CES, Drones and Videotape

The Consumer Electronics Show has launched with appropriate fanfare, and it is an outstanding forum in which to glimpse future innovations that might just qualify as Robot Smog, and to look at how the culture of innovation is treating the ethics of its progeny. As for Robot Smog, drones continue to be an area ripe with new capabilities every few months. In Popular Mechanics, Davey Alba writes about Parrot’s newest drones, which can not only fly, but also jump onto tables and scale walls and ceilings.  Drones that the public can buy can fly, scale, snap photos and record videos already. So long as consumers are buying the newest models, there will be a never-ending stream of new features over the years, and it is intriguing to imagine the rich features of consumer drones in, say, six years.


Shawn Dubravac is Chief Economist for the Consumer Electronics Association, as reported by The Economic Times in CES Stage Set For New Wave of Gadgets. Dubravac is quoted in this article, doubtless responding to questions about privacy and new drone capabilities: “I almost wonder sometimes if privacy is an anomaly instead of the other way around,” DuBravac said, noting that in small towns of days gone by everyone seemed to know everyone else’s doings. “If I can get a richer experience by sharing my data, that is a fair trade-off.”

The argument that people will trade away personal information for incremental cost-savings is well-established, but I had never heard this rationale before: in small towns, there is no privacy. Now drones are returning us to small-town values.  It is fascinating to see technology espoused as ‘good’ by tying it to cultural sensibilities that identify small-town living as healthier and safer. Of course in reality small towns and robotic drones have only as much in common as fish and bicycles.

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