Sitting at American Social I saw a commercial for a new feature in the Google talking device thing that you put in your house, I forget what it’s called, but apparently you can fix it up with a tablet and, if you’ve got wunna them ~Smart Houses~, you can say to this device, while choppin’ broccoli: “Hey, [name of Google device], set my oven to 425 degrees,” and the device will confirm the command and then turn on the oven—and at first I thought, “That’s gonna kill people! They’re gonna forget the oven’s on and then the house’ll burn down!” But I guess it’s also the case that a smart house would be smart enough to alert you of its impending destruction.
Probably. What it also brought to mind, apart from the Ray Bradbury story where an automated house goes on fixing toast and watering plants long after a nuclear war has killed all humans on Earth, is this one particular scene from the writer Kurt Vonnegut’s life wherein Vonnegut, watching the Super Bowl in his third-floor study, is smoking a cigarette, ashing it into a waste basket, and he nods off. The cigarette drops from his fingers. It goes into the basket. Papers catch fire, then the curtains, then the walls…
Whole place goes up and Vonnegut just narrowly escapes.
And he goes on to speak of how, while convalescing from smoke inhalation, he watched a marathon of Law & Order at his daughter’s house. Here’s what he realized:
“Any one of those Law & Order episodes would’ve been a hit play in the 1930s.”Vonnegut, after inhaling lots of smoke.
And Reader, I think he’s right.