Are you building an internet fridge?

By Chris Lamb

Mikkel Rasmussen:

If you look at the idea of "The Kitchen of Tomorrow" as IKEA thought about it is the core idea is that cooking is slavery.

It's the idea that technology can free us from making food. It can do it for us. It can recognise who we are, we don't have to be tied to the kitchen all day, we don't have to think about it.

Now if you're an anthropologist, they would tell you that cooking is perhaps one of the most complicated things you can think about when it comes to the human condition. If you think about your own cooking habits they probably come from your childhood, the nation you're from, the region you're from. It takes a lot of skill to cook. It's not so easy.

And actually, it's quite fun to cook. there's also a lot of improvisation. I don't know if you ever tried to come home to a fridge and you just look into the fridge: oh, there's a carrot and some milk and some white wine and you figure it out. That's what cooking is like – it's a very human thing to do.

https://chris-lamb.co.uk/wp-content/2014/fridge.jpg

The physical version of your smart recipe site?


Therefore, if you think about it, having anything that automates this for you or decides for you or improvises for you is actually not doing anything to help you with what you want to do, which is that it's nice to cook.

More generally, if you make technology—for example—that has at its core the idea that cooking is slavery and that idea is wrong, then your technology will fail. Not because of the technology, but because it simply gets people wrong.

This happens all the time. You cannot swing a cat these days without hitting one of those refrigerator companies that make smart fridges. I don't know you've ever seen them, like a "intelligent fridge". There's so many of them that there is actually a website called "Fuck your internet fridge" by a guy who tracks failed prototypes on intelligent fridges.

Why? Because the idea is wrong. Not the technology, but the idea about who we are - that we do not want the kitchen to be automated for us.

We want to cook. We want Japanese knives. We want complicated cooking. And so what we are saying here is not that technology is wrong as such. It's just you need to base it—especially when you are innovating really big ideas—on something that's a true human insight. And cooking as slavery is not a true human insight and therefore the prototypes will fail.

(I hereby nominate "internet fridge" as the term to describe products or ideas that—whilst technologically sound—is based on fundamentally flawed anthropology.)

Hearing "I hate X" and thinking that simply removing X will provide real value to your users is short-sighted, especially when you don't really understand why humans are doing X in the first place.


Chris Lamb is a freelance software developer and the current Debian Project Leader. You can read other posts by me, see software I have written or read more about me. You can also follow me @lolamby.


Tags: Misc Personal

Planets: ALUG UWCS WUGLUG Debian

Thursday 30th October 2014


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