At the Consumer Electronic Show this year, there were the usual gadgets, including Smart Fridges. You can push a button on the screen and the fridge will tell you whether you have pickles.
First of all: Yes, you have pickles. Everyone has a jar of pickles in the back. Two: In order for the fridge to know you have pickles, you would have had to tell it that in the first place — say, by typing words on a touch screen. It had better have autocorrect, because if you type "puckles" by mistake, now the fridge thinks you have a jar of Kosher Puckles.
When internet-enabled fridges came out, no one bought them. No one needed them. No one wanted to even think about a day when they had forgotten the password for the fridge.
But now they're getting useful. The Fridges of the Future will have embedded bar-code readers, which ding when you put in a new item, and a scanner will read the expiration date. The app on your phone will send you notifications, so when you're in a meeting and your phone buzzes you can say, "It's my fridge, I have to take this." And then you will learn that your milk is six hours from its death-date, after which it converts instantly to a column of fetid white sludge.
Did I say app? How archaic. We will all be talking to digital assistants at the store, getting the info in our earpieces. "Alexa, do I have puckles?" It will respond, "Yes. You bought pickles on July third. The expiration date is 14 years away."
But how many pickles are left? Alexa can't know that. But there's good news: They're already making fridges with TV cameras inside, so you can call up a picture on your phone while you are in the store and confirm that you have a jar of salsa with a disgusting crusty rim. I love this so much. You will be able to stream HD video of your meat drawer, so to speak.
It gets better. The new LG fridges have screens on the door that show what's inside, triggered by verbal commands. No more standing with the door open, looking around like someone who just went through Ellis Island and is gawking at the tall towers; you can plan your mission in advance.
These are smart fridges. The fridge you have now is stupid. Look at it. Doesn't it look like a lummox? Oh, maybe it has a little niche that barfs ice: hurrah for that, but it's been coasting on that trick for decades.
But even these fridges will soon by outdated. By 2031, you'll be troubleshooting your parents' fridge over the phone:
"OK, did you turn it off and then turn it on?"
"What do you mean? There's chicken in there! You want we should get salmonella?"
"No it's just ... Never mind. Open up the fridge app on your home-control pad. I set it up last time I was home."
"Hold on, your mother put it somewhere ... OK, here it is; she was using it as a trivet. What now? Open the fridge and put the pad inside?"
"No, open up the app. Just like the phones you used to have."
"Did that, but now it's updating. Why is it updating? We didn't get a new fridge."
"It's updating the operating system. Tell me when it's done."
"It's done. Now, oh God, I have to log in. I wish you wouldn't have used the dog's name when you set this up. I think of little Puckles every time I have to log in."
"Dad, you asked me for something you would remember, and you said like the dog's name."
"He was old, he was peeing on the carpet! You should have known."
"OK, look for the button that says Reset System."
"Will I lose all the data? Your mother put your recipes into this thing."
"No, that's in memory. Turn it off and on."
"Now it says ERROR, CAN'T INITIALIZE. Why did you have me do this? I had it set up! I had one button I pushed that told me whether or not we had milk, that's all I needed!"
"Dad, calm down. You need to do a hard reset so the fridge updates its firmware to handshake with the app. Go into preferences. Look for a button that says 'Check for updates.' "
"It lost the connection. Your mother turned on the microwave. Sara: Stop with that already. I'm on the phone with Natalie. Yes, she's fine ...
"OK, I'm checking. Now it says I have to accept terms and conditions. All my life I'm accepting terms and conditions. God knows what they've got on me, I swear this fridge spies. We were out of eggs last week, and an Uber drone brought some. I took them, thumbed the little card it held out, it flies away. Now every Saturday 12 eggs show up. Terms and conditions."
"Is the fridge updating? Yes? It should restart soon ... Great, it just came online on my phone."
"You have our fridge on your phone?"
"I like to look at it sometimes. Make sure you guys are eating right. And I always love how when you know I'm coming home you get my favorite yogurt."
"Wish I could still find that Greek stuff you liked."
"It looks like everything is OK now. It's working?"
"It's fine. It's good. Say, could I look at your fridge on my phone?"
"No, because you'd criticize how many wine bottles I have. Besides, I have to go now."
"You have so much wine I would criticize?"
"I'm an adult, Dad, and I have friends over every now and then, OK? Bye, love you."
Wife calls from the next room: "Did she fix the fridge?"
"Yeah. But she didn't want to grant access to her fridge cams. Eh, it's probably nothing."
Moral: the future will be so cool and convenient! And exactly like now.