On smart washing machines and 'cricketware'

On smart washing machines and 'cricketware'

Summary: A Spanish designer has created a smart washing machine that uses a fingerprint sensor to identify its users and ensure that the same person doesn't do laundry twice in a row. The apparent intent is to enforce a fix for a long-standing perceived gender imbalance, to wit: Women always do the laundry while men, for their part, tend to contribute by watching football.

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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A Spanish designer has created a smart washing machine that uses a fingerprint sensor to identify its users and ensure that the same person doesn't do laundry twice in a row. The apparent intent is to enforce a fix for a long-standing perceived gender imbalance, to wit: Women always do the laundry while men, for their part, tend to contribute by watching football.

So what?

I've always wondered what "smart appliances" would be smart about. (As AI researcher Seymour Papert succinctly puts it, "You can’t think about thinking without thinking about thinking about something.") The smart washer is probably as good an answer as any I've heard. And certainly advancing gender equity is a laudable, if unexpected, occupation for a major appliance.

Of course, it's not very flexible in the face of vacations, illness or other events that disrupt the alternating schedule. Maybe it would be better if the machine just used its fingerprint sensor to keep a running tally (Linda: 102, Joe: 6)--measuring something publicly is often enough to change it. With that in mind, why not a refrigerator that loudly announces your weight each time you open the door? Mops and vacuum cleaners that howl mournfully if they aren't used often enough? And a smart bathroom floor that turns black in proportion to the number of bacteria living on it? (We actually had a floor like this when I was in college and I confess it didn't change our behavior in the slightest.) Breathalyzer ignition interlocks probably also fall into this category--a category I've christened "Cricketware"--devices that, like Jiminy Cricket, are designed to keep us on the straight and narrow...whether we want them to or not. (Accenture Technology Labs' own Alex Kass is working on the Personal Awareness Coach, a wearable piece of Cricketware that spots and remediates bad habits. It should be very irritating. More in a future post.)

Topic: Tech Industry

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4 comments
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  • Bad relationships can't be fixed by a machine

    Anyone who needs a machine to tell them when it's "their turn" is beyond help. Such a relationship cannot be fixed by technology.
    Techboy_z
  • More like MisandryWare in this case.

    While I agree with the underlying thoughts expressed in the article, I also think there is a strong anti male bias in the selection of the washing machine, and more importantly the way the media gushes to repeat the myth lazy men. After all, the same nonsense could be done for a lawn mower, garbage can, 2nd story ladder, pipe wrench, toilet plunger, insecticide, motor oil drain plug, etc. I wonder how "equal" the use of these items would be?

    We watched a special on network TV the a number of weeks ago about "Lazy Husbands". One of the "Lazy Husbands" was an Air Traffic Controller, who's wife didn't have a job outside of the home. Her complaints? He didn't "share" enough of her housework, and also didn't do enough manual labor (build a new fence). He also was interupting her daytime nap on the couch when he worked for hours on their very large yard with mowers/blowers, etc...
    enduser_z
    • We have a word for men like that

      We have a word for men like that but I'm not allowed to use it in a public forum. I personally know a lot of men like that and it?s sad. I never do the laundry but then again, I work more than 10 hours a day to bring home the bacon.

      Of course if the roles were reverse and the woman had the better earning power and the man stayed home, I?d be equally critical of the man complaining that the wife didn?t do enough house work.

      If both people work, then either split the house work evenly or hire a maid. What is there to fight about?
      george_ou
  • Personal awareness coach can be ignored

    Bad habits are changed by personal commitment and discipline, so unless the gadget can somehow reinforce these (maybe the constant bleeps and blops can help) it will not work. Still interesting though...looking forward to the follow-up Ed, your posts are great food for thought.
    chris jablonski