Living an eco-friendly lifestyle can be quite inconvenient. It doesn’t quite go together well with “comfort.”

Home automation can be a perfect tool for saving energy because people are forgetful. In fact, an eco-friendly automated house can make people annoyed and perhaps angry. But it will be good for the environment.

I haven’t observed a lot of households, but I do know that in my own house, my family members often forget to turn lights and fans off when they leave the bathroom, turn the TV off when they are no longer watching it but playing with cats at the kitchen, and take the elevator back to our house after getting on the car to make sure they turned off the air-conditioner in the living room. As a person who is well aware of the environment, I always go around the house turning lights off in unoccupied rooms, turn the desk lamp in my younger brother’s room off and shout at him for always forgetting to turn it off, and unplug electronics that are not being used.

My mom is not a huge fan of my shutting things off because she meant to go back to the unoccupied room in two hours, or had the TV on half an hour before her favorite show is on so that she could watch it right away, and my turning things off is makeing things inconvenient for her.

However, after months, my family got used to my routine. My brother makes sure he has his speakers turned off before he is leaving his room to go out and meet his friends, and my dad doesn’t leave the fan cooling the empty bedroom. The problem is, I am also a forgetful human being. I try to go around the bedrooms in the morning during winter to turn the heat off before we open windows for vacuuming, but sometimes I forget. How great would it be if our house could do that for us right away!

All of the things above does not require sophisticated machine learning. If the room is empty for more than 30 minutes(which can be detected by motion sensor), turn off all the electronic gadgets currently running in the room. Turn the heat off at 11AM everyday. Turn the TV on at 9:55PM.

This would especially be effective for dorm rooms because students often leave everything on — room lights, desk lamp, fan, laptop, etc — when they leave their rooms. The fact that they don’t have to pay separate fee for facilities does not help at all, because students leave no outlets unused, plugging every single electronic devices in even after they are charged fully, and crank up the heat to maximum so they can be in short sleeves and shorts during winter.

What if we had a computer that spoke to students and warned them? As soon as they touch the door knob to leave, if the fan is still turned on, announce “You still have the fan turned on. Please turn if off before you leave.” Or announce “The temperature in the room is unnecessarily high. Please wear a sweater and pants instead.” to scare students off.

Yes, this would annoy people. But again, it would save energy.

Something we could do with the system we have right now is to gradually change the color of hue light bulb according to how long they turn it on. Maybe the lights could slowly be soaked in bloody red as a warning that the user has never turned the lights off.

Some thoughts on machines teaching humans to save the environment, instead of machines learning from humans.