The Internet Of Stuff

The internet of things (IOT) has become a harbinger of things to come, as it were.  The H G Wells reference is not without precedence.  Some many individuals and groups have promised such wide spread interactions and acceptance as well as the great benefits to mankind, one can hardly wonder while we have not embraced this great revolution immediately.  One might say that never have so many put so much trust in so much technology before.  I remain skeptical and for reasons that may not be obvious, but more of that later.  The general idea is that we can and should harness the control that smart computer and other controller chips give us to allow the monitor performance of all these man made devices and control them remotely.  The dwelling of the future would have everything possible controlled and monitored by smart chips and small computer chips.  The idea is that the smart dwelling will contain smart appliances and other items that will possibly anticipate our needs.  Unlike an alarm clock or the time bake function on a stove, we can simply tell our over that we are going to have a roast chicken at such a time and the oven will take care of determining the correct settings.  Or perhaps we shall have out laptop or smart phone give instructions to the various machinery used in cooking.  This would anticipate a certain amount of automation.  The smart dwelling would know when we are occupying that space and act accordingly to control the heating and cooling.  Robotic vacuums and sweepers would clean the dwelling when we are not there so as to maximise our comfort.

And so it continues into the everyday experience of life.  A shower could anticipate when you had arisen, the coffee maker would make your coffee and so on.  Your media units could be pre programmed to record and playback simply by using the apps on your cell phone and scheduled to run on your command.  And we could do much for the automobile transportation we keep at our disposal.  Vehicles with radar like sensors that warn us of objects in our way or too close to ignore, the mind boggles as to the amount of functions that could be preformed for us with very little effort.  The idea of GPS is so ingrained that so many of us use it almost exclusively as a way of finding our way to new places.  Perhaps we will have sensors that locate the nearest refueling stations that have the lowest costs or offer discounts on maintenance that will be needed shortly.  Life is becoming almost automatic when we look to IOT to do so much for us.  Think of an appliance, a machine, a vehicle that we use on a daily or weekly basis and imagine what these things could do for us.  They would keep tract of their usage and offer suggestions for more efficient and cheaper use.  It’s like having HAL around the house and car.

Only that didn’t work out so good, did it?  HAL had his problems.  Well, if he had been programmed to have a female personality I am sure the outcome of the movie would have been different.  Maybe.  There is that age old problem that the more we have machines do for us the less we can do for ourselves.  We should think about this development for a moment.  What could be the downside to some of this smart chip IOT?  For one, when we invite the utility company into our personal IOT so that it can monitor our living arrangements and utility usage we give those companies permission to mine our data, so to speak.  We let them collect data on us and our habits.  Well, that’s not so terrible, how could they used that against us  Rather than setting our own comfortable temperatures we might find the utility company determining what our temperature out to be and controlling it without our permission.  Perhaps our showers are too hot or we use our microwave too often.  But more than that, the utility can sell our data to other companies that will then try and market to us new foods and goods to buy.  The fact is, with enough information a local food store might be able to detect us entering its store or  even try to direct us there and suggest goods to purchase.  Thus we would be faced with all these new choices and inundated with a flood of offers and inducements.  With us tied into the system our lives slowly become less our own and more or those forces that act on our personal data and try to affect our decisions.

This is an important fact that is often overlooked as so many cheerleaders for the Internet Of Things try to convince us that it is all for our own good, the IOT is here to help.  As I see it, if we accept all this help our lives will cease to be our won.  Consider the problem with smart chips in your automobile.  They could send data on your driving habits to your insurance company and law enforcement agencies.  They can interact with road sensors so that you can’t go anywhere without surveillance,  The police would know when you were speeding.  Or better yet, those sensors will interact with your onboard chips to control your speed and braking.  Next we might expect to have onboard microphones and cameras to keep us under surveillance, the authorities need to know you aren’t planning anything against them.  Already we have found out that the Samsung flat screen televisions sets can monitor you in the privacy of your living room or any where you choose to place their set.  Car to have your sex life monitored and shown to the agency employees who monitor your activities?  With so many CCTV locations, so many smart devices to monitor your activities, it becomes quite feasible to fashion behavior of the masses simply through this IOT.  Every purchase monitored, all travel monitored, all indoor and out door activities monitored, at what point to we cease to be citizens in a free country and slaves at the will of those authorities who will monitor us.  Secret ballot, freedom of expression, and perhaps even freedom of thought will fall by the wayside.  The fact is that we will end up living and dying by the machine, by the computer networks.  Humans will become marginal, best to reduce their spread and influence.  Don’t ever think that won’t happen.  So much of our manufacturing is automated that the need for human workers is low and unemployment rates are going higher.  What do you do with so many useless human beings?  When we forget how to do for ourselves and let machines do for us we give up that right to live.

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