Hey, Google...

David K. Smith, 19 January 2018

When people ask me about the house I'm building, some of my remarks elicit looks as if I have four heads. That's because I'm building one of the lowest-tech brand new homes you're likely see. About the most sophisticated aspect of it will be the heat pump system, and even this isn't all that special as it's based on relatively old technology.

And so, for my house I've consciously and deliberately gone very low-tech. Here are some highlights (lowlights?) and the reasons for my choices:

No cable. I don't watch television—as in broadcast or cable-distributed commercial programming. While I do have a voracious appetite for film, and enjoy a select few television series (which I purchase on disc), I saw no need for a cable connection. And cell phones have finally become robust enough to make land lines obsolete, so the only wires entering the house carry 200 amps of electricity.

No broadband. No cable also means no hardwired broadband internet access. I don't do all that much online as it is, and I don't bother with streaming. If I miss something I might like to see as a consequence, so be it; I can't get worked up about that. For the limited amount I do online, I have a hotspot tied to my cell phone account; it's proven to be perfectly adequate for my needs, and costs no more than cable-based broadband, even with unlimited data. It also means having to deal with only one big, greedy corporation instead of two.

No dish. See "no cable." Besides, being surrounded by trees, a line-of-sight shot at a satellite is out of the question.

No wiring. Other than electricity and a doorbell, the house is not wired for anything. No cable, no Cat-6, no inter-room audio/video feeds, no nothing. Besides, the trending move is towards wireless tech, so even if I did install copper, it would likely be obsolete by the time I bought into some new technology—assuming that would ever happen.

No smart home devices. I tend to regard anything branded "smart" as usually just the opposite. Consequently my home will be 100% "dumb," as I have absolutely zero interest in or need for any "smart" devices, many of which are utterly absurd. Plus, the Internet of Things is seriously frightening. Hackers are aggressively multiplying, and I refuse to put my privacy and security at risk just for the sake of being able to open or close my garage door while I'm away. Then there are all of the horror stories about people losing control of their smart devices because of Internet service interruptions. How embarrassing is it when you can't turn your lights on and off while standing in the same room?

For one thing, I do not—and never will—own a smart phone. On that point I'm often accused of "you don't know until you've tried it." Well, as it happens, a while back I bought a top-of-the-line smart phone... and returned it a week later. I couldn't stand it. And not because I'm a technophobe or a Neo-Luddite; I've actually been a borderline technogeek from my earliest years. I'd always had bleeding-edge audio-visual systems (I was an early adopter of Betamax and MiniDisc), top-drawer digital photographic gear, high-end PCs, and so on. Professionally, I've been involved in desktop publishing, computer animation, audio/video production and post-production, IT systems management, software development, and many other techie things. Plus, I'm generally very science- and technology-oriented.

The underlying reason I appear to oppose most new tech is that I'm a major proponent of the KISS Principle, and as such I'm adamantly opposed to making things more complicated than they need to be. Unfortunately, with the virus-like spread of ever-cheaper microprocessors and related tech, not to mention altogether too many fad-driven tech trends, unnecessary complexity is growing almost exponentially. Entirely too many products are emerging that nobody asked for; tech developers now do many things because they can and because it's profitable or, worse, even fashionable, not because they should or even need to.

A lot of tech has been shown to make us dumber. Indeed, some people are nearly helpless without their smart phones, and thus smart phones I suspect will eventually prove to be "smarter" than their owners. Change a light bulb? There's an app for that! Raise a child? There's an app for that! Soon there will be apps to instruct us how to live. Which is really sad, because it reinforces the fact that families and education have become increasingly irrelevant as society embraces—and sometimes even celebrates—ignorant, dysfunctional humans.

Technology cannot be a substitute for human intelligence and common sense, because technology fails. Technology becomes obsolete. And technology is only as good as the increasingly stupid humans that create it. If the day should come when silicon-based life forms supersede carbon-based life forms, it's the end of humanity because we as a race have arrived at the nadir of our intelligence, not because technology has somehow become better than us. That's impossible, because technology is a product of us.

Artificial intelligence based on our own so-called intelligence is doomed to fail just as we have, so we're not about to perish at the hands of "killer robots" or other AI nonsense. Why is anyone afraid of killer robots anyway? We have bombs that can wipe out whole continents, and we're perilously close to finding out first-hand what that might be like due to one of the most stupid people we've ever had in the White House—and he's there thanks in large part to our technology being misused against ourselves. Come on, a third-rate reality TV show celebrity becoming the most powerful man on the planet? What's wrong with this picture? We've well and truly lost our collective minds.

I hope I'm wrong, but I predict it will only get worse from here. When Oprah seems like a better alternative to what we've got, it's all over. There's no hope for us, and just as well: we get what we deserve. We've ruined the planet, and we're about to ruin any hope of recovering from that eventuality by placing our trust in technology. Not that technology is inherently evil; it's simply a tool—increasingly being wielded by the worst of humanity, instead of the best. As but one telling example, some of Facebook's developers have admitted that they've created an additive, destructive monster.

Hey, Google, go screw yourself.

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