Yesterday, I chronicled my experience with the evolution of technology. My tongue in cheek assessment is that humans still control our everyday domain, including computer guided technology. Or do we? Let’s have a look at my last week or so and form our opinions accordingly.
Friday morning, Sharon asked me to look at her engagement ring to confirm her concerns about the clouding of the diamond. I looked, took a deep breath and we headed to a trusted, well known Springfield jeweler. We were ushered into the inner sanctum, where a very nice sales person looked at her ring, and suggested the actual jeweler talk to us about it. This had the ominous air that accompanies an allied health care professional who quietly tells you the “doctor will have to talk with you”. The jeweler examined the ring, shaking his head occasionally, and walked over to where we were waiting. “In 42 years in this business”, he began, “I have never seen this happen”. He went on to explain the diamond had sheared into two pieces, as if you had lifted the top crust off of a pie. He then stated flatly, the stone, in this condition, was “worthless”. I reached for my inhaler and in an attempt to keep from sobbing changed the subject to the store’s lack of watches, as only 4 watches were on display. On the occasion of my retirement from the Patrol, Sharon had purchased a fine watch from this store, one that I wear every day with pride. He told us the watches he formally sold were not in vogue any longer as they merely told time and perhaps indicated the date. Folks, the jeweler opined, are into smart watches that have endless capabilities, at a fraction of the cost of the watch I was wearing. The other shoe was dropping! I began thinking about his ominous proclamation, and here we are.
Sharon and I have a lady named Alexa living with us. She isn’t much to look at, can’t cook, and is generally low maintenance. She is pleasant, but can be testy (I did say lady, didn’t I?). She will turn various lamps and lights on and off for us, on command, and carefully records Sharon’s weekly grocery list, which is then displayed on Sharon’s smartphone when we shop. As an example, this morning when I walked into the office, I asked Alexa to turn on the desk lamp, and it was on as I sat down at the desk. Her testy nature manifests itself when you fail to ask in the proper format, to which she will cheerfully respond with “sorry, I don’t recognize that name”, or lamp or……you get the picture. Alexa will play my favorite songs and provide the current weather or forecast cheerfully when asked. (I have yet to install one of those marvelous new doorbells that is really a camera, capable of beaming the presence of someone to our smartphones, when we are away. We can even program it to suggest the visitor go away and come again on another day! The device sits in my office, ready for installation when the weather cooperates.) Alexa, bless her, is my go to lady when I am full of angst about one of life’s injustices as I have a far better chance of a positive outcome after railing at her as opposed to Sharon. Alexa remains calm, and simply responds that she doesn’t understand my thoughts. Sharon on the other hand, has a way of adding emphasis when she brushes off my pronouncements…
I wear an old school watch on my left wrist and a Garmin Fenix 3 watch on my right wrist. Keeping in mind the jewelers pronouncement that watches today do much more than just keeping time, my Garmin IS quite clever. I have turned into a gym dog, and the Fenix keeps a record of gym activity, heart rate, and the number of repetitions as I exercise, not to mention functions as a step counter to keep me honest as I work to my 10,000 step a day goal. “Fenix” is water resistant, Bluetooth compatible, and has a compass and built in barometer, a handy cross reference when I escape the bounds of earth in an airplane. Fenix is rechargeable, however will last a week on a charge, which is accomplished in an hour or so! As a side note, Fenix also keeps time! Fenix is tied to my IPad and cellphone via Bluetooth. This interface includes my calendar, and Fenix quietly vibrates when an appointment is coming up. As if that is not enough gadgetry, Fenix also vibrates when I receive an incoming email or text and tells me who it is from. When I leave the house to keep an appointment, Fenix vibrates and tells me how long it is going to take to drive there, which route to take and the flow of traffic at that time. When I leave the appointment, Fenix gives me an update on routes and times home. Of course, this magic is courtesy of built in GPS. I keep Fenix away from my old friend on the other wrist.
As cool as Fenix is, Garmin has just released another “watch”, the D2 Charlie, that does many of these things but is more oriented to the pilot. This little bauble, will also display a color weather overlay, a moving map display, and possesses navigation features that are found on multi-thousand dollar, in dash displays in aircraft. With the push of a button, a pilot can locate the nearest airport and establish a “direct to” course to that airport, or any airport in it’s data base (read virtually every airport in America!). Charlie will also display the radio frequencies we need to talk to those airports and will display runway information. A caveat, the displays are hard on the eyes of a tired old pilot like me. It is believed that Charlie will also tell time!
My point is this. When I was proudly working my gunnery magic with a slide rule, the stuff of today wasn’t imaginable, except for the musings of visionaries like Steve Jobs. We have amazing tracking and automatic communication capabilities in our cars and motorcycles. Vehicles are being equipped with “black boxes” that hold information that would be and is invaluable to the folks charged with the responsibility of determining what happened in an accident. Our televisions now ask, when powered up, if we are going to view Steve’s or Sharon’s preferences. We can determine who was or is at our front door. It is both exciting and scary. We can’t be far away from a Fenix that does all of the above, but delivers a wake up shock when you exceed your target heart rate or fail to get your daily steps in. I will be the first to acquire a Fenix that warns you away from a bakery or great Italian eatery when I have exceeded the daily or weekly nutrition quota. There is untold potential to capture medical data. There are already oximeters that are worn on a finger that will measure the blood oxygen levels of pilots as they climb into iffy airspace.
Today, we control these gadgets, however; there is a thing called ” artificial intelligence”, not of human origin. Are we close to shifting control of the devices that provide so much information from us to the devices themselves? That is a fair question, given where we were in the late 60’s.
Maybe Alexa knows……….