Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist at C.U.N.Y., is of the opinion that in the near future almost everything we buy will communicate with us. Tiny computers imbedded in appliances and capable of sending wireless messages will let us know when something is wrong. Imagine answering a call on your cell phone. A voice says, “Hello, Bob. This is your refrigerator. I just wanted to tell you that the milk is about to turn bad. You might want to pick up a pint on your way home. And that Chinese food you got two days ago should be tossed unless you want food poisoning.” Or imagine getting an e-mail from your shoes saying, “Hi Bob. I’m your sneakers, the white ones you bought at K-Mart four months ago. The left heel is getting a bit worn down. Come in this Saturday. We’re having a sale on all New Balance and Nikes.”
Think of computers so small that they could be injected into your body and the possibilities get even weirder. “Hi Bob, this is your personal health monitor. Now don’t get alarmed but your cholesterol level is getting a bit high. Would you like me to schedule an appointment with Dr. Reynolds? You know, just to be on the safe side.”
We could be bombarded with “tweets” not only from celebrities and friends but from everything we own, including our own internal organs. The flow of information could be overwhelming. It could even interfere with personal relationships.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you, honey, but I got an emergency call from my car about oil and then another call from the cat box saying we’re low on litter. Can I put you on hold?. I’m supposed to talk to my liver in a few minutes.”
Think this is far fetched? Growing up in the 50s I could not have imagined landing on the moon, personal computers, the internet, cell phones, stem cell research and cloning. So I’ve gotten pretty used to the idea that technology will continue to astonish me. The question is, will this technology enhance our lives or just clutter it up?
Michael Crichton, in his book Jurassic Park, warned that using technology just to see how far we can go may be a bad idea. I agree. Call me old fashioned, but the day I get a phone call from my toothbrush may be the day I get rid of my cell phone.