help from home automation.

At least, for the time being.

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