Smart homes can make us lazier, but they can also make us work smarter.
Over the past year, I have been routinely criticised by some people for embracing smart technology in my home. Having three Google Nest Mini speakers, two Deebot robotic vacuum cleaners (whom I insisted be called Debbie & Derek) and a whole bunch of smart lights, I have been called out for my new lifestyle by some individuals who fear my indulgence will make me lazier, but is it really laziness that encourages us to embrace these modern commodities after after all?
For me, installing smart technology has, for the most part, made me more effective at running the home. When Google actually decides to listen to me, we do get quite a lot of stuff done together. I can ask her to tell me what the weather forecast is like before I head out or ask her how to cook a recipe. I can ask her to play a song that I have stuck in my head while I cook dinner or to wake me up at a set time in the morning. I can use my phone while I’m away from my home and ask Google to get my vacuum cleaners in motion. For me, if anything, these technologies have made me more efficient as a modern housewife, and thus give me more free time to run my blog.
In another example, let’s say I had a mug of tea in one hand, and a couple of digestive biscuits and my mail in the other. How would I have flipped a switch, clapped or waved at a sensor if my hands were full? Luckily, I can now use my voice. Call it hand-free illuminating!
Before we had the likes of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, we had motion sensors and clappers. According to research (which, ironically, I asked Google to do for me while I noted down the answers), the clap-activated light was developed in 1985, and the motion sensor before that, in 1950. This isn’t new technology we’re now using folks, it’s just modern technology.
What would I have had to do to get those figures without my Google Nest speaker? Put down my pen, create a tab, type in my search and tap enter. Read and find the relevant information, write it down, and repeat the process again. Google had the answers for me in the time that it took me to write down “clapper” and “motion sensor”. Just as a test, I ran a stopwatch and tested one method against the other. Google came in at 29 seconds, unlike my old-style tab & write research, which took 48 seconds (with delays for typing and reading). It’s not a lot, but nineteen seconds of time saved is still something!
I understand why some people fear modern technology. Aside the common fear that it might develop form of apathy and kill us all with impunity or earwig our conversations (though you can always turn the microphone off in that case), there is also the fear that we may all become lazy and redundant, a la Wall-E style.
When we think about machinery doing everything for us, sometimes we have the tendency to jump to and think about technology doing absolutely everything for us, like life-support machines. Although those machines are absolutely marvellous pieces of engineering which can (and often do) save lives, they aren’t something that we should take for granted and should only be used by those who have a genuine need. Even as we modernise and streamline our lives, we still need a balance.
One Saturday, after my conversation with my mother, I thought more about idea of machinery replacing even the most mundane human jobs. The first thought came to me when I went out to check my mailbox and I imagined a big, green Deliveroo robot (it looked nothing like the ones some take-away courier companies actually use, mind you!) trundling around the corner of my street, such a thought of a post-human road made me shudder. My second thought was when I was loading up the laundry and I imagined having a metal chute hoover up my laundry from the basket, out of the bedroom door, across the lounge ceiling and down into the washing machine. It would need either some sort of suction to move the laundry along, or several conveyor belts. It would be noisy and probably need additional ways and means to cut out the excessive noise, and not to mention support brackets, power units and space. My home would become a series of pipes, wires and motors, which would be highly unattractive and would occupy lots of my already small living space.
So isn’t it better if I just do the laundry myself, then?
Even though technology has allowed us to simplify our lives, it is still a long, long way from replacing us completely. Technology can do some things for us and help us with others, but it is still limited and often still requires human input. Even if Google turns off my lights, I still have to draw the curtains and close the bedroom door. Even if the Da Vinci robot can perform highly detailed surgery via a much smaller incision, it still requires a surgeon at a control station to operate it. Technology is helping us with our lives, it’s not replacing us humans on the whole.
I want you to consider something else that we have lived with for a long time, something that we have even lived with for many years and maybe even use ourselves: Mobility aids.
I’m not just talking about mobility scooters in this case, I’m including bath stools, adapted cutlery, grabbers and shoe horns. How many of us use them, and benefit from them everyday?
How much would you struggle to get on with your day without them? How much time would be wasted struggling to do even the most banal tasks if these things didn’t exist?
This is exactly what my Google Nest has become for me, something of a lifeline.
Before I allowed Google Nest into my home, I was overwhelmed, I was inundated and constantly stressed. I had dishes to clean, tea to make, a dog to walk, lists to make, blog posts to write, a bed to make and myself to maintain. If I wanted information, I had to search for it, if I wanted to turn a light on or off, I had to get up and do it, if I wanted to listen to music, I had to find my earphones and stick them in.
Now, thanks to Google (and my handy dandy compact dishwasher) I am a lot more efficient with my time. Instead of standing at the sink and scrubbing, I can load up the dishes, start off the sequence and get on with cleaning the sides. Instead of having 4 tabs open on my computer, which used to cause me feelings of overwhelm, I can ask Google to find for me the information that I need. I can set alarms, turn my lights on (or off, and dim them too!), listen to the news, play my tunes and have to do lists read off to me, all thanks to my Google Nest Mini. My speaker isn’t making me lazy, it’s making me efficient instead.
It’s understandable to fear what is new, but we need to look at the ways that it can help us and I’m sure that at one time, our ancestors lived in fear of dishwashers and washing machines. Instead of being inundated with chores, I am now able to streamline my life, get the boring stuff done faster and make more time to do the things that really matter to me, things like having more time to take better care of myself and spending lots more time with my family.
How has technology helped you with everyday living? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,
Stay safe & have fun,