If something is prefixed with ‘Smart’ today, then the Badger tends to wince and immediately think of the need to tread carefully! Why? Because ‘Smart’ has become over-used in today’s digital world, although many may beg to differ. The fact is that every new gadget in the last 100 years was thought to be ‘smart’ by those living at the time. The Badger’s parents, for instance, thought the introduction of a timer on their washing machine some 70 years ago was ‘smart’. They thought answering machines some 40 years ago were too.
In today’s Information Age, the word ‘Smart’ is much overused by marketeers, media pundits and politicians alike. For many the word has become tainted and a signal for something whose benefits are oversold, whose downsides are understated (or ignored), and whose value for money and longevity is questionable. Many feel that ‘Smart’ implies they will be fleeced of their hard-earned cash (and maybe their personal data, privacy, and security) for something that might quickly become obsolete.
Using the word ‘Smart’ as a pre-fix to something is becoming a euphemism for high cost and questionable benefit, at least from the average consumer’s perspective. For example, the UK government’s ‘Smart’ Meter programme has already cost consumers through their bills, its roll-out is grossly late, and it’s not really delivering the promised benefits for consumers. Expensive ‘Smart’ Motorways appear to lead to more not less death on the roads, and the expense of these complex ‘enhancements’ seems somewhat questionable and wasteful to the average consumer if safety on the road has got worse. And then there’s Smart Homes full of interconnected lights, fridges, power sockets, and so on. Do we really want or need to live inside a machine?
And then there’s the ‘Smart’ phone in your hand. Apparently, the device itself has an average life of 4 to 5 years and we keep them, on average, for between 2 and 3 years. How much did you pay for it? The percentage depreciation is probably worse than your car over the same period.
So, what’s the Badger’s point? Simply that the term ‘Smart’ is not a relevant label for digital technology anymore. Consumers today are no fools, are distrustful of the big Tech companies, and are more vocal about government expenditure. The pandemic has changed the way we think, behave, live, and work. It has made us realise not only the importance of technology in today’s world, but also that it doesn’t need to be labelled ‘Smart’ to have a positive impact on our lives, the planet, the climate, and wildlife. The ‘Smart’ prefix has had its day. There’s only one thing that should attract this label, and that’s us – we human beings! And some of you may well argue with that…