Let's rehash a conversation you may have had in a college English class (or a dorm room at 2 a.m.): In 1984, George Orwell supposes that an authoritarian government will suppress free thought and common humanity, while in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagines that we'll eagerly buy an eerie utopia for ourselves. So far, both authors can claim victories in predicting the future, but this week, Huxley scored a win from Silicon Valley.
It's called the Always Home Cam, and it's literally an indoor surveillance drone, coming next year from the makers of the Ring doorbell. If you're worried about whether your cat has knocked over a vase or if you've left the burner on — or if someone is lurking at your window — this AI-powered device will emerge from a charging dock, fly through your home, and stream video to reassure you that everything's fine in your absence. You might be excited about this; you may start to hear ads for it during true crime podcasts. But it's worth thinking deeply about whether this is a step we want to take overall.
The burden of proof for the security of such a system certainly lies with Ring, its creators. Whether or not hackers can exploit a small flying camera inside your home, consider how you'd want that same information handled by a corporation. At a $250 price point, the Always Home Cam represents a triumph of relatively low-cost AI and drone technology. Sometimes innovative products at such a low cost to consumers may simply be a signal that consumer data is the real product, though.