The Internet of Things and the Robotification of Society

May 30, 2016

8:00 pm

People are enamored with technology.

We are creating machines for every single aspect of our lives. And, with the Internet of Things, we are connecting them to be able to interact with one another.

I am a child of the 1980s and have grown up with plenty of creature comforts, but at the same time lean toward being one of the luddites this modern Internet of Things article advises against. Some might argue that technology 30 years ago was too advanced. Certainly, technology now is starting to live our lives for us. The Internet of Things is really just the robotification of society.

I don’t subscribe to that submissive attitude to where we are headed as a society.

In some ways, we are creating a better world in most realms with technology and maybe this is all worth it. For instance, medical care can become much more efficient and effective. But things have advanced past prosthetic limbs to the point that science can basically create a new heart, new lungs, and soon probably even a new brain. Once that happens, we won’t be breathing, or thinking for ourselves any more.

With advanced technology, we are effectively giving up more and more life experiences, letting machines live our lives for us.

Automated things like dishwashers, car washes and ATMs took work out of many aspects of daily life. And while such things made life simpler and easier, it is debatable as to whether they made life better. Laptops and smartphones really took the trend to a new level with the ability to make sharing data more accessible.

Information sharing has become a business necessity, but it seems the commonality of the Internet has contributed to an even lazier human existence. Life is so convenient now that we don’t really even need to go to traditional places like the doctor, or the bank anymore. We can do most anything online. In fact, we can bank online without even going online by setting up automatic payments and direct deposits.

As we progress, with all of our devices and accounts talking to and working with each other, we will have even less work to do. We will be able to stay in bed ten minutes longer when the coffee can make itself. We will be able to come home from work later when the dinner can make itself.

Things like car washes won’t just be automated, the cars will automatically go to them on their own. When the Internet of Things extends to cars, they will be able to talk to each other and know with perfect certainty where and when they can drive and not crash into each other or any other thing they are connected to. It will be a huge benefit to society once cars can operate themselves and take incompetent human judgement from the equation.

The future is always fun and interesting and, to some extent, life-saving and beneficial, but that still shouldn’t be taken as an improvement. Humans are already too lazy, getting machines to do more work will just make us more lazy. Being a robot might even be what people want. It’s hard being a human, even though we continue making it easier, it’s still hard.

However, what happens when it all crashes? No one considers the repercussions. I mentioned to someone the other day how I would lose all my memories of the last several years when and Facebook goes away. In disbelief, they said that Facebook would never go away. In a field where nothing is permanent, nothing should be taken for granted.

Mostly, people need to conceive how life happened before sophisticated machines came along. We used to be more able to think for ourselves. We used to be able to understand how things worked. In the future, when things crash, we will be forced to get repairs because the programming will be too sophisticated and people will be desperate for being incapable of surviving without the connected devices.  

Even if we build reliability into the Internet of Things, it’s still taking away from the human experience.

Also, there are trade-offs.  What we gain in convenience, we lose in security. Internet-ing all things lets too many people into our lives. Security becomes a bigger issue because we spend resources on measures to protect information and systems. The more minor things that are connected, the more minor protections they are accordingly given. The more minor protection, the more risk for hacking. The risks aren’t always worth the reward. The small conveniences come with a much larger relative loss of control.

What makes talking about an inevitability of the Internet of Things worse, is a question apparently irrelevant to most people, what do we really have to gain by connecting our refrigerator to the Internet?   

Honestly, we could quickly end up in a position where we are calling multiple people to change a light bulb. With the connectivity, the light may go out and suddenly the shower doesn’t work. This would require so many people working to get something repaired, which seems ridiculously time consuming for minor things. In the end, the light either turns on or it doesn’t. Currently, if the light is broken we use a lamp. In the future, if the light is broken, it will affect everything that it is connected to, which may also be the substitute lamp. I wouldn’t prefer to have such simple things become so complicated.

The more parts are required to make something work almost assures something will go wrong with it. For instance, people feel more comfortable on big commercial planes. With so many moving parts all interconnected virtually assuring that something will go wrong, as opposed to the relative safety of a small Cessna that only has basic controls.

It’s sort of similar to the difference between a car and a bicycle. It is guaranteed that something on my car will break within the next couple of months, while nothing on my bicycle has broken in a couple years and when it did I just fixed it myself quickly and easily.

There are things to be said for the basics. It shouldn’t be necessary to overly complicate everything. But if that’s inevitable, then I guess it’s inevitable that we will all perish when the systems that control our lives and think and act for us suddenly go kaput.

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Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, graduate of Linguistics, former English teacher and failed comedian. He has also worked in university libraries and pysch units. His interests include mindfulness, poverty and underground music of the Pacific Northwest. He is an ardent champion of free form, terrestrial radio and is a DJ at Radio Boise.

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