Are Smart Appliances Dumbing Down America?

Posted on September 9, 2011


The Thinker (Source: Author)

In the movie Dumb and Dumber, Lloyd (Jim Carrey) trades in his van for a moped and Harry(Jeff Daniels) remarks, “Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this…and totally redeem yourself!” After reviewing the latest in Smart Appliances from LG and Samsung, some consumers may now be wondering, “How dumb do Smart Appliance makers think we are?”

While consumers typically want more, better, faster and cheaper products, advances are being launched so fast that we may be losing the ability to think the old-fashioned way – with our brains. We can find almost every answer on the Internet: just Google it. So Smart Appliance makers are now placing the Internet in most consumer electronics products. Smart refrigerators and Smart HDTVs give 24/7/365 Internet access, so we could expect to see more Smarts in our home, in our cars and in our offices. Warning: more external smarts could erode our own smarts.

A Columbia University study released this year strongly suggests that being able to get immediate results from the Internet adversely affects our memory. The more you rely on external smarts (like Smart Appliances), the less memory you will have.  Researchers coined the term “the Google Effect”: using the Internet as external memory instead of using one’s brain.

Smart Appliance makers may soon need to carry Warning Labels like

  • This appliance may hamper your brain’s ability;
  • This appliance may cause you to think less;
  • This appliance may reduce your ability to imagine; or
  • This appliance may hinder your ability to think outside of box.

Imagine the life of a Smart Appliance owner Ms. Juana B. Smart brings groceries to the kitchen from her weekly shopping trip. She loads each item into her Smart Refrigerator and logs each into the TouchScreen pad on the front refrigerator door. When dinner time comes, she wants to find where she put the frozen chicken so she searches on the touchscreen, but cannot find it. So she pulls open the frozen foods drawer. After moving 10 items, Ms. Smart finds the chicken in the back corner of the drawer. She carries it to the Smart Oven to scan the barcode so that it will tell her step-by-step how to cook the chicken. She’s still confused about how she forgot to register her chicken’s location when she stored it in the Smart Refrigerator.

Could using such Smart Appliances compound forgetfulness? We all remember how calculators affected our brain power for doing mental math: the more we used the calculators, the less we could answer simple problems with our brains. Although we all forget some things some times, we don’t want to risk losing whatever smarts we have left by using Smart Appliances in the name of convenience.

Here are a few of Smart features that we can easily live without:

  • LG’s newest Smart Refrigerator, you can know what food is inside your refrigerator and where it is with the touchscreen pad on the door. Its accuracy depends on the quality of information you provide. When storing new items, you need to move each food icon one-by- one to the container/shelf in which you placed them in order to find the item later.
  • LG’s Smart Refrigerator Smart Care feature is linked to customer service representatives who may even call you if you forgot to close the refrigerator door.
  • Samsung’s EcoBubble™ Washing Machine that saves up to 70% of energy by washing clothes with cold water.  A front-load washing machine immediately save an average of 55% of energy costs by switching from hot/warm water to cold water washing – a smarter choice without a Smart Appliance.
  • Samsung’s newest Smart Oven enables you to scan the 2-D barcode from your food item, instantly retrieve a recipe and voila, it cooks it in ¼ of the time. (Wow… I miss home-made meals inspired by the spirit of love).

When Ms. Smart went to Paris last spring, she visited the Muse Rodin to see Auguste Rodin’s most famous sculpture, The Thinker .  Like many other visitors, she stood for the longest time in front of the sculpture, contemplating life and looking for inspiration. She wondered why that statue got more attention than any of his other works. We all want to THINK. Even in the midst of high-tech gadgets, we appreciate quiet time for THINKING. She is wondering if Smart Appliances will ever help their owners to think better.

It’s time for designers to think differently to wow consumers with Smart Designs. If we are wowed each time we use a Smart Appliance, it would inspire us to think smarter…and we won’t have to worry about losing the memories we have left. Until then, it may be time for a new label on Smart Appliances: Warning: The use of Smart Appliances is addictive and may lead to memory loss. Use at your own risk.

Will you purchase a Smart Appliance? If so, why? Your comments are welcome.

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© 2011 by Ed Valdez

Trademarks and Logos are properties of their respective companies.

Posted in: Eco Leader