In my dreamy moods I wonder and think there is only one purely rational explanation for the transition we call #IoT: we are building a space ship; some organizational entity that is able to make contact with other spaceships out there. Hmm, I do admit that I have been watching all Star Wars episodes lately running up to the most recent one. Still does anyone have a better explanation? The scope, size, speed and synergies fueled by #IoT, aka pervasive computing, aka ambient intelligence, aka ubicomp is like nothing we have ever seen on the planet. Making every object on the planet identifiable? (barcodes, QRcodes, RFID, NFC..) Ipv6 in any object that can hold a minimum of software? Is this not an attempt to turn the once unpredictable planet into a giant factory where every operation, every single everyday existence is subject to predictive maintenance? The fact that most children in the Western world are growing up in light of sight of their parents leads to being fully surveilled in the cities is not perceived as problematic, but very ‘normal’. Generations glued to screens and happy with that, are they not being groomed for a life in the ship? They might still want to walk in the woods (sometime sometimes), but what about their children? For these children the fact that an NFC tag triggers a movie has become a quality of the object, of the shirts. Objects trigger events, movies, other objects, of course! Was there a time this was not so? How boring!
Maybe I should say ‘it’ is building a space ship; some overtone in techné as we know it since the first tooling of chisels. Just look at worried Heidegger walking his hills, pondering what is happening to that ‘extra’ force that mechanical engineering brings to machines, adding force to human biceps. This overtone, this accumulation of extra, now picture that in software writing software and self learning algos in big data environments. Has this not always been our main worry as humans? Freud already identified that the ‘unheimliche’ was not something strange to us but the hyper-familiar, our home becoming ’smart’ maybe?
According to Antonio Gramsci: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear. The old world is dying away, and the new world struggles to come forth: Now is the time of monsters.”
Indeed, we see the monsters all around. Large corporations building intranets of things accumulating value just for their shareholders (for a while until they break). Decision makers tuned to the 20th century, politicians in ‘political parties’ keep chatting while existing only in the 8 o’clock news, fully void of any operational agency. Board members and CEOs functioning out of ego and superficialities clinging to what seems to define them, their ‘job’ description. No, it is difficult to find some style, some dignity these days.
Now if old can not be defended, it is the new we should support. Yet if the real goal of IoT is bringing radical (Luciferian) transparency, then paradoxically we have to support the Borg; the drive towards a oneness of global protocol, identifiers, database, and supported algos. Are we then on the side of Anakin, or Darth Vader? Can our minds synthesize a new order in which there is no dichotomy between the Empire and the Rebellion? Can we, in other words, build a federated yet global system in which radical transparency reigns as the new caste of rulers that we have seen on this planet from hunters to farmer-tribes to warrior-rulers, sages, priests and citizen-politicians?
After all, it is just a small planet, one of many in the universe. We should be able to manage that without heating it out of orbit?
Founder of Council, largest independent #IoT Thinktank]