Skeptics and Visionaries

The “Internet of Things.” Never in my – relatively short – amount of time here on Earth did I imagine that my fridge would talk to my phone, or Netflix, or just about anything on the Internet. And, actually, the one I have doesn’t. For now, I just my put my food in there and take it out when I’m hungry, hoping it’s not spoiled by the time I get to it. But, I honestly wouldn’t mind having my fridge tell me when I’m running out of milk or let me play Angry Birds while I wait for the microwave to finish. In fact, it might be kind of nice. Sure, I really don’t need this kind of functionality from a refrigerator. Yet, if it is capable of making my life easier, even by a tad bit, is a smart fridge really that bad?

A lot of people are skeptical of the trend towards interconnectedness. To an extent, I understand the worry; it is a little weird to think that Google could hold all my thermostat data by way of Nest. And, I certainly get the fear that a hacker could screw with my car while I’m driving down the highway, putting me in a perilous situation. Privacy and, especially, security are serious concerns that always arise with technological advancements — often for good reason. In fact, a little skepticism here and there might be a good thing. It could force companies to put a little more care into their encryption algorithms and general security practices, if consumers show some hesitation or hold out entirely on buying a product.

I think too often, though, we as consumers — especially, those who tend to be skeptic — struggle, and often fail to see the potential of some technologies and products. After all, it is more or less a cost-benefit analysis that causes people to either approve or steer clear of some advancements. A fridge that costs more, collects data about your food choices and quite frankly, probably everything it hears, doesn’t sound so good if all you’re getting in return is essentially a big tablet embedded in your fridge. Might as well just tape an iPad to your fridge door. But, the idea of a smart fridge is so much more. Envision a fridge that knows your grocery list and orders things for you when you’re running low on a particular item. Envision a fridge that can more finely and more efficiently control its temperature, saving energy and allowing food to last longer.

Sometimes when products are put out in their infancy, they get crushed in the market. Consumers don’t really and, to be fair, shouldn’t necessarily have to see products for their potential, when they are spending so much money on them. So shout out to the visionaries who can see far enough into the future to know where their (seemingly minute) technological advancements of today will lead them in 5, 10, or however many years. And, props, too, to the people who share the same foresight, buying not into the tangible product of today, but the very intangible but realizable ideas of tomorrow (a cliche example, but seriously c.f. Elon Musk and all the people who bought the original Model S and Roadster).

One thought on “Skeptics and Visionaries

  1. Very nice entry…

    I think the hard part in all of these advancements is knowing how we will really use these technologies. We start off using them as ways of doing what we did without the technology, and then figure out new ways of using the technology that replaces the old approach. I think of how a smart refrigerator could be used by, say, a company that ships the ingredients for a full meal (like Blue Apron). By seeing what you eat they could get an idea of what you might like to try, and customize your meals around that. I’m sure the real use will be even different from this, but I’m not sure what it will be.

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