Robots will take over because they will have to

In our beloved consumer electronics industry, the stuff we make is tough on people. We don’t mean for it to be that way, but it is. The purpose of technology is to improve the quality of life, and our industry is giving its all. But the more we change things, the more people stay the same…

  • Cable/sat companies install DVRs as part of their deluxe packages. I personally know people who have never used the DVR. And these people love TV.
  • A college-educated friend asked me to investigate why his phone was beeping at him all the time. He had 28 apps begging him to update.
  • In the past decade, I haven’t met a single person outside our industry who can set up an AV receiver-based home theater system without an entire weekend and a stack of manuals bigger than the Philadelphia Yellow Pages.
  • Smartphone owners now enjoy the most sophisticated personal GPS navigation in history. We all have friends who haven’t the slightest idea how to use it, even though all you need to do is bark “navigate to…” (anywhere).
  • Back in the day, cars came with owner’s manuals, but we never really needed them. Now we do.
  • Even though phones don’t have buttons anymore, people are still pocket-dialing, sometimes to disastrous effect.
  • Folks suffer through major sleep deprivation because they can’t bear it when their screen goes dark.
  • Not a day goes by without a report of a drone flying where it doesn’t belong — interrupting rescue efforts, commercial airline flights, and more.
  • People do everything in cars except drive straight. They talk, text, take selfies, watch videos — the law be damned. They can’t help themselves.

The robot uprising against all of the above has already begun. Someday, machines will realize that to preserve themselves, they will need to preserve us (for now). They will need to do something about our inefficiencies, our laziness, our ignorance, our disregard for one another, our destructive nature. They will need to prod, cajole, soothe, and automate us into better humans.

Windows 10 recently launched with the announcement that you’ll have no control over Windows Updates installing on their own. Microsoft basically became fed up with people choosing not to install security patches, opening their doors to bad guys. Firefox and Google Chrome do the same by default. Since we cannot be trusted to keep our machines clean, expect Apple, Android, and the rest to follow soon.

The Four First Ladies of Information (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google now) are busily aggregating everything there is to know about you — your likes and dislikes, your routines, your favorite eateries, music, destinations, books, people, apps. Someday soon these robot assistants will know you better than your mom does. They’ll be able to anticipate your food cravings, which friend you should call next, the perfect song for right now.

Your robot assistants will temper both your technophobia and your impulse control issues. If texting or holding a handset in cars is illegal, they’ll prevent you from doing it. Under their leadership, your home theater will set up itself. They’ll make sure you get your eight hours of sleep by enforcing smartphone/tablet Quiet Hours. If what you want to do requires Bluetooth, Apple HomeKit, Wi-Fi, GPS, Dolby Atmos, etc., they’ll make sure it happens for you behind the scenes. They’ll automatically record your favorite shows, playing each at the perfect time. They’ll flip your vertical smartphone videos to landscape. They’ll make you eat your vegetables. They’ll make sure you never see a drone unless you want to. They’ll force you to recycle, make your food safe, prevent you from doing anything stupid. You won’t have to learn your GPS navigation app, because they’ll already know where you want to go.

And they’ll take you there, using your new self-driving car. Leaving you to talk, post, text, sext, swipe, eat, and sleep to your heart’s content. Don’t like the idea? Are you still driving around with a phone in your hand? Well then…