Evolution: M&M. M2M. B2M. BM.

We are now on the cusp of an M2M world – M2M being the techie shorthand for machine-to-machine, not a typo for candies that melt in your mouth, not in your hand. And while I will always be more interested in a world that revolves around chocolate than I am in a world that spins around computers, I’m still intrigued by the M2M premise.

Essentially, the M2M revolution will be about machines communicating with machines. Very soon your life will be changed forever because you will be able to set your coffeepot with your phone or your tablet, instead of having to use your clumsy fingers or those timers that come with most coffeepots.

Okay, that’s a bad example.

Soon cars – some models already – will be hotspots, so you don’t have to depend on your phone to connect to the internet when you’re in a moving vehicle, because isn’t a hotspot that weighs three thousand pounds so much better than one that weighs a few ounces?

Okay, maybe that’s not a great example either.

But trust me: there are a million applications for M2M technologies. I still prefer to read books made of paper and get actual DVDs in the mail from Netflix, but I am nevertheless excited about the M2M future. Here are a few M2M applications that I personally could get behind.

  • We need to connect the heated seats of our vehicles to our tablets and phones, so we can warm them up before going outside in the dead of winter. Yes, there are plenty of automatic starters out there, but imagine how nice it would be to warm up the seats without having to warm up the whole car. We would spew a lot less exhaust into the atmosphere. Polar bears across the arctic would thank us.
  • We need to connect our TiVos to our phones so we can stop recording an episode of Saturday Night Live if we don’t like the musical guest or they try to bring back Doug and Wendy Whiner.
  • We need to connect the bar codes on bags of M&M’s to our bathroom scales, so we can decide if we really want those 230 calories.
  • We need to connect our television sets to our popcorn makers so that the popcorn starts popping the moment a three-minute commercial block commences.
  • We need to connect our home thermostats to our phones so we can warm up our houses an hour before we arrive.

Obviously there are thousands of better ideas. And there are millions of others that will be invented that are completely ridiculous. Just think of the ludicrous apps that now fill our phones, such as the ones that allow us to pretend to pop bubble wrap or replicate cat sounds.

Eventually, of course, our brains will become computers themselves and we will live forever as machines – or at least until our warranties expire. Then we’ll be taken with old laptops and half-empty paint cans to the hazardous waste corner of the local transfer station. I predict that this will be called B2M for brain-to-machine, and then – when we need an even shorter term – BM.

Frankly, I might call it “hell.” Sure, it would be nice if I could connect instantly with my TiVo. But I’m from a generation that took years to learn to program a VCR. I wrote my first novel on an electric typewriter. I remember 45rpm vinyl. And while M2M will make some things easier and perhaps even allow us to dial down our consumption of fossil fuels, the fact is that a lot of M2M technology will be about solving made-up problems.

Sure, I like the idea of being able to heat up a car seat without starting an engine. But the real goals of M2M technology should be about ways to solve actual social problems that dog our world – not merely making sure that our popcorn is popped during a commercial break of “American Idol.”

(This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on March 24, 2013. The paperback of Chris’s novel, “The Sandcastle Girls,” arrives on April 16, 2013.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.