Trusting the robots in your life

Let go and let Hal

A couple days ago, I was taking the kids to the park. Usually we try to go outside at least once a day during quarantine. To figure out what we need to wear, since I am a Russian Mom who has lots of small children clothing/weather anxiety, I have a Process.

First, I step outside. Then I double-check my weather app. (I use the default iOS weather app.) Then, I reconcile the two and, ultimately, I always defer to the weather app over what it’s actually like outside to tell me the weather.

In this particular case, the weather said it was going to be sunny and in the 70s all day. Lucky kids, it’s May and they’re finally down to their last layer of long sleeves. I glanced outside, and it seemed drizzly, so I grabbed their coats, but it was going to be 75 and sunny, so I for sure wasn’t going to need them.

Of course, as soon as we walked far enough away from the house, it started to drizzle. I squinted at my app. Sunny and 75 for the next five hours. Encouraged, I walked further away from the house. “Mama, it’s drizzling,” my five-year-old remarked and pulled up her hood. I glanced at the phone again. It still showed a completely sunny sky. The rain changed from frizzy mist to splatters, and I pulled up the hood on the stroller. The baby’s socks started to get wet. I continued to walk, but no matter how much further I went, the sky, unfortunately, did not look like it was as clear as it was on my phone.

Finally, with the rain coming down in steady streams, the three of us made it to an overhang and stood, dripping and unhappy, while my husband came to pick us up.

In an episode of The Office, Michael drives his car into a lake because a GPS had told him to. I remember watching the episode when it first came out and thinking it was a completely absurd scenario, but this was my Michael Lake moment.

It turns out that, even though I’m pretty wary of both Apple and algorithms,and a lot of the algorithms that I’m using every day are changing extremely rapidly, there are plenty of algorithms, both I use every day in my life without questioning them.

  • GPS, estimated arrival time and best path

  • The temperature on the thermostat. Our AC broke this week (absolute best time to break) and I didn’t realize I was hot until I saw it was over 80 degrees on the unit, when I started sweating immediately.

  • The empty gas indicator in the car

  • My computer laptop battery indicator

  • My dentist’s office sending me a reminder that it’s time for a check-up

  • Food expiration dates (although apparently these are all a scam)

  • My phone telling me how long it’s going to take to get to full battery

  • Knocking on a watermelon to figure out how ripe it is (don’t tell me this isn’t real, it’s the only secret to my watermelon selection process success)

  • Traffic lights

  • Hot water indicator on my faucets

  • My baby’s best judgment that he needs to wake up at 5:14 am to eat

I’d love to hear yours.

What I’m reading lately:

Just scrolling mindlessly through Twitter wondering if we’re truly in end times.


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The Author:
I’m a data scientist. Most of my free time is spent wrangling a preschooler and a baby, reading, and writing bad tweets. Find out more here or follow me on Twitter.