Folk logic computing for every gadget

Midnight blogging! I was thinking of all the science fiction about smart houses, like Smart House (Kate Wilhelm) or Remains (Mark Tiedemann). I don’t want to talk to my house, and I don’t want it to be a master controller of Everything in my living environment. Instead I want all my household gadgets to be more like my Chumby. I don’t want to freaking “program” my VCR or my coffeemaker. I want to swipe the widgets that my friends hack up. A couple of years ago I talked at the first Barcamp about social networks and trusting small areas of expertise. But now I think that idea will be played out better through folk logic. My co-housing mate obsesses on automatic control of our houses’ heating and so I bought a fairly cheap gadget with the most annoying user interface ever and now can never control the damned heat level of my house without consulting a 10 page user manual and going bleep bleep bleep oh whoops hell beep beep beep damn oh I give up, and then it reverts to how it was 12 hours later anyway. Screw that. The damn thing should run linux, like everything else should, and then I could log in to it and tell it to use Max’s program which he had the patience to set up. Likewise, I don’t care enough about TV to even mess with Tivo. (Count the number of media players in the world that right now are flashing 12:00, 12:00, 12:00, 12:00.) I would rather just copy my friend Laura’s setup because I am likely to like anything she likes; we have the same taste in many areas, as you can see from our LibraryThing profiles. There are areas where I put in a lot of time and have tons of expertise, so my friends or fans would rip whatever widgety things I hacked up.

I can’t quite imagine how or why we would program our fridges or bread machines or coffee makers but they sure as hell have oddly sophisticated computer chips in them already, and someone will think of something good. So why not — my coffee maker should be truly “programmable” and have some kind of open source layer so that people can write stuff for it.

Everything computery should be hackable. I’m not going to have the time to hack everything, but someone in my social network will.

3 thoughts on “Folk logic computing for every gadget

  1. I remember taking an xml class way back when and the teacher rambling enthusiastically about how we will have refrigerators that know when we are low on milk and will add that to your virtual grocery list and at the appropriate time will order it from the grocery store for you.

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  3. I totally about not wanting to program all your individual gadgets. I’m patient and a geek, so I do it for every gadget I own, but in my ideal world, here’s how this would work.

    Every gadget I got would have some sort of Bluetooth, WiFi, or some other way to wirelessly connect to the other gadgets and computers in my home. When they were turned on, my main computer would recognize each gadget and offer me options for how to control it. Using your idea, you could go online and find specific profiles (made by friends or random other people) of how a new gadget should run on your system. Or, if you’re like me, you take a minute to cruise through the simple interface on your computer and set up your new gadget exactly how you want it.

    Then of course, you could setup a smart phone to work as a remote control for each of those gadgets, so in the dead of winter, you can beam instructions to your house to start a pot of coffee, turn up the heat and get the oven ready to bake some delicious cookies when you get home.

    * * *
    For the HP Magic Giveaway:
    I would give the extra computers to a youth center in my hometown called WIND ( It helps keep at-risk youth off the street, and I think the extra computers would be great for helping them learn.

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