The internet's most famous son is worried about intelligent fridge dystopia

The internet's most famous son is worried about intelligent fridge dystopia
Vint Cerf - cooling on the idea of intelligent fridges

When the man who came up with the technology that runs the internet talks about how he sees our fridges it's always likely to be pretty, ahem, cool.

But Vint Cerf painted a dystopian picture of our future in a talk at the O2 Campus Party.

Cerf, in a wide ranging speech that touched heavily on the internet of things, joked with the audience about how a fridge will soon be emailing us, but might go a step too far if it starts to communicate with other household devices.

"There are internet enabled refrigerators at the high end with touch-sensitive high-res displays on the door. And we use these at home in order to communicate with each other in addition to using paper and magnets. Now we can have websites and blogs and the like," said Cerf.

Out in the cold

"I've often wondered what else you could do with an internet enabled refrigerator and I thought, you know, if you had a little RFID chip on everything you had in the refrigerator it would know everything that it had inside.

Cerf - speaking at the O2 Campus Party

Cerf - speaking at the O2 Campus Party

"When you are off at work it can be surfing for recipes for the stuff it knows it has inside so when you come back you see a nice list of recipes that you could do for dinner.

"You could extrapolate this: you can imagine maybe you are on holiday and you get an email - it's from your refrigerator and it says 'that milk you put in me three weeks ago - it's about to crawl out on its own now' or maybe you're shopping and you get a text message saying don't forget the marinara sauce then I'll have everything I need for spaghetti dinner tonight."


So far so good, but Cerf explains why this could end terribly.

" I have to tell you that our Japanese friends have really destroyed this idyllic vision. They've developed a set of internet enabled scales so when you get on it figures out what family member you are and then uploads that information to the web and to the medical record with your doctor.

"That seems perfectly okay but the problem is that the refrigerator is on the same network so when you get home you see diet recipes coming up or maybe it just refuses to open. So it's a terrible idea."

Cerf's anecdote is amusing but also serves to show the forthcoming issues with personal data and the ownership of that data.

And also raises the spectre of supermarkets selling you a subsidised fridge that will only order from them.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.