Though it feels like we’re already living in the future with all the technology and smart home devices available – I mean people can get fridges that alert them when it’s time to restock items – I’ve got news for you: we’re just getting started. Smart home technology – and technology in general – are young industries and as they advance, so will the consumer marketplace.
A great example of what might be yet to come is from episode 4, season 2 of Black Mirror, an episode called White Christmas. (For those unfamiliar, Black Mirror is a show on Netflix that is similar to The Twilight Zone in that each episode is a stand-alone story.) While there is some weird mind-infiltration stuff happening in the main storyline, there is also a subplot that paints an interesting picture of the future of smart home assistants.
***Spoiler alert for the episode mentioned above***
You see a woman in a hospital bed, preparing for an operation. It turns out that she had had an AI chip planted in her head recently, so that it could collect data on all of her habits and preferences. The operation she was having was to remove the chip so that it could be inserted into the AI system in her home – because who better to control your house then…you yourself.
While on the surface this sounds like an interesting concept – of course you are always going to know what you want, so your house will literally be programmed to respond to your mood, your likes, and your dislikes. Everything will be just as you like it. Of course, this would get tricky if you lived with other people or with your family, but that’s a topic for another article.
What gets pretty messed up in this episode is how the AI is programmed. When the woman has her surgery, you aren’t sure what she is doing. You see a chip being removed, and you hear the woman as a voiceover screaming out in fear and panic that she is still alive. For a moment you think that they have harmed her. But you soon find out that the chip is a piece of AI. They show the AI as a person with a body, trapped inside a control room. At first, the AI is scared and won’t comply with its job. So, the man hired to “train” the AI basically tortures it by accelerating time. Essentially, about 10 seconds have passed in the real world, but it has been six months or more for the AI, which has been trapped in the control room alone. After a few rounds of accelerated time, it complies and begins controlling the house as instructed – making the toast just right, adjusting the home temperature, and displaying the news without being prompting.
While I think the concept of using a copy of yourself as your own smart home AI, it was pretty messed up to see how the AI was “trained” in this case. It’s hard to think of AI as a non-human entity when it was literally taken from a human and when it is seen as a human. While this is fiction, it could one day be our reality. Would you be willing to copy yourself for convenience purposes?