Is The ‘Internet of Everything’ Leading Us To A Post-Human World ?

Internet of Things. Image source: industrial-ip.org/

Everyone’s talking about it: The Internet of Things. Probably all of us by now know what it is. Cisco even ventures to speak about the Internet of Everything, which basically is the same thing. Why should we care about the Internet of Things/Everything? Well, it is threatening (hopefully in good way) to transform our lives. It involves  big business and promises tremendous opportunities. Its impact in our lives is so profound that it might transform what we mean by being human. Are you ready to live in a post-human world where you collaborate and live in intimate contact with machines ? Well, let me whisper to you a secrete… we are there already.

According to a recent article by Vala Afshar (2014) of the Huffington Post one of the problems is that while the Internet of Things is being researched and developed, there are not yet too many commercially available Internet of Things items to be purchased. In his article Afshar defines the Internet of Things as being:

 “… simply a concept wherein people, machines and everyday objects are connected via the Internet. Within the Internet of Things, devices are controlled and monitored remotely and usually wirelessly.”

Feel enlightened? Perhaps not yet. But there is lots more. Before the decade is out it has been predicted that that there will be hundreds of billions of “things” connected to the Internet of Things. Some of the examples of Internet of Things solutions that are already being developed include bees that are connected to WiFi that will help with the pollination process, robot swarms, smart dust motes and smart sand. And these are just some of the items in development. Other examples include technologies that are being developed to help you monitor the relative level of freshness of eggs in your fridge, and forks and cups that track your drinking and eating habits. Your teeth brushing habits will also be monitored via your toothbrush. There are also more practical elements to the Internet of Things. For example, the Internet of Things could have very positive implications for the monitoring of health, with pacemakers potentially being wired up for those with heart problems, or glucose monitors for those with diabetes. Wearable technologies are helping to develop some of these types of technologies.

The following video, done by Cisco, with its epic music, might elucidate you from the transformative potential of the internet of everything:

Turning first to exploring the opportunities of the Internet of Things, all of the devices that are connected help businesses to be able to communicate/connect with their customers. Other benefits include the possibility of enabling drones and robots to be hired, and there is a company already offering this service, named Doublerobots which provides robots for remote test driving. All of this will lead to business models potentially changing and new opportunities for businesses that are ahead of the game. Autonomous cars is one possibility though of course there are currently concerns about risks related to such an idea.

Mapping out some concerns

There are technological concerns regarding the Internet of Things, and one such issue is the standards that are being developed (or not) that will allow devices to communicate with the internet. There are also concerns regarding how the Wi-Fi network itself will be able to deal with the tremendous volume of data and devices that will be communicating. Some projects  are looking for solutions for these problems, such as Hypercat. It is also argued to be risks of rogue devices that will need to be addressed. Other issues include potential response times, scalability problems, pricing issues and the ownership of intellectual property. Security issues are also a concern and many people have expressed the need for better protection of their sensitive online data. Of course the Internet of Things will lead to the collection of a great deal more data so this needs to be handled quickly. Aside from this there are also privacy and moral concerns. For example, one question being raised is who owns the data that is being collected? Another concern being debated is the impact of the IoT on jobs. The jobs more likely to be threatened by an automated world ruled by the IoT are the ones of logistics, office and administrative support, transportation but many others as well.

What to do with all the data gathered by the IoT?

As you can imagine, with so much monitoring going on, a lot of data is being collected. Capturing the data is all well and good, but storing and displaying it is somewhat difficult. Currently, a smartphone represents a good example of a display and control device. However, more options are being developed for this as well. Think Google Glass, for example. There are many ways being developed that will help to display information that can help you to better manage your life. Another challenge is what to do with all the data. Without analytic, big data is useless. Companies working with the internet of things will have to think about how to use the immense quantity of data gathered by the devices and make something useful with it. The Internet of Things/everything is still a very new concept and many of these issues still need to be handled, but this does need to be dealt with and soon.

Shaking established concepts of humanity

One way or another, it is already a fact that the Internet of Everything is shaping the world in such a way that it will shake established values and concepts, such as the ones of what it is to be human. If we think about it, a human using a wearable technology that intimately links her to a web of devices, is a different type of human having a quite different type of human experience. Could we speak here about post-humanism ? Various researchers have been approaching the area of cultural posthumanism: a cultural direction which strives to move beyond engrained concepts of “human nature” to develop ones more in tune with contemporary technoscientific knowledge. Are we ready to embrace a future world of diversity where we coexist with robots, humans and robot-humans, connected through the web of the Internet of Everything ?

The debate continues.

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