Suresh Menon

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Re­frig­er­a­tors are get­ting too cool for our colum­nist’s lik­ing.

A s any­body who owns one knows, re­frig­er­a­tors are the most mild­man­nered of our do­mes­tic gad­gets. Un­like, say, toast­ers, which are of­ten hot-headed lit­tle ma­chines, or blenders, which some­times break just out of spite, re­frig­er­a­tors are, to use a mod­ern term, cool.

At a re­cent lit­er­ary fes­ti­val, a poet paid trib­ute to the fridge with his Ode to

a Re­frig­er­a­tor, which I thought was sweet and unique – un­til I googled the ti­tle and came up with many more.

Re­frig­er­a­tors are pre­servers, not de­stroy­ers. You give them things to hold and they give them back to you in even bet­ter con­di­tion.

That is why the re­cent news from Wash­ing­ton – where I guess even re­frig­er­a­tors tend to be po­lit­i­cal – is dis­turb­ing. A re­frig­er­a­tor there sent out spam across the world – spam, as in un­wanted mail, and not pro­cessed meat.

One hun­dred thou­sand com­put­ers around the world have re­ceived these mes­sages. It’s one thing to re­ceive spam from con men promis­ing you a longer, ahem, nose if you pay them, but to get it from an ap­pli­ance whose worth is cal­cu­lated in litres? The mind bog­gles.

As soon as I read that in the news­pa­pers, I ran to my re­frig­er­a­tor and it im­me­di­ately as­sured me that it re­mained a de­cent, law-abid­ing cit­i­zen of the gad­get world and would rather shut down its ice­box than send out rude mes­sages to in­no­cent com­put­ers. But I am still not con­vinced. And soon I shall be hav­ing a word with my wash­ing ma­chine and dish­washer too.

These ‘smart’ gad­gets may have be­come too smart for our good, and we must be on guard. Spam to­day, on­line shop­ping for yachts and beach houses to­mor­row? Will I wake up one day to find a par­cel at my door con­tain­ing a he­li­copter bought by my re­frig­er­a­tor us­ing my credit card (and the credit cards of ev­ery­one else in the neigh­bour­hood)?

The prophets of doom were wrong – again. Con­trary to their warn­ings, it is

These ‘smart’ gad­gets may have be­come too smart for our good

not com­put­ers or Mar­tians or the meek who are likely to take over the world, but the seem­ingly in­no­cent re­frig­er­a­tor, stand­ing in the cor­ner with its ready sup­ply of ice-cold bev­er­ages and the un­eaten re­mains of last week’s salad.

Al­ready there are in­tel­li­gent re­frig­er­a­tors which, upon find­ing that their stock of eggs is rather low, send a mes­sage to the gro­cer to re­stock, elim­i­nat­ing the mid­dle man – you.

From that to han­dling our bank ac­counts, keep­ing track of our travel and writ­ing the speeches at the UN are but sim­ple steps.

Be­fore you know it, they will be send­ing out mes­sages to re­frig­er­a­tors on Mars and Jupiter, and the takeover will be com­plete.

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