Thursday, 15 May 2014

I don't think giving my fridge access to the internet and my credit card is a good idea...

There's some news today in the UK, that Dixons (a high street electrical retailer) and Carphone Warehouse (a mobile phone retailer) are going to merge. The core of this merger seems to centre on "seamless connectivity".

Why is there this unrelenting drive to connect everything to everything else?

Seamless connectivity seems simple enough: for example, if my fridge detects that I'm low on supplies, it can just order some more - and with their combined electrical goods/mobile technology, this new merged company wants to be at the forefront of it all.

But: does my fridge really need wifi access and the ability to order food that I've run out of?

Of course it doesn't. Why are we so hung up on providing solutions to problems that don't exist?

If I run out of milk, I know I've run out, and can think for myself enough to go and buy some myself when I next go shopping.

What are the actual logistics of the fridge handling this? Is it going to wait and build up a shopping list of things and then do a big shop? Or am I suddenly going to be inundated by delivery vans with single bottles of milk in a single carrier bag (which also carries a charge). Am I going to be charged for delivery? What if I'm savvy enough to pick up some milk on my way home, but in the meantime, the fridge has decided to place an order?

The fact is, if I still have to think about the logistics of what time the fridge may or may not place an order, what am I gaining?

In fact, since most of the food that we buy doesn't go in the refrigerator, what's the point anyway? Or are we going to have wifi enabled kitchen cabinets, that scan an RFID tag on everything you put in or take out of it? (I'm sure someone somewhere's considering it).

My point is this, what exactly am I gaining? Nothing. The "problem" of my running out of milk is a fallacy. I'm quite happy spending a few minutes before I do my weekly shop, checking the cupboards and making a list of what I need. Is there really a pressing "problem" that warrants more electricity being used by my fridge having a wifi adapter and some sort of simple computer in it?

I thought we as consumers were just starting to come around to the notion of not having all our electrical items on standby - of switching things off when we don't need them. (I know the fridge needs to be on all the time) Surely we can manage to think for ourselves without having absolutely everything automated for us?

Honestly, I'm a bit worried by it. I'm sure most of you have seen the terrific film, Wall-E? That's where we're headed - out of shape people stuffed into a chair with every single little thing being done for us.

This sort of question is actually one of the points made in my follow-up (which I'm still working on) to Life Support. There are some people in Spark of Humanity that really don't like the fact that robots are doing so much for humanity.

Perhaps we're at the thin end of the wedge - my tv's got internet access, why not the fridge?

As a writer, I'm always asking "what if" - so here's one for us all, and especially the good folks at Carphone Warehouse and Dixons: What if we just thought for ourselves a bit more, and didn't rely on technology so much?

Happy writing!