Review – Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things

Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of ThingsDavid Rose; Scribner 2014WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

The future looks like a black slab of glass. We disappear more and more into our one object to replace them all, when we could instead be using technology to augment the objects we currently use. For example, the pill cap that vibrates and glows to remind you to take your medicine. An umbrella that flashes when it’s raining, so you remember to take it. A trash can that reorders things as you throw them out. If you don’t want it to reorder, just kick it. The fact that I can recall these examples days after I finished the book speaks to their power, to their emotional appeal. I want to live in a world filled with objects that make my life easier.

It must be because I am growing old, but I find myself just as concerned about the dangers as excited about the possibilities. Benign surveillance is rarely benign. The salt shaker that tells you the nutritional information of the food you’re eating suddenly seems less harmless when it’s employer mandated in order to qualify for health insurance. And even when it isn’t mandatory, the companies that offer us these services make money by gathering information about us and using it to manipulate us. I don’t remember him mentioning it, but I would also be concerned about the data from these devices being used in law enforcement, especially before it’s well understood. “Desdemona, your heart rate and galvanic skin response monitor indicates you were extremely nervous at the time of the crime, and it indicates you are extremely nervous right now. What are you hiding?”

But I knew all that. What I didn’t know before reading this book was how exciting the possibilities really are. Technology has the power to enchant our lives, to give us the superpowers we’ve always wanted: Telepathy, teleportation, perfect recall. And while I will probably remain a bit nervous about diving forward into the future, I am excited to see how technology enriches our lives.