It’s inevitable; our future homes will feature some form of smart home technology, whether it’s a high-tech alarm system, a smart TV or a fridge that sends you notifications when your food has gone bad. It’s only a matter of time before more new homes have standard smart home features. The aforementioned innovations are uber practical but at times, others can feel excessive.
As a millennial, I can’t remember a time when technology didn’t have a place in my home, but despite growing up in the Internet era, I’m conflicted on whether or not advances in smart home technology will be a help, a hindrance, or an unreasonable waste of money.
But is this apprehension rooted in chronic complacency or is it a desire to preserve my humanity? Most likely the latter.
My cell phone and laptop could easily be considered additional limbs because I use them so often, but they still feel auxiliary. Though I spend hours scrolling, refreshing, liking and uploading, I appreciate that while doing this, I always have the option of unplugging whenever I feel compelled to do so. Smart home technology does not seem to present that choice.
While the objective of smart home technology is to make life easier in general, it appears to come at a cost. To fully reap the benefits, you must forfeit some degree of your privacy.
My lifelong relationship with the Internet has caused me to look at this breed of technology more trustingly than some of my older relatives and colleagues. Nonetheless, I’m still skeptical about whether or not I’m comfortable entrusting intimate details about my life at home to artificial intelligence (AI)-wielding smart home devices.
On the other hand, I can also see how smart home technology can benefit humanity on a wider scale.
My aunt had ALS and in her final years, she lost all mobility; however, she could still speak. Had her home been equipped with voice-activated AI, life after her diagnosis would have been completely different; more independence, greater autonomy, lifted spirits.
At 99, my grandmother beams with pride whenever she gets into her stairlift. In fact, she looks almost as gleeful as the people in the photos for ‘elderly stairlift’ on Google Images. While not AI, this technology has renewed her sense of independence, even if it’s just for going up and down the stairs. I know that my aunt would have been just as happy to have technology tailored to her disability as well.
So why the pushback?
Probably because I’ve only ever seen smart home technology portrayed within a futuristic horror context. From Desi’s creepy lake house in Gone Girl to Katey Sagal personifying a high tech house in The Disney Channel’s Smart House. Most terrifying is the home hack on Mr. Robot’s season 2 premiere. “Unplug what? Everything is inside the walls,” the character asks helplessly as her smart home sounds off in utter disarray.
Orwell-esque 1984 undertones make the topic of smart home technology a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, and depictions of high-tech houses gone awry make it hard to invite smart home technology into my home with open arms. But I suppose that the problem isn’t that I’m opposed to the smart home concept, but moreso that I’m not ready for it.
I see my home as a place to relax and with a smart home doing more of the work, perhaps this is less of a shift away from life as I know it and more of an enhancement of what I already love.