I watched this Fisher Price video a couple of weeks ago and had A LOT to say about: robopocalypse, Matrix-esque human farming, and similar reasonable conclusions. However, after a lively debate about the video with Sarah, my awesomely, objective wife, I took a step back to think about it a little more and concede that I may have been blowing things out of proportion. Yet, even now, as I do my best to temper my feelings with a touch of logic, there are still some moments in the video that leave me with a critical eyebrow raised. Then I hear Sarah say something in the back of mind, to the effect of, that I need to change with the times and stop being an old fuddy-duddy. Huh. She’s right. I am old. But…
Sarah raised a valid counter-point: many of the ideas and toys found in the video are just extensions of the present zeitgeist when it comes to what children and families are growing up with; for example, the 3D printer that fashions the owl for the oldest girl, to the video window that acts as a larger than life touch screen. There’s nothing ultimately frightening and horrible about that, is there?
Maybe I was getting too caught up in the idea that Fisher Price was presenting a vision of a horrible future, where happy-go-lucky children trip over their new futuristic toys and fall down an uncarpeted, wooden stairwell and die on the glass railing at the bottom of their mausoleum like house – where are the parents? Yes, they appear at times in the video and somewhat hangout with the kids, but they seem to be absent while the children are playing.
I know what you’re thinking; but isn’t that what happens in real life anyway? Don’t children foster a sense of independence by playing on their own? Yes. They do. Isn’t this an advertisement for toys, not a bleak treatise on failed parenting? Maybe…However, I also know that children grow and learn A LOT when the parents participate in the same level of play with their kids. At no point in this video are the children actually playing with mom and dad for an extended scene. There are mini moments of play, but nothing like the scene where the older daughter teaches the toddler how to spell the word, bird. Sell me, a parent, not on how awesome the toys are, but how I can be an active participant in my children’s life.
Another critical observation I have about this video is in regards to the wearable tech/clothes and the interactive nature of the house that the family lives in. Technology is here to stay, but is it necessary for it to be in all aspects of our lives? Do we need the “Wet Diaper Alert” bassinet, to the breathing monitor pajamas, to the “Cookie Alarm” lazy Susan, to the “Is you baby eating enough vegetables?” high-chair, to the “You missed your baby’s first steps!” family holographic tree, to the “Did your baby sleep enough?” giant wall reminder, to the bedroom holodeck that slowly kills the imagination of the kids inside?! Okay, still a little overly critical. I see that.
There is too much technology going on in this house. With all these biometric, data collection driven systems, we are going to see a new generation of parents that are even more stressed out and tired than they already are. Parents will no longer be relishing and recording milestones to look back on, they’ll be recording data and comparing trends to ensure their child is ahead of the curve, while maintaining a positive social media footprint. Wait, the social media thing wasn’t in the video? Scratch that then…
I guess it is just when I see some work of speculative fiction, no matter how well it is crafted, I always approach it with the idea that there’s a cautionary message here for us. I’m not saying that this is as dire a future as Frankenstein, or the Terminator. Yet, when I see a home that is missing the next generation of millennial parents, and technology has such a prominent role in the home, it sparks memories of There Will Come Soft Rains or The Veldt, both by Ray Bradbury, where the technologically advanced home is anything but that. So, my rant is this; Millennials. Put the phones down and go play with your kids. Go outside and get your Uggs a little muddy as you jump through some puddles, just because your kids want to. That’s it. Now get off my lawn!