I really love gadgets, like, most of the time. Most of the time I am all for technology that makes our lives easier. But I also write in a physical journal and much prefer film cameras to digital for the photos that are close to my heart. And y’all know that I truly believe we are always two small steps away from living the plot of a dystopian novel, and the robot apocalypse is something I frequently contemplate (though I think global warming is obvi our bigger issue re: apocalypses that could actually happen). It is for this reason that, while I love science and technology and innovation, I am not always behind every single tech invention ever. Sometimes it’s easy to make up my mind — with the Amazon drones, for instance. Or with food-shaming technology like HAPIfork that’s ruining the way we relate to pretty much the best thing ever (eating). Those are easily filed under NOPE in my brain.
But then there are those innovations where the pros and cons are major and also equal. Here are a few of those things:
Estimote Beacons and Stickers
What it is: tiny gadgets that stick to real life physical surfaces/objects and transmit data to your phone. The ‘what’ of that data is decided by developers — it could tell you what products customers pick up in stores or how much mileage you’ve covered while running with your dog this week. It could tell you loads of things, actually, and it’s up to individual developers and businesses.
Pros: these are really cool! I’d like to attach one to my keys and then I’d never lose them again. Man, bonus points if this hardware can make a pinging sound in its next iteration — then I can use my phone to find shit I have misplaced! I have almost no short term memory! I misplace a lot of shit! And I’d totally stick one in my bag because even though I’ve never lost a bag, I feel like when I eventually do, I’d really love to be able to track it down.
Cons: THIS IS TERRIFYING. What if someone sticks it on your CAR somewhere. Someone like a STALKER or an ABUSIVE PARTNER. And then they KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. Because these things are so tiny, you’ll never find it. Especially if they placed it inside your car, like under the seat — then it won’t even get hurt by the weather. No one is ever gonna find that shit, but people are gonna find you. Plus they remind me of the lollipop cameras in Dave Eggers’s The Circle.
Also there’s the idea of the internet networking everything — I really hate that idea. Like, can’t we just have the real world be the real world instead of cyberspacifying it all?
Google Driverless Cars
What it is: what it sounds like — a car you can ride in but don’t drive. It drives itself. Automatically.
Pros: studies show that these cars are going to be much safer than human drivers could ever be. So safe, in fact, that the move toward driverless cars is expected to have a secondary impact of creating an organ shortage because that many fewer people will be dying in car accidents. Luckily, that shortage can be solved with 3D printing (oh yes it can, and that’s a technology that falls squarely in my “yay” column). And California finally solved the problem of the cars not having a steering wheel or pedals by regulating the heck out of that, thank lesbian Jesus. So the cars driving on public roads will indeed have a steering wheel and pedals, which was my number one con. However—
Cons: if (when) the computers all achieve sentience, “driver” is really the last role you want that computer to be playing. And even with manual control’s, your Hal-mobile will just lock that ish up and tell you “I’m afraid I can’t do that.” While it drives you to your new prison for (inferior) human beings. Bow down to your new Google Driverless Car Overloards.
Even if that never happens, driving is fun. Driving is an art. And we’ll no longer be doing it — cars will go the way of horses. As in, people will ride them for fun or sport, but (for the most part) not for every day use. People will go to car farms for the pleasure of taking their obsolete forms of user-driven transportation out on the trails. For the most part, we won’t be able to say “I drive a car.” We’ll have to say “the car drives me.” And there’s something sad about that. Alas. Time marches on.
What it is: small robots that do all manner of things. Hopefully a replacement for our quickly-perishing honeybee colonies.
Pros: There’s hope that these robo-bees might act as pollinators for crops in the coming decades (though there’s a lot more research that needs to be done) Isn’t it nice that we can solve problems with the sheer strength of our brains? This gives me hope that humans are adaptable enough to avoid all sorts of things that could fling us into a dystopian YA novel.
Cons: JUST SAVE THE GODDAMN BEES, HOW ABOUT THAT FOR A SOLUTION???? Real bees > robotic bees.
So. What should I think about these? What tech innovations have got you contemplating the life-saver/disaster continuum?
This has been the ninety-second installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Feature image via Shutterstock. Header by Rory Midhani.