Future Tech Rules Our Lives Today 

We live in a world where even good things can have a downside.

I’m talking about technology advances, often marketed as life-changing improvements. These are the “smart” devices and programs that allow us to monitor in detail a myriad of things, from our heart rate to who’s at the front door. In fact, not that many years ago we were told to expect an avalanche of these devices. The devices are part of something called Internet 2.0 or “The Internet of Things.”

I can change my thermostat, close a garage door, check the weather in my back yard and get notified if someone left the fridge door open too long. All this and more from the comfort of my lounge chair. Or from across the country for that matter. My outside lights come on automatically as we approach our driveway, then turn off five minutes later.

But while these are all cool and useful, there are drawbacks. First, you need a way to communicate with the devices wirelessly. Usually, it’s from a smart phone, probably the greatest invention since the automobile and the device that makes all of this possible. But it could be a computer or even your TV if it’s smart enough. You also normally need internet access and a network in your house to connect to the device.

Think about a wrist watch. When first invented in 1868, its single function was to display the time. Improvements since then include the ability to display the date, wind itself or run on a battery. Today you can buy a watch that you can use as a phone. It can also automatically make an emergency call if you fall. It can check your pulse, track your physical activity and your sleep. They may soon be able to monitor your glucose, blood oxygen level and blood pressure. You’ll still need a smart phone to utilize many of these features.

How about a smart bathroom scale? For less than $50 you can buy a scale that can monitor and display your weight, heart rate, body mass index, muscle mass, visceral fat, basal metabolic rate, bone mass, metabolic age, body water percentage and more. Just by standing on a scale. And, yes, you need a computer or smart phone to display the results.

Some of these new devices work in conjunction with a voice assistant like Alexa or Google. That’s a topic for another time because those devices have an ever-growing list of capabilities. One thing we use it for is a grocery list. “Alexa, add milk and eggs to the grocery list.” Catherine then refers to that list on her smart phone when at the grocery store.

We have rechargeable toothbrushes that signal when to switch to the other row of teeth, when I’m brushing too hard and when the brush head needs replacing. They have other features but I’m only going so far with dental hygiene.

Some of the most significant recent tech improvements are in cars. If you are buying a new car, be prepared for a steep learning curve. The owner manual alone is thicker than a Bible and may have more chapters. These cars don’t fully drive themselves yet but it may seem like it. They talk to you, warning you of various conditions and can keep you within your lane. It can be frightening at highway speeds, like a ghost has taken over the steering wheel.

Some of these safety features are enabled automatically. You have to turn them off to get back to what you are used to. But then you’d be less safe so don’t turn them off without a valid reason. They really can save you. Sensors can now force an emergency stop before you realize you even need to hit the brakes. Be sure to keep everything tied down in back.

Everything also seems to be going electric – cars, tools, lawn mowers, snow blowers. And they are loaded with tech. I can mow my whole yard on one charge with my new electric lawn mower. It will take some years but my goal is to not own one thing that runs on gasoline anymore.

As I grew up with tech, I’d buy the next upgrade to a device just because it had one new feature. I bought a new VCR (remember them?) just because it could work with the VCR+ codes included in the TV listings. Just enter the code for a specific show and it would do the rest. That tech was out of date before you could say DVR. Same story with records, eight-tracks, cassette tapes and CDs.

Tech inventions improve our lives. The problem is keeping up with them. Usually, we haven’t learned how to use these new devices before they are replaced with better versions. And then there are the features built into them that you will never use because you didn’t know they existed. That’s as big a problem with all this new tech as it is just being able to afford it.

We have a couple wirelessly controlled window shades that we can close from a controller mounted on a wall. That’s actually old technology because I can’t close them using a smart phone from my lounge chair or from a remote location. I’ll try to live without that feature. For now.

But who wants to be left behind?

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