In 1950, Ray Bradbury wrote about the saddest smart home
In 1950, mid postwar nuclear war paranoia, Ray Bradbury wrote a short story called “There Will Come Soft Rains”. It was about what we would now call a smart house going about its daily routine in the year 2026. It wakes the family, cooks a perfect breakfast, cleans the tables, and roombas zoom around the floor. The computer keeps the house running perfectly. The only problem is...
The entire west face of the house was black, save for five places. Here the silhouette in paint of a man mowing a lawn. Here, as in a photograph, a woman bent to pick flowers. Still farther over, their images burned on wood in one titanic instant, a small boy, hands flung into the air; higher up, the image of a thrown ball, and opposite him a girl, hands raised to catch a ball which never came down.
The five spots of paint—the man, the woman, the children, the ball—remained. The rest was a thin charcoaled layer.
The family had been killed in a nuclear war. Shielding part of the house, the fragile bodies protected some of the paint, leaving behind just their image. A snapshot of the family, frozen in time. The house and its computer hadn’t noticed. It continues on, oblivious to the fact that its master was incinerated in atomic fire. There’s also a fantastic Soviet cartoon based on the poem made in Uzbekistan that captures its haunting tone quite well.
There’s also a fantastic, Uzbekistan-produced Soviet cartoon based on the story that captures the haunting tone quite well.
So, what now? There are over a dozen of different, incompatible technologies that use a variety of radio frequencies and architectures. Hundreds of millions of smartphones, when factory reset, may not fully delete personal settings. So what happens when we leave our promised smart house? Imagine sitting at home when you hear the door unlock in the middle of the night. The kitchen beeps. Is it an intruder? No, it's just the house preparing for its previous night owl owner. The smartlock was never updated, and you had been stuck using the key. The paranoid house in Bradbury's story detected a bird as an intruder, will we be haunted by the ghosts of owners past that a factory reset had not completely cleaned out?