Monthly Archives: October 2016

Self-Driving Cars, Smart Devices, and so forth and so forth

I’ve been quiet on this blog for a very long time.  The original intent was to express my enthusiasm about technology, innovation, and the amazing new future we were entering into.

Then, I got scared.  The kind of scared that indulges in paranoia.

Only recently have I really started to surface from that fear and returned to a cautious embrace of the technology of tomorrow.  So what did I fear?  Well, the usual when one knows or thinks too much:

  • Google is tracking my searches
  • My phone is listening to me
  • My phone knows where I am all the time
  • Google, via my phone, is listening to me and knows where I am all the time
  • {ahem} and so forth and so forth

There are, of course, ways around this, and settings to make on various devices.  Also, there is a reality.  In a nearly infinite sea of data, Google doesn’t care where I am.  Nobody really does, outside of people I know.  My shopping habits are tracked, and I’m marketed to — but the likelihood and reality of that data being used against me in a personally invasive way is in the very low percentages.  We read and hear news stories about identity theft, and fear-mongering that drives us to absurd measures and perhaps to even pay for services.

Guess what?  If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.  Unless you’ve spent your entire life “off the grid”, never had a mortgage, bank account, credit card, loan, or presence in this modern world, you are vulnerable.  Just like you are vulnerable to all of life’s other dangers like car crashes, lightning, meteors, and bad coffee.

So, well, wow, and so forth… I take a few steps forward to be as conspicuous as a grain of sand in a desert.

1) Self-Driving Cars

This isn’t going to be a commentary on them, nor do I have one, nor do I want one.  However, there is a growing market here.  There is a blooming industry.  There are myriad technologies required to support this.  These cars need maps, probably good voice-recognition, software to run them, sensors to detect other cars, and so much more.  It is, really, a truly amazing thing.  It’s a bit scary — as it should be — but amazing.

This falls under the “it will be the future, get used to it” category.  At some point, someone reading this will hop in a cab to go somewhere, and there will be no human sitting in the front seat.  You will need to get to that somewhere, and you’ll have limited options the foremost of which being to get out and find a “human-piloted ride” or accept the ride you have a not run the risk of running late.  I hope it never happens to me, but I am also resolved to just “roll it with” should it happen.

2)  Smart Devices

First, the fanciful.  As I sort things out at a vacation home, I realize that I could get a few “smart home” things there that would make my life easier.  For example, smart outlets that could turn things on for me. There are security options as well that could help me keep an eye on things such as mysterious vehicles that like to park in driveways while the occupants of said walk around the house, peeping in windows.

Second, the entertaining.  I’m sure the generation that doesn’t know what “x86 architecture” means is tired of hearing “this has more power than my first computer!”.  I finally plunged into getting an Amazon Fire Stick and live in amazement at all that it can do.  I haven’t explored much beyond the streaming Netflix/Prime content, but there are games, and other apps for it.  It is, as I said, amazing.  However, I did opt for the “voice free” option, because I do like having one less device around that can listen, is listening, might-be-listening to me.  Paranoia isn’t something that can be stamped out over night — that tin-foil hat took a lot of love and caring to make.

Finally, the practical and practically  over-the-top.  After much criticism about smart watches, I got one.  The technology has come quite far since the first and second generations that were monochrome, ugly, uninteresting, and did little more than tell the time, check heart-beat, and be a pedometer.  I truly got excited about what it can do.  I am actually able to keep track of texts (which I generally dislike).  It’s nice to more easily monitor calls.  When I need to have my phone silenced, I can still know if I’m getting an important call.  I can activate certain things via a voice app — much like most smart phones — such as sending people a text, calling someone, and setting a timer.  I doesn’t allow me to schedule appointments, and I really wish it supported that.  Otherwise, the other little silly things it does — reminiscent of early model smart-phones — is gravy, useful, and amusing.  Also, the amusing health reminders are ultimately useful.  {ahem}  This thing has more power than my first computer!  And I wear it on my wrist!  There.  I said it.  Accept that I’m “one of those people”.

Bonus!  Google Calendar.  I avoided it for so long, and now I use it so much I can’t think about going back to anything less convenient.  I haven’t yet been in a place so isolated, or otherwise without power, that I couldn’t review any important calendar item.  If needs be, and were I to be so incredibly remote, I would already be tending to whatever appointment I had on my calendar (e.g., “Go away for a week and totally unplug.”).  I’ve gotten so bad about looking at our paper calendar that when my, heh, luddite “better half” reminds me of some event, I have to make sure it’s on my Google Calendar or I will almost certainly plan something for the same day and time.

And so forth.

I think I addressed all of the other “and so forth” items.  I do have to give a nod to one of my grandfather’s army buddies who was extremely fond of the phrase “and so forth, and so forth”.  It seemed appropriate here as I — like the blog title says — rambled a bit.