Interesting Commentary On Smart Homes / Design / Technology / Humanity

Here is a presentation I found last year when I was Marty’s RA, looking for new material for his course. –

This guy, Rich Gold, was a researcher at PARC before he passed away. Pretty cool stuff, my favorites are:

How smart does the bed in your house have to be before you are afraid to go to sleep at night? Which is smarter: awnings over the windows to keep out the sun or a massive interactive, cybernetic cooling system that attempts to keep the temperature of the house within one degree of optimal? If you were an engineer fresh out of college with a major in electrical engineering which would you prefer to design? Would you put warning labels on the windows telling the occupants not to open them because it would mess up the tempeture feedback loop? Do you consider the dam on the river that generates the electricity for the computer which runs the cooling system as part of the house? Is the family dog considered an occupant of the house?

Do you believe that making pancakes for you and your lover in the morning is in itself a wonderful thing? If you were asked by your company to design a product called “Lover’s Instant Pancakes” would you? Would you do it because that’s your job or because, perhaps, you think it would give you more time for love making? What if they’re not quite as good as made from scratch pancakes in taste? What if they don’t quite fill the kitchen with the same smell? What if they contain a small, though probably not harmful, amount of preservative? If you are an architect and “Lover’s Instant Pancakes” was a major success, would you build a special chute from the kitchen to the bedroom so that nobody has to leave bed to get the pancakes? Is there something special about the cold feet of a lover returning to bed? How do you know your lover loves you? What do you and your lover talk about?

How many extra hours a day are you willing to work so that you can program your entertainment center from your chair? If your house was intelligent enough to baby-sit your children would you rather go out to a concert than listen to your auto-programmed entertainment center? Are you afraid to go out of your home at night? Do you know most of your friends from work or from your other activities? Do you have other activities beside’s your house’s entertainment center? If you had the chance of working one day less but not having an entertainment center in your house would you take it?

What if your smart house remembered important dates like birthdays and sent cards and balloons, baked special cakes and chilled the Champagne on the right days? Would you feel good if you received a card generated by your lover’s house? If your otherwise always forgetful lover started remembering your birthday would you become suspicious? Would it be possible that you would break up with your lover based on the forgetting or the remembering to program their smart house to send a birthday card?

If money is made by making new things, why would a designer not make new things? Is it possible to make money by making fewer things? By making nothing? By eliminating things? Is a designer who doesn’t make new things a designer? Is he or she a Luddite? Are the highest paid architects ones that make expensive houses or inexpensive houses?


  1. yenning

    These comments are interesting. I also imagine the day that everything is ready-to-hand in our life. From brushing our teeth to using computer, we act unconsciously just like we drive a car. People do not need to think because we have a smart home ,smart workplace and smart everything. Is it the better place designers are pursuing?

  2. mingxian

    wa! some many good questions which I could not find my answer! But I believe that computer would never be smart enough if only human beings still have need in head. And also, I am kind of convinced by myself that the emotion changed a lot when something did by a computer instead of people, especially lovers. For example, I can use remote control to control my TV, but if my husband finds a nice show for me to watch, I feel very warm in my heart. So I am wandering that what would be left for us emotionally if computer does everything for us. Is human relationship need to be promoted in our age?

  3. jeffreybardzell

    Excellent example, Mingxian, about the difference between automated selections and those made out of love or friendship. I really like that one.


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