That’s smarts! Thinking about thinking tech

Technology Decoded IMAGEBy Paolo Chlebecek

Smart Phones, Smart Watches, Smart Speakers, Smart Cars, Smart Homes, and Smart Stars. Well, maybe not the latter. Anyway, what’s all this emphasis on “smart” things? Am I so dumb that I need to have all these so-called smart devices? What’s the big deal anyway? You are not alone, my friend.
Anyone who knows me knows I favor tech gadgets. I have most of those items listed in the paragraph above. It’s my job, after all, but not my entire life. As I’ve said many times: Take advantage of technology, don’t let technology take advantage of you.

Ahh, but how? That’s the trick.
Back in 1971, a Greek-American engineer, inventor, and businessman by the name of Theodore “Ted” Paraskevakos first came up with the idea of transmission of electronic data through telephone lines, later known as Caller ID. That concept of intelligence, data processing and visual display screens into telephones continued to evolve. By 1994, we had the IBM Simon. The Simon was the first commercially available device that could be referred to as a “smartphone,” although it was not called that back then. Not just for placing and receiving cellular calls though, Simon could also send and receive faxes and emails. In addition, a calendar, address book, appointment scheduler, notepad, world time clock, and calculator — the ol’ Simon could handle it all with its touch screen display. Everything we take for granted on any smartphone now. It’s still rather impressive for 1994. But, the term “smart phone” didn’t appear in print until around 1995, when it was used to describe AT&T’s PhoneWriter Communicator.

Fast-forward to today. What most of us keep in our pockets is hundreds if not thousands of times more capable then many early satellites — even than the Voyager 2 launched in 1977. Speaking of which, it’s still out there, 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) from Earth, faithfully transmitting signals back to us for at least another decade or two.

Setting back down on Earth, we have many, many choices for smart devices. A dizzying array of devices are waiting for our collective wallets. It’s very hard to choose, if we choose at all. So what are the advantages of said smart devices? Simply said, it depends on what you want out of them. For example, I keep my ringer off on my phone most of the time and use my smartwatch to alert me during business hours. It saves my phone battery and is very discreet.
You may also like such devices as the Amazon Echo. It can really make any home a smart home. From telling you the weather and news, to ordering what you need from them, all from a simple command. It kind of feels like Star Trek, and yes, you really can say “Tea, Earl Grey, hot,” like Capt. Picard. [Editor’s Note: 5enses has no official position on which Star Trek captain is the best, even though it’s clearly Capt. Picard. Please direct hatemail about this topic directly to 5ensesMag@Gmail.Com.] And as long as you have a compatible smart teapot, it will receive the instruction and begin brewing. I use mine to control my lights by saying, “Alexa, turn on (or off) my house lights.” She responds by saying “OK” and then they are on (or off) in a second. She even can adjust the temperature from my smart thermostat, the Google Nest. Pretty cool, indeed.

“Who cares? I don’t need all of that.” I know some of you are muttering that to yourselves. And, indeed, maybe you don’t. But, eventually, it’ll be a standard on new homes. Integrating smart locks and smart thermostats and all of the other devices are a booming business. But it does take a geek, or at least a professional experienced with such device,s to get it all set up for you properly.

No, smart devices can’t think for us yet. But “they” are working on that. Sound scary? Sure! In fact, Prof. Stephen Hawking recently said, “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’’

Yikes! Maybe keeping your dumb phone is a good idea after all. …


Paolo Chlebecek is founder and owner of PaoloTek, which he started in 2003. He loves to be helpful to people and our animal friends.  Feel free to contact him at Paolo@PaoloTek.Com.

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