Marc Saltzman and his son Ethan filming a video — and using tech at home — to generate power from fruit. You can watch it below.
My wife and sons tell me that I am a Luddite. They are incorrect, as I am not a textile worker, and we do not live in 19th-century Nottinghamshire. But I do have a particular aversion to technology in the home . And I can explain further, once I sharpen my quill.
Certainly, the advancements in tech over the past number of years are of benefit. They give voice to the forgotten corners of the world, and bring business opportunity to our fingertips. And I am all in favour of exploring the myriad functions of an iPhone, while in the office-setting or while driving along the highway.
But when we finally cross the threshold into our homes, “I want that godda*n thing turned off, right now.”
I always understood one’s home to be a refuge : firm footing upon which to build and find common interest. But my children seem to do all of their building on Minecraft. And my wife finds common interest on Facebook and something called Tinder.
I really want to find peace with the home-tech revolution. Or at the very least, find a piece of home tech that doesn’t revolt me. So I reached out to Marc Saltzman for guidance.
Saltzman is Canada’s preeminent tech expert, so we have little in common. He is also one of Toronto Storeys’ favourite writers, so we have even less in common. [Editor's note: This point was not fact-checked.]
I imagined Saltzman’s Toronto home to be the model of some unrecognizable future. Artificially intelligent couches … Fridges that predict the cravings of the user … Televisions that predict the outcome of the football game ...
Much to my surprise, however, Saltzman's home is not so different from my own home. And Saltzman himself is incredibly down to earth.
“My family and I are selective about the tech we use. And I think that’s the way it should be," says Saltzman.
"A smart home device like a Wi-Fi thermostat might be ideal for some people, but not for others. You could say the same thing about a curved TV or a Bluetooth deadbolt lock.
"We all have different wants and needs and budgets, and tech is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.”
The Saltzman family bought their house just north of Toronto a few years back. It came equipped with some tech features , including a great home theatre. But Saltzman didn’t go smashing in drywall to outfit it with the latest cameras and sensors.
“I’m a technology evangelist, and I preach all over about its value and convenience. But I do believe there has to be a balance in the home.
"Tech is a tool in your arsenal that can help you to be productive. But it shouldn’t replace human connection. It’s an augmentation, not a replacement.”
Saltzman further explains that technology is not innately antisocial.
His two boys love playing online games, in which a headset attachment allows them to communicate, laugh, and strategize with friends from school.
And with the recent advancements in speech recognition and smart speaker technology, Saltzman suggests that home products can actually help to facilitate social interaction.
“You could have company over and ask Google to pull up a trivia game for you. Google Assistant would come on and ask how many players you have, theme music would play, and your guests and you would get to play live online.”
Saltzman educated me on a number of other socially interactive tech products. It did help to allay my concerns about what home life might look like going forward.
If you’d like to know more about what’s around the corner, look out for Saltzman’s contributions to Toronto Storeys.
And if you’d like to reach me, I am now registered on Facebook and Tinder.