The Future of Sensors, Algorithms, and Recommendations

sensors algorithms mit

One of the easiest technological trends to predict in the coming decades is the improvement and penetration of sensors and algorithms.

In short—more sensors, in more places, gathering more data, which are fed to better and better algorithms.

Those algorithms will work together and be fed into a universal interface in both consumer and business environments, and that interface will arrive at conclusions and then make recommendations. This technology trend is universal because it aligns with a human universal, i.e., the desire to improve our lot.

When we’re at home, the combination of sensors throughout our house will include microphones, cameras, radio signals, air-quality, chemical detection in the sinks and toilets, etc.

These will obviously start basic and get more advanced.

All combined, these sensors will be able to tell us if we’re hungry, tired, happy, sick, angry, depressed, and a thousand other emotions and moods—all in realtime.

That’s what the system will know—because all the sensors will report into a centralized system, likely put out by a single company. Amazon will definitely be a player in the space.

So let’s say you have the AmazonLife™ bundle, which includes up to 72 sensors of 9 different types that are part of your household. Sheets, curtains, toilets, clocks, speakers, ovens, toasters, displays, furniture. They’re all smart-sensored-up using Amazon technology.

Now Alexa knows what’s going on with your whole family.

Your daughter is struggling with her remote studying during COVID-27, and she’s been frowning a lot, shutting doors a bit too hard, sulking, her heart rate is lower, and her diet has been erratic.

You get all of this in a summary from Alexa whenever you ask, because you’re her parent.

And if you ask for recommendations, Alexa can send your data to your designated mental health service to get advice, or you can send the anonymized data to multiple services and have Alexa give you the summary of 379 different opinions on how to help her.

But your 7-year-old son looks to be sick, based on his temperature, breathing rate, heartrate, and the content of his stool.

Alexa told you that as well, since she can see the content from all 71 sensors throughout the house.

Hi Sarah, just to let you know, it appears that Micah is coming down with a virus. The symptoms are consistent with a common cold, but I can’t say for sure without more testing. Would you like me to gather more data?

Alexa could also have the data from the whole family’s mobile devices, which are doing their own sensing. So what they ate while they were out, how much they talked to friends, where they went. Their tone of voice. Their heart rate. What they ate. How much exercise they got, of what type.

MIT can already detect emotion using radio waves.

All that is then combined into various scores for healthiness, fitness, happiness, etc.

As a parent you will have access to your AmazonLife™ Dashboard, on your mobile device or on your house wall, or wherever.

There you can see your whole family. Their health. Their fitness. Any anomalies. And recommendations from Alexa on how to improve things.

Your financial targets aren’t being met? She’ll offer you some investment opportunities. Or to use one vendor instead of another for your lunch meat. Christen isn’t doing as well in Mandarin this month? Here, we found him 19 different tutors and picked the best one.

Would you like to sign him up to meet with Jiang tomorrow to start tutoring? I can add it to the calendar.

If you’re thinking you’d never allow this level of intrusion into your life, that’s because you’re old. And when I say old I mean you’re over 7.

This won’t all land at once, and when it comes in increments it won’t feel like Gattaca; it’ll feel like magic. And it will be.

People want to have their lives curated for them, and they’re willing to give up most anything to have an “optimized experience”. Especially parents. All these things will equate—at least on paper—to advantages for their children. And as it turns out—that’s kind of the most important game in life.

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Expect it.

With exceptions for certain types of privacy, obviously.

We’ll have something like Alexa, which is watching 24/7, using as many sensors as possible, that can see as much as possible, so they can infer as much as possible, and then recommend the best possible course of action.

The endgame for this, which the rich will have sooner and better than everyone else, will equate to a constant team of 1,000 experts fanned out across the globe and within 100 meters of your location.

These AI sensors, drones, and algorithms will be monitoring your surroundings, your loved ones, who’s walking behind you, who’s near your home, who’s looking at your latest poem, etc…and then alerting you if anything happens out of the ordinary—based on your preferences.

Take the next left up here. The next block isn’t that safe right now.

(you take the next left)

Sorry to bother you, but Jaden just fell and scraped her elbow. No big deal. She’s being treated right now. There’s no major damage. Shall I put her on video for you?

This is inevitable tech. Not because of the tech itself, but because of us. We as humans long for this power due to the evolutionary advantage (real or perceived) it grants to the owner.

So we will build it.

Maybe you see this already. If you do, congratulations.

If you don’t, maybe you will once you see the first “depression sensor” that’s enabled by the smart microphones in your house. Or the “mood enhancer” that subtly changes the lighting in the house to improve your mood when Alexa detects you’re sad.

It will start small, but the tech is moving so fast it won’t be long before companies like Amazon start bundling these things into packages for overall life improvement.

I’m excited and terrified for this future that’s obviously coming.

So look out for this arc as you see the coming technology developments along these lines.

I think people who can see the arc will have an advantage becasue they won’t see the inevitable progress towards it as some kind of horrible conspiracy, but instead as the result of us—guided by evolution—simply trying to have more knowledge of, and more control over, our environment.


  1. I wrote about this extensively in my book, The Real Internet of Things. More

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