Smart bulbs, dumb human


The other day I turned off a lamp by walking over and twisting the knob. I’m practically a pioneer!

I mean, honestly, who does that any more?  Smart electronics controlled by voice and fairy magic — for all I know — are becoming the norm.

We live in a home built when electricity was new fangled and quite exciting — so exciting, in fact, that the original light fixtures on the second floor all featured a bare bulb; they wanted to show off that fancy electricity, naturally.

It’s been a minute since a light bulb was considered a technological wonder. That said, it’s still pretty exciting to be able to flip a switch and be bathed in light. I’m a fan of everything about electricity but the bills.

When light bulbs became heavily regulated a few years ago I wrote about how I simply did not understand all the levels of LED, warm versus cool lights, and why certain types turned my pretty sage green painted walls to a shade resembling elephant hide gray.

I also know that light bulbs went from costing something like a quarter apiece to somewhere between 10 and 100 dollars per bulb, or so it seemed. We were assured, however, that these pricier bulbs would last much longer and lower our electric bills. I have seen neither of those things happen.


Knowing that I was annoyed by the odd colors produced by modern bulbs, Boywonder gifted me a set of “smart” bulbs. These bulbs can be any shade from candlelight ambiance dim to spotlight bright. They range from warm to cool blue shades and even flash red, green, blue or otherwise for a fun party effect.

More importantly, you can talk to these bulbs. No more must we live like our ancestors and actually flip a switch. Oh no. I can simply say “Hey Google, turn on the lights!” and some of the time the lights actually come on.

These are connected to a “hub” in our house and work in ways I don’t understand. None of this was covered in the endless teaching of the hydrologic cycle I was taught in high school science.

Of course other times I have to repeat myself, growing ever louder and more stern until I sound like Google’s mom threatening to send Google to his room if he doesn’t “turn on the lights right this minute, Mister.” I’ve still grown very fond of yelling at various appliances and fixtures.

It should be noted that we only have “Yelly Bulbs” in the living room because we are trying to stay humble.


Feeling positively futuristic, I went ahead and added smart electrical outlets to our arsenal of needlessly technological things. These are plugs that can also be trained to respond to voice commands.

I don’t do that yet because frankly, talking to a lamp just seems weird. I do set “schedules” on them though. I love these things.

After spending a few minutes (it’s 10, at least 10 minutes) each setting these up, I can schedule them to turn anything plugged into them on and off: lamps, wax tart burners that make the house smell good, a fan, etc.

I just love having an elaborate set of timers that turn things on and off. Need light by the coffee maker at 6 a.m. Set a lamp! Need that same lamp to shut off at sunrise and come back on again in the evening — set a timer!

How did we live without these? Did we just go around waiting for it to get dark and doing it by hand? Savages.

Power down

I was enjoying myself immensely, feeling very fancy and living like a Jetson until we had a little power outage. The power came back on but the smart plugs did not.

All the shouting in the world wasn’t getting through to our stuff. The lights simply weren’t listening.

I didn’t use the lamp by the sofa for nearly a week because I didn’t feel I had the time to rest the plug. Furthermore, I now walk into rooms that do not actually have voice-controlled technology and yell “Hey coffee maker … uh, never mind.”

It occurred to me as I was crawling on my hands and knees to retrieve a “smart plug” from behind the sofa so I could perform a fairly elaborate reset ritual, that I might be a slave to technology. If I can’t get my appliances to listen to me, who is really running the show?

I remember when people were smart and telephones were dumb. Today, that seems to have reversed. I may have a smart house but I’m still the same old stupid human.


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