One of the least understood new technologies of the 21st century isn’t really a technology at all. It’s the result of technology growth. For the sake of argument, let’s call it the ‘internet of things.’
The internet of things is the internetworking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as “connected devices” and “smart devices”), buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data.
The term itself– IoT– has been around since the end of the last century and while various definitions point to IoT as being beneficial to humankind, I’m not so sure.
IoT is expected to offer advanced connectivity of devices, systems, and services that goes beyond machine-to-machine communications and covers a variety of protocols, domains, and applications. The interconnection of these embedded devices (including smart objects), is expected to usher in automation in nearly all fields, while also enabling advanced applications like a smart grid, and expanding to the areas such as smart cities.
None of this is going to happen overnight but perhaps we should pay close attention to the ramifications and potential of a society where everything electric is connected and controlled, whether by disparate sources (apps on your iPhone) or centralized sources (artificial intelligent services subscriptions).
The information superhighway itself has been transformed into more of a misinformation superhighway that, instead of informing and educating people for the betterment of mankind, has already divided modern societies, pitting one group against another in a battle where accurate information itself was the first casualty.
The internet of things threatens to create a society whereby devices talk to one another, share data with multiple entities, ostensibly being controlled by humans, but as we’ve seen with the internet itself, humans are not good at managing basic information gathering and analysis, so how can the species be expected to manage a few billion devices that constantly gather, move, and analyze data from machines?
My father once shared a fear that computers would destroy jobs and create a sub-class of society that no longer manufactures, but instead becomes service oriented; with lower pay and benefits. I scoffed, but what do we see today? Robots make cars and electronics. Humans make money by selling products or moving products but not so much by making products. We can thank the invasion of computer systems, big data gathering and analysis, and even the internet itself for changing how humans lives. Benefits are many, of course, but the current political season should tell us that information is a two-way street; one with facts and benefits, one with a disregard for the former, and a dubious definition of the latter.
At first, the internet connected humans to information, and humans to humans, but under IoT we’ll have the internet connected to devices, too, and there’s no proof that there is an overarching benefit to the species, let alone a plan that protects humans from the technology we create.