The Kenwood Press
Publishers' Corner: 01/15/2019

Smart!

Alec Peters

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the hot topic these days. We are constantly amazed by new products being worked on and rolled out for our convenience. It’s a race to market, and we’ll deal with those pesky unforeseen consequences and ethical issues later. (See Facebook.)

We’ll just pretend to be shocked when our robotic aides, after brushing our teeth for us, reading us a story, and singing a lullaby, then smother us with a pillow in our sleep.

In the meantime, before AI products turn on us, it is pretty darn amazing what people are working on.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is just ending. It’s the signature public event for introducing “smart” products for your baby, your pets, your car, your health, your sports equipment, your entertainment – you name it.

Ever wanted a roll-up TV that can fit in a tube? A prototype was on hand. How about a simulation that uses an algorithm to show what your skin and face will look like in the future? Or a unit named Laika that serves as a play companion for your pet, following it around and throwing out treats?

There’s even a wearable device you put around your chest that will “encourage” you to move to sleeping positions that will make you less inclined to snore. I’m not sure what they mean by “encourage,” but I’m guessing it’s more gentle than a kick in the ribs from your annoyed partner.

I’m interested in the robotic butler named Walker, who I’m guaranteed will one day be an indispensable part of my family. It walks, has arms and hands, and can bring me a beer, my shoes, turn the lights on and off, etc. Kind of like having a kid, but without all the drama.

And then there are smarter and smarter vehicles, such as the five-seater autonomous vertical take-off unit that Uber wants to use as an air taxi.

Or Hyundai’s walking car idea named Elevate – a vehicle on top of robotic legs to navigate all kinds of terrain. Hmmm… seems to me I’ve seen those before, being controlled by Imperial storm troopers…

What could go wrong?

Really, it’s only a matter of time before Walker starts plotting with Laika, Siri, Alexa, and Elevate to take over my home, then my block, and even the Kenwood Press.

Though having a robotic aide (I’ll call it Smarter Alec) could be helpful here at the paper, saving me the hassle of having to actually do anything, like answer the phone, interact with visitors, or write articles. Of course, if robotic Smarter Alec starts providing all the editorial content, readers might get tired of articles on, say, famous toasters of Sonoma Valley.

I’m not sure if any of this will come to pass, but be wary of these Smarter Alecs coming down the pike. My family says it’s irritating enough living with this smart Alec.

– Alec