Barbie

July 11th 2016

Today, in preparation for an article I’m writing for work, I researched a bunch of Smart Tech items. Basically what Smart Tech is (idk if it’s called that – I probably should do) is kinda ‘everyday’ items that are connected to the internet. So you know how your Nokia 3310 is a ‘phone’ but your BlackBerry is a ‘smart phone’? That kinda thing. Saying that, you probably don’t have a BlackBerry… Nobody does.

Anyway.

There’s ‘Smart’ stuff for all kinds of crap now. There’s been an increase in Smart Watches recently, Apple Watch, FitBits, and all that. You can get Smart Fridges that re-order food for you when it senses that you’re running low. You can get smart drinks bottles that notify you that you’ve not drank enough water during the day. The lighting/locks/blinds/temperature/windows/curtains(different to blinds)/toilets(probably) in your house can be controlled by Smart Phone apps. If, for some reason, you wanted to feed your dog directly from an app that connects your smart phone to a food dispenser, you could. I mean, I don’t know why you’d want to do that. But you could.

Well, actually… I do know why.

Humans are becoming inherently lazy, and we want everything done for us – everything automated, everything right away. We’ve introduced contactless payment because typing four buttons into a machine is too much effort. We’ve introduced finger print scanning to unlock our phones because, well… typing four buttons into a machine is too much effort. And there’s Siri. Whatever the hell Siri does. But there’s not just Siri. There’s Siri, and Cortana, and Alexa, and (the poorly named) OK Google . We each get our own little unpaid personal assistant who works super long hours and has to put up with our shit all day long (and one who doesn’t mind being accidentally sat on, or dropped, occasionally)

I’ve never used Siri, or her scientific sisters. I’ve never used a Smart Fridge or a Smart Pet Feeder. But by how it looks, that’s the way normality is heading. And before long we’ll be able to order a takeaway by clicking our heels together three times to activate the food sensors in our socks like Dorothy craving a Chicken Katsu Curry.

Some of it is creepy, when you think about it. I was reading about Barbie Doll’s that work the same way Siri does. Your little girl (or boy, you’ll find no gender appropriation here) will ask Beachlife Barbie “How are you today, Barbie?” and the sensors in Barbie’s favourite red Louboutins will connect to the internet, send that voice clip off to the ether, digest the soundwaves for meaning, and find an appropriate response. An un-naturally short amount of time later Beachlife Barbie will respond. “I’m feeling great Becky. How are you?” Because you can probably programme your kids name into Barbie’s software just for an extra crumb of creepiness.

At no point does a human ever interact with that voice clip. There isn’t somebody sitting in Mattel HQ responding to voice clips from little girls (or boys). The whole process is automated in an instant. And that, as a concept, is both incredible and terrifying. It’s incredible to think of the advances in technology that have made that possible. And it’s terrifying to think of where it’s going.

The image in my head is of Skynet Barbie and TX-800-KEN running around the playroom firing lasers from their eyes as they chase John Connor and his trusty Terminator SmartFridge sidekick.

Until tomorrow, come with me if you want to live.

Jacn

 

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